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The Metaverse Will Change Business Models of Football Clubs

Industry experts provide estimates of what will change by 2030

The metaverse and its underlying technologies are causing substantial change to our everyday lives—and that includes the world of sports. In a study from WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, 103 proven industry experts provide the first-ever outlook on how blockchain, artificial intelligence, and immersive technologies could affect professional football and industry business models by 2030.

From giving viewers active voting power, to offering digital jerseys and seats in virtual football stadiums—the potential that the metaverse offers the world of professional sports is significant. In the future, professional football clubs will be able to make full use of the technology behind the metaverse, exploring new use cases that will change currently employed business models. This is the result of a new Delphi study conducted at WHU under the direction of Professor Sascha L. Schmidt. Unlike survey-based studies, a Delphi study sees select industry experts (here, twelve) discuss pre-formulated future projections and assess their likelihood of occurrence, how desirable the occurrence of said projection would be, and their potential impact.

The metaverse can be applied in a variety of ways, yet has remained unexplored in many areas. Even renowned experts—including the managers of well-known football clubs, football leagues and associations officials, and representatives from broadcasters and digital agencies—therefore often still arrive at different conclusions concerning how likely it is that any given projection will become reality. However, there is general consensus that, in the future, immersive hardware such as augmented reality (AR) headsets or virtual reality (VR) equipment will be increasingly integrated into the entertainment offerings of football clubs (likelihood 76%). For example, fans will be able to experience football matches live in a virtual stadium with the help of VR goggles, without ever having to leave their homes. The experts also indicated a 75% chance that professional football clubs will be able to significantly reduce their marketing costs by 2030 due to increased reliance on tailor-made, AI-supported advertising offers in the metaverse. The interaction between the club and its fans is also expected to greatly improve through the use of Web3 applications (72%). It is conceivable, for example, that more and more football fans will buy virtual fan tokens over time. These tokens could be used to offer fans exclusive access, preferential treatment when buying (VIP) tickets, or even voting rights, thus allowing viewers to influence the club’s decisions more strongly.

Finally, the experts consider it possible that professional football clubs will create a new position, a “Head of Metaverse,” in the near future (68%), or will already generate more than five percent of their sales through virtual goods and services (60%). Other projections, including the possible use of so-called “smart contracts” as part of squad management (51%), appear comparatively unlikely to the experts.

Information about the study

The Delphi study “AI, Blockchain, and Immersive Technologies – Metaversal Business Models of Professional Football Clubs in 2030” was conducted by Professor Sascha L. Schmidt (WHU), Professor Heiko A. von der Gracht (Steinbeis School of International Business and Entrepreneurship; SIBE), Dr. Daniel Beiderbeck (WHU), and Gerrit Heidemann (WHU). As part of their research, the authors asked 103 select industry experts from eleven countries for their assessment of the likelihood of occurrence, desirability, and possible impact of twelve pre-formulated future projections. The aim of the study was to explore the impact of the metaverse and its underlying technologies on the business models of professional football clubs in 2030.

- Schmidt, S. L./von der Gracht, H. A./Beiderbeck, D./Heidemann, G. (2023): AI, Blockchain, and immersive technologies – Metaversal business models of professional football clubs in 2030. Center for Sports and Management (CSM), Düsseldorf/Vallendar.

You can download the full study, with more detailed results, can be read here.

About the Center for Sports and Management (CSM)

As the academic partner for leaders in the sports business, the Center for Sports and Management at WHU aims to positively impact the future of sports by inspiring, developing, and connecting excellent people. The research and teaching activities center around future readiness, corporate diversification strategies, the impact of technologies on sports, and stadium economics. In addition, CSM researchers investigate trends and future scenarios in different technological and social contexts. Strong partnerships, i.e., with leading sports clubs, leagues, and associations, are the basis of the Center’s activities.

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