In years gone by, people would collect playing cards or play games like Top Trumps in order to take people on, using the stats from the footballers or other sports people in order to try to ‘win’. In some ways, it was perhaps a touch inevitable that there would be a crossover between such games and the world of Non-Fungible Tokens, with Sorare being the company that did just that. At is most simplistic, Sorare is essentially a fantasy football game that sees football cards digitalised in order to be collected and traded. Build up the best team of players and you can earn points, depending on the on-pitch performance of your players.
The addition of the NFT aspect to the game allows for the exchange of the Tokens outside of the game experience, with sites like Rarible and OpenSea used to trade the cards for money. It also helps that there are officially licensed players from clubs such as Liverpool, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, with Spain’s La Liga and Major League Soccer also being involved. The big question for the uninitiated is how, exactly, the entire thing works and where it even came from. Many will understand the concept of fantasy football, but adding in a layer of complexity by involving NFTs seemingly makes things a touch more confusing.
What Is Sorare?
The best place to start is by offering a quick explanation of what Sorare is and where it came from. The company was formed in Paris in September 2018, with the entire thing being the brainchild of French developers Adrien Mountfort and Nicolas Julia, the latter of whom became its Chief Executive Officer. They had previous worked at a company called Stratumn, which provided enterprise-level blockchain solutions. In May 2019 a pre-seed round was launched, with more than $500,000 being raised. In July of the following year, about $10 million was raised, then an additional $50 million was raised a few months later.
As part of the company’s strategy, official licenses were arranged with 140 clubs across 31 leagues. The players’ images from Major League Soccer can be used, for example, even though the image rights of the MLS itself and the clubs that play in it cannot be. Things went from good to amazing for the company in 2023, which was when an official partnership with the Premier League was confirmed. When arguably the biggest league in professional football joins you, you know you’re in a position to really take on an otherwise competitive market. Mainstream attention was heading Sorare’s way and the increased user base that comes with it.
How It Works
Sorare is an official game using the company’s branded blockchain cards, allowing users to authenticate their digital playing cards as they look to add to their collection by buying, selling and trading cards with other online users. The idea is that you build a collection of the best cards available, enter tournaments with them and look to win prizes of various degrees. Cards can also be sold for a profit on the linked Transfer Market. It isn’t all about the rare cards, though. When you sign up for an account you’re issued with ten ‘common cards’ immediately, with your team being entered into the Rookie League.
You choose five cards that will make up your first time, getting the chance to improve your team by winning player cards or trading on the Transfer Market. The Transfer Market works much like a bidding site such as eBay, offering the chance to buy a card through auction or using the equivalent of a ‘Buy It Now’ feature, wherein you simply pay the asking price and get the card. When the time comes to enter a team into a competition, which is effectively a five-a-side fantasy football tournament, you need to ensure that your lineup includes each of the following:
- A Goalkeeper
- A Defender
- A Midfielder
- A Forward
- Another Position of Your Choice
As you can imagine, players like Trent Alexander-Arnold, who plays for Liverpool and is nominally a defender but also moves into midfield and tends to be involved in a lot of goals, will be more expensive than a player for a relegation-battling team that is unlikely to score many points. There are numerous different tournaments offered by Sorare, meaning that there is likely to be a game type that you enjoy. If you finish in the top 30% of the players then you’re going to be rewarded for doing so, whilst those that win any given tournament get an improved rating and can even win actual cash prizes.
Is It Gambling?
The most obvious question that you might ask yourself is whether or not taking part in Sorare is considered to be gambling. It is a question that the United Kingdom Gambling Commission had to wrestle with, making an announcement in 2021 that the company did not have a gambling licence and placing it under investigation. Sorare came out and said that it ‘does not offer any forms of regulated gambling’, which it felt had been backed by expert legal opinions at ‘every stage‘ since the company’s creation. It was felt that the UKGC needed to be extra cautious after the collapse of Football Index, which left customers down about £80 million.
Because the Gambling Commission hadn’t reached a decision about whether or not Sorare constituted gambling, it was unable to actively deter players from registering and playing the game. All it could do was to use a warning, whilst Sorare said that it did not offer any sort of ‘randomised mechanism’ to its player purchases, whilst customers were not buying something that could be considered a loot box. Equally, any prize money offered was not through a betting pool but instead allocated by Sorare. Even by the middle of July 2023 the UKGC had not reached a decision about whether or not Sorare could be considered gambling.