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Web 3.0 and the Future of Professional Sports

Today’s guest columnist is Jon Patricof, co-founder and CEO of. Athlete’s Unlimited..

A few weeks ago, a friend contacted me and shared his observations that much of what Athletes Unlimited is doing reminded me of the vision that underlies Web 3.0. Just as Chris Dickson of Andreessen Horowitz describes Web 3.0 as a builder and user-owned internet, we have found that we are a professional sports league independently promoted by athletes.

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Dixon and others insist Blockchain Technology is driving Web 3.0. In Web 2.0, platforms (Amazon, Google, etc.) work with creators and builders. Eventually, the platform will begin to compete with creators, who will seek better arrangements. With the advent of Web 3.0, NFTs, and cryptocurrencies, these new arrangements seem to be possible. Dixon predicts a combination of the decentralized community-led spirit of Web 1.0 (1990-2005) and the latest advanced features of Web 2.0 (2005-20).). ”Others such as Greg Isenberg. Talks about how Web 3.0 and NFT can transform Hollywood from a dictatorship to democracy, and Rebecca Kaden of Union Square Ventures talks about how Web 2.0 has “users” and “viewers.” Has “owners” and “members” who “participate” and “participate”.

The vision here is that Web 3.0, blockchain, and more decentralized digital systems will fundamentally transform the realm of our society and economy.

Founded Athletes Unlimited in March 2020, and since then has launched four women’s professional sports leagues that follow a completely different model than traditional leagues. The seasons are short and take place in one place. Players change teams every week. And our scoring system tracks the performance of players’ teams and individuals on the leaderboard, like F1 and golf. We are innovating in many ways, but perhaps nothing more than how players play a role in governance, decision making, and long-term profit sharing. In Web 3.0 terminology, we are a sports league primarily driven by “creators” and “builders”, also known as athletes.

So far, most of the talk we’ve heard about NFTs and blockchains in sports has been about almost completely secure tickets and digital collectibles.Nowadays, investors are looking for DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations) to buy. Owned Investing in leagues and teams. Last week, Sahil Bloom wrote on Twitter that she would like to buy X Games from ESPN and rethink it. The reimagination part began with the idea of ​​forming a DAO. Bloom said within 12 hours that he was interested in Endam Kansoo, Salmasakera and Lindsey Vonn. Earlier this week, I talked to a potential team owner who wanted to form a DAO to buy a franchise.

However, the outlook for the professional sports business driven by the blockchain, NFT, and Web 3.0 mindset could undergo a far greater transformation of ownership and control readjustment among leagues, owners, players, and fans. There is sex.

Early on, Athletes Unlimited realized that the best approach was to partner with athletes entirely. Athletes not only share profits, but also have meaningful involvement in decision making at all levels. This may sound small in the broader context of the business world, but both are major innovations in professional team sports. Many leagues have a profit participation plan, and while the association of players is important when sitting at the table of collective bargaining, there is no proper long-term coordination of governance or value creation.

Many of today’s professional players in the Big 4 League benefit from huge contracts, but know that the moment they stop playing, they need to switch elsewhere for business opportunities. Everyone knows that too many pioneers have retired without seeing the benefits of the league they created. In short, sports pioneers were like Web 1.0 innovators who created products and tools but didn’t see any direct benefits. In Web 2.0, the league has driven the creation and distribution of value, but Web 3.0 could pioneer creator / player and fan-led models.

At Athletes Unlimited, player involvement has expanded to the creation of a player executive committee. This committee makes collective decisions on all aspects of the league, from recruitment to rules to business decisions. I don’t know of the other leagues in which current athletes are on the board, or the committees that decide on league expansion or media rights trading.

There is no doubt that there are many beneficiaries of the current sports governance system, just as there are many beneficiaries of Web 2.0, such as executives, employees, and shareholders.

The question is whether there is a possibility of a new model in which decision making is truly shared. Instead of thinking about innovation and blockchain only in terms of better monetization for fans, we’ll look at how to create a better model of ownership. Governance between players, fans, executives and owners.

Ironically, when the world can be more decentralized, the main topics in the world of sports ownership are the rise of private equity and the more centralized institutional ownership of teams and leagues. Private equity funds buy shares in limited partnerships throughout the league and, in some cases, take over the entire league. We look to the near future with fewer owners and decision makers in the professional sports world.

Indeed, some leagues are talking about sharing sponsorship and ticket sales percentages with player and mission-based partnerships. We take it one step further and extend discussions to decision making, governance and long-term profit sharing.

The world of sport ownership has been driven by the value of intellectual property from very different single high-value owners, often driven by citizens’ pride and local business interests, over the last two decades. Has evolved into a sophisticated group of owners. Lack of property, real estate and assets. However, little has changed for current players and fans when it comes to team / league ownership.

The next step could be dominated by more concentration of ownership in the hands of increasingly large institutions, but the same forces behind Web 3.0 could signal the arrival of alternative models. There seems to be.

Prior to founding Athletes Unlimited, Patrikov was Chairman of the MLS New York City Football Club and is currently on the Board of Directors. Prior to NYCFC, Patricof was a member, president and COO of the Tribeca Enterprises Board of Directors, owner and operator of the Tribeca Film Festival and related business ventures.

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