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FC Barcelona, one of the biggest football clubs in the world by revenue, has decided to cancel a deal penned earlier this month with non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace Ownix after the arrest of Israeli crypto mogul Moshe Hogeg — a consultant for the NFT marketplace. The termination came in the form of a short statement from the club through its website, just days before the club's first NFT collection auction was scheduled on the platform. FC Barcelona claims that the termination of ties with Ownix is in place with immediate effect.
The police arrested Moshe Hogeg, who reportedly has ties to Ownix, on suspicion of involvement in an alleged massive fraud related to cryptocurrencies. He was arrested along with seven other people. Hogeg happens to be the co-founder of Sirin Labs — the same company that had launched the much-hyped blockchain smartphone in 2019, and also the owner of Israeli football club Beitar Jerusalem.
FC Barcelona's cancellation statement read, “In light of information received that goes against the club's values, FC Barcelona hereby communicates the cancellation of the contract to create and market NFT digital assets with Ownix with immediate effect.”
In response to the cancellation, Ownix issued a statement distancing the company from Hogeg and stating the ‘incidents' happened years ago. It claims that it has terminated its consulting agreement with Hogeg, apparently at Hogeg's request. While sources within FC Barcelona claim that Hogeg was only an “external advisor” for Ownix, the NFT marketplace refrains from stating if Hogeg held ICO (initial coin offering) tokens named ONX which was created in late July.
FC Barcelona's deal with Ownix involved the launch of NFTs focused on improving its financial footing while improving connections with its global fanbase. The series was set to feature digital trinkets of historic moments from the club's 122-year history, which includes an illustrious trophy cabinet that features 95 domestic and international laurels, including 26 domestic league titles and five UEFA Champions League titles.
Although the club and those over at Ownix hasn't penned down a proper plan, the club wanted to allow fans to bid on clips of highlights in online auctions enabled through Ownix's own marketplace. Fans were then supposed to bid on the club's most iconic events over the year caught on camera to have a piece of footage for themselves. Ownix, meanwhile, had stated that the Barcelona NFTs would be selected by a “special joint committee” and then minted, first as unique one-off auctions and later as a broader collection.
Football brands and clubs with massive global fanbases have been exploring NFTs as a way of generating income and increasing fan engagement. In September, Spain's La Liga became the first of Europe's top football leagues to offer NFTs of all its players through French digital soccer collectables platform Sorare. Other European clubs in Porto, AS Roma, and Liverpool have previously announced NFT deals too.