Web 3 and more

Ronan Joyce, Director of Digital Innovation, Manchester United

Robby Yung, CEO of Investments, Animoca Brands

Mark Epps, Director of Communications & Web3, ATP


With the initial burst of hype and contention around web3 and blockchain technologies fading, sports organisations have been left to experiment with tools that can build fan engagement and digital communities.


That was the context for a web3 conversation on day one of ISC 2024. Manchester United director of digital innovation Ronan Joyce walked the audience through the creation of Collect United – a digital platform which rewards fans who have purchased The Devils, a set of official Manchester United digital collectibles. As well as building a set of digital assets, fans can use Collect United for prediction challenges around details like the number of free kicks and corners during first team matches. These games offer real-world prizes, like signed pictures of United midfielder Bruno Fernandes or free tickets to fixtures at Old Trafford.


Animoca Brands, revealed CEO of investments Robby Jung, is the most active investor in the web3 sports and entertainment space. He cited the example of music as evidence of the continued potential of web3. Where streaming apps let fans listen to music for a monthly fee, when they have internet access, web3 technologies will let those same users “buy” unique music files permanently.


While the audience for web3 products is still small, and user experiences can still become more accessible, Yung believes the $33 billion worth of NFT trading last year demonstrated a continued appetite for its possibilities.


At the ATP, explained director of communications and web3 Mark Epps, there is an ongoing commitment to finding valuable web3 use cases – but that there is still a learning curve on both sides of the coin.


The tour recently trialled a project called Posters, which gave tennis fans the chance to create collectible digital posters priced at $50 each. Epps concedes that the Posters project was not successful – something he attributed to an over-complicated process. The unfamiliarity of web3 interfaces, NFTs and the new digital market remains a barrier to entry for fans, Epps said, while even more experienced web3 operators are still refining best practice.


Epps also stressed that there are some projects – like speculative fan tokens – that are now too “risky” and “trivial” for sports rights holders. Value and trust are too important to gamble on short-term financial opportunity.