- Liverpool believe tech can bridge gap with global fanbase
- LFC Heroes is second biggest earner for club’s charity
- Metaverse and connected merchandise also on the radar
English soccer giants Liverpool have defended their experiments with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), saying they have a responsibility to their global fanbase to explore new technologies that can deliver new experiences.
The Premier League side launched its first official NFT collection earlier this year, promising the ‘LFC Heroes Club’ would enable fans to join an ‘innovative fan community’ with access to a community forum, unique experiences, virtual hangouts, competitions, and retail discounts.
A proportion of the revenues raised were donated to the club’s official charity, the LFC Foundation, but the venture attracted some criticism for selling digital collectibles that many believe are exploitative and have risks attached.
Speaking at the Leaders Week sport business conference in London, Drew Crisp, senior vice president of digital at Liverpool, said NFTs were one of several technologies that could strengthen the bond between the club and its fans around the world.
“[LFC Heroes] was arguably as controversial as I experienced!” he said. “[But] we have a responsibility to our fans to enter these worlds because we know how important sport is. We know what it does for mental health, physical health, and what it does for a community.
“Why did we try LFC Heroes? We could have sat on the sidelines and just commented on what everyone else did. But we wanted to know what it actually took to create a series of NFTs, sell them and market them. You have to be on the pitch to play the game, so we had to be in the NFT world in order to understand that world.
“We learned a lot. We got some things wrong. We got some things right. We’ve got an audience that we didn’t have before, and we’ve got a sense of where NFTs might play in our ecosystem and they’re not things to be scared of.
“It was a really good test and [learning experience] for us and outside of our legends games, it’s the biggest earner for our foundation.”
Crisp said other innovations, such as the metaverse, augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR), and wearables could bridge the gap even further, helping to transport the matchday experience at the club’s Anfield stadium to anywhere in the world.
“We have [a huge worldwide fanbase] and at the end of the day, we want to give them an experience,” Crisp added. “If these technologies can give them that experience by taking the authenticity of a live soccer game to wherever they are in the world then that is absolutely something we should be leading on.
“There’s loads of stuff we’re looking at. We’re looking at ways we can bring the experience of walking to the stadium, taking your seat, hearing [club anthem] You’ll Never Walk Alone or experiencing last minute goals.
“We’ll continue to identify these opportunities…we’ll look at how we can build VR in the stadium or whether there is some connected merchandise we can explore so people feel a moment in the game 3,000 miles away.
“I’m sure we’ll trial some things and in due course we will launch more products.”