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SPORTS UPDATE

FIFA signs Algorand as official blockchain platform for the men’s World Cup

FIFA got a first new American sponsor of the men’s World Cup in 11 years on Monday, signing a deal for this year’s tournament in Qatar with blockchain technology provider Algorand.

The deal is also a “technical partnership” to help FIFA develop a digital assets strategy, soccer’s world body said. It could help FIFA market soccer-related non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

The value of the World Cup sponsorship, at a third-tier regional level covering North American and European rights, was not disclosed. FIFA has set a target of earning $7 billion total revenue in its four-year commercial cycle that ends in Qatar.

The deal was announced in Los Angeles where FIFA president Gianni Infantino attended a business conference.

FIFA operations are turning toward North America ahead of the expanded 2026 World Cup being hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico. It should be a commercial boon with 48 teams competing instead of 32, playing a total of 80 games instead of 64.

Still, Algorand is the first new U.S.-based sponsor for FIFA’s marquee World Cup since 2011. Johnson & Johnson signed just for the 2014 edition in Brazil, which was a key market.

The past decade saw FIFA implicated in a U.S. federal investigation of corruption in international soccer and struggle to add American brands to join long-term partners Coca-Cola, Visa, McDonald’s and Budweiser.

Until recent months, FIFA signed nearly all of its sponsors for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments with firms from the host countries — Russia and Qatar, respectively — and China.

FIFA has now targeted the tech sector and in March announced a 2022 tournament deal with a cryptocurrency platform, Singapore-based crypto.com.

Algorand founder Silvio Micali said in a FIFA statement his company could help “transform the way we all experience the world’s game.” The deal also covers the 2023 Women’s World Cup being hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

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