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70% of Crypto Investors Watching FIFA World Cup 2022

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Football is the most popular sport among crypto investors, per a recent KuCoin survey. Out of the 70% that are watching the FIFA World Cup 2022, nearly half are also trading fan tokens. But crypto scams are rearing their ugly head, so maintain caution. 

One of the most prestigious sports events is currently underway in the Middle Eastern region of Qatar. It’s expected that more than a million football fans from across the globe will watch games in the infamous air-conditioned stadiums for the very first time in history. 

However, the 2022 FIFA World Cup will also be a first for several other reasons, especially the way crypto features in it. This event is expected to be a massive booster for crypto adoption. 

FIFA World Cup 2022 Bitcoin BTC Source Cryptopolitan
Source: Cryptopolitan

One reason is the industry’s prominence in the event’s sponsorship. Earlier this year, World Cup organizers chose cryptocurrency platform Crypto.com as one of the event’s main sponsors. It will give the exchange exposure to an estimated audience of five billion viewers, which wasn’t the case in the last World Cup. 

But more importantly, Fans make World Cups. And this time, the cryptocurrency exposure has changed how fans interacted with their teams—bridging the gap between football and the blockchain industry.  

Football meets crypto in Qatar 

Since the last major bull run in the crypto market, the sports industry has adopted cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based solutions with open arms. The love for crypto in sports remains strong even when the global market goes through periods of bearishness. 

The Seychelles-based crypto exchange KuCoin shed some light on this joint venture. The exchange published the “When Crypto Meets Football” report.

This report is based on surveys among 20,180 crypto investors between January and September of 2022 and 8,022 users in KuCoin communities in November 2022. ​It revealed how crypto investors engage with their favorite sports, specifically football, in web3.

24 percent of crypto investors say that football is their favorite sport per KuCoin
Source: KuCoin

According to the survey, football is the most popular sport among crypto investors. 24% of crypto investors say that football is their favorite sport. According to FIFA, there are five billion football fans worldwide, with Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa representing the largest fan bases.

“Community” (41%), “Teamwork” (33%), and “Passion” (30%) are considered the top values shared among crypto and football. This was followed by “Strategic” (27%) and “Accessibility to All” (23%). Some attributes combine crypto and football.  

An anonymous Nigerian football participating in the survey stated: 

“Fans’ support is the common thing that holds crypto and football. They revolve around individuals that look past traditional social constructs to form a community based on shared passions and dreams. They both have a feeling of inclusiveness, being free and not biased.” 

Overall, seventy percent of crypto investors are keeping a close eye on the event, making it the first event in the Top Sports Events watched in 2022/2023. 

70% of crypto investors are watching the 2022 FIFA World Cup per KuCoin
Source: KuCoin

Geographical differences

Fans across the globe have shown interest in this event. But this time, crypto investors, too, were a part of this cohort. Geographically,  Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia are regions where passions for crypto and football cross paths. France, Spain, Vietnam, Germany, and Brazil feature the largest share of football fans among crypto investors. 

Four of every ten crypto investors in these countries identify as football fans.

Football Fans across the countries with interest in cryptocurrencies as per KuCoin’s data
Source: KuCoin

Now given the unprecedented traction, the crypto community has taken fan interactions with their respective clubs to a new level—with fan tokens.

By the fans, for the fans

More and more football clubs are turning to the crypto industry to boost revenues by issuing a new type of digital asset called fan tokens. The relationship enables clubs to issue so-called digital ‘fan tokens’ that can be sold to supporters and traded like other assets.

The tokens are akin to a club-specific asset, allowing virtual coins to be bought and sold with their value rising and falling in line with demand and team performance.

The tokens are often marketed with real-world perks such as promotions, rewards, and discounts in the club shop. Even a chance to unlock VIP rewards, including a meet and greet with favorite players, VIP seats, and other unique benefits. 

The more tokens, the greater the access and shot at team governance. 

In the earliest highest-profile link-up between football and cryptocurrency, big-name football clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, Barcelona, and Juventus, partnered with the Socios crypto platform. 

Top football clubs for fan tokens Data from Forbes
Source: Forbes Advisor

To buy tokens, supporters must first convert traditional funds, via an app, into Socios’ cryptocurrency, Chiliz.

Given the footballing exposure, the sales of fan tokens have only accelerated, from $1.90 billion in April to almost $7 billion in November 2022, with an all-time sales volume surpassing the $175 billion mark. 

The World Cup 2022 too saw this trend

48% of football fans among crypto investors surveyed are interested in trading fan tokens during the 2022 FIFA World Cup. 

The event is also expected to drive popularity for other sports tokens. 28% of football fans among crypto investors also expressed interest in investing in general sports tokens or projects. The top mentions were Sweatcoin (SWEAT), Chiliz (CHZ), Stepn (GMT), Alpine (ALPINE), and Flow (FLOW). 

A compilation of top sports tokens and interested Web3 activities on KuCoin
Source: KuCoin

Now to bridge the gap between football and crypto users, different platforms took part in the biggest sporting event. First, it was OKX, as reported by BeInCrypto. In the latest development, KuCoin in conversion with BeInCrypto stated: 

“KuCoin is partnering with high-impact Web3 companies, such as Polygon – the leading Layer 2 platform for Ethereum scaling and infrastructure development, WinGoal – a burn-to-earn and win-to-earn-more F2P World Cup DApp, and YGGSEA – the first subDAO of Yield Guild Games, to launch “Shoot to Win Goal,” a 4-day event that aims to highlight the intersection of crypto and football while rewarding cryptocurrency users within the global ecosystem with a $1 million prize pool.” 

Indeed millions of fans, sponsors, and famed crypto-related firms would all come under one stage. But one needs to maintain caution as well. 

Safeguard against exploits 

Cryptocurrency scams are one of the biggest risks for anyone investing and gambling on the World Cup, as reported by BeInCrypto on Nov. 24. As tickets for this year’s event are only available digitally, scammers have increasingly capitalized on creating fraudulent websites offering them.

False websites for merchandise, gifts, and giveaways also entice the unwary among the event’s enthusiasts. 

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Are CBDCs the Future of Money or Just a Pipe Dream?

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Central Bank Digital Currencies are often touted as the future of money. They scare some and excite others. What’s the truth?

According to the Atlantic Council CBDC tracker, 114 countries, representing over 95 percent of global GDP, are exploring a CBDC. 11 countries, including Nigeria and the Bahamas, have already launched theirs. China is currently piloting a system that will expand to the entire country this year.

The Bank of Finland introduced the Avant smart card in 1993, intended to work as an electronic form of cash. Even though the Finnish government eventually abandoned the project in the early 2000s, it is widely considered the world’s first CBDC.

Their appeal for central governments is obvious: they give central banks — the issuers of currency — an electronic version for them to monitor and control. For vendors, they offer a way of sending and receiving payments that are near instantaneous and do not require an intermediary like a commercial bank.

Currently, when we pay for a good or service, we rely on intermediaries to handle the transaction. Card payments, mobile money, and electronic transfers all require them. A CBDC would be a peer-to-peer exchange, similar to exchanging banknotes or sending BTC or ETH.

Put simply, CBDCs will be the digital equivalent of a digital banknote or coin. 

Project Icebreaker, a collaboration between the central banks of Israel, Sweden, and Norway and the BIS Innovation Center, is currently at work on an interoperable CBDC system that will allow different CBDCs to interact across borders. Experts agree that widespread use of this technology is only a few years away.

The crypto community has other ideas, and it’s easy to see why. 

The crypto community was founded on a series of clear ideas and principles. One that centralized financial institutions, like the banks that caused the Great Recession, had too much power. (And the power they did have, they often misused.) Two, other centralized institutions (like governments) also had too much power. And three, that individuals had a right to operate in society without both of their oversight. You can sum it up in three words: decentralization, freedom, and privacy.

Therein lies the rub. CBDCs, as they are currently envisaged, do not offer the same degree of privacy as cash or certain cryptocurrencies. In theory, central banks would have access to all transaction data. Whilst most blockchains make all transactions traceable, they are not tied to your real-world identity.

We are unlikely to get ever a truly private CBDC, says Hugo Volz Oliveira, Secretary and founding member at New Economy Institute. “The current forms of digital money aren’t private by design, and CBDC won’t be too. Only cash and some privacy-focused cryptocurrencies are truly anonymous – and even then, one must always be careful if they are expecting their use of money to be private. More worryingly, CBDCs can be used to sanction individuals without the cooperation of the judicial system.”

Legendary cryptographer David Chaum (known as the ‘Godfather of Privacy’) announced last year that he is working on a privacy-protecting CBDC with the Swiss National Bank (SNB.) BeInCrypto understands that he has been working on this project for some years. The concept has been outlined in a joint research paper by Chaum and Thomas Moser from the SNB.

According to the announcement, the technology will also be quantum-resistant. So, nothing to worry about, then?

Why Not Just Stablecoins?

For many critics of CBDC, there is a perfectly good option waiting in the wings. Although they are intended for a different purposes, a successful stablecoin offers the same value as the fiat currency it imitates. Both are used as a store of value and to facilitate cross-border exchange, but one is regulated by a central authority.

“As long as the regulatory environment remains favorable for private stablecoins like Circle (USDC), there is no reason we necessarily need CBDCs. I also think it’s more “American” (and thus likely) for the U.S. Government to strongly regulate a private industry than to compete with it directly, and the same goes for stablecoins,” says Adam Miller, CEO of MIDAO.

Whilst the direction of travel looks clear, not everyone is convinced we will end up in a world of universal CBDC use. “I think it’s more likely that governments will make their currency systems more and more digital (but still centralized/federated), as the U.S. has been doing for years and continues to do, but not go as far as launching CBDCs that are truly censorship resistant or having other qualities of real blockchains,” continues Miller. 

Wholesale Use of CBDCs

Research by the IMF states that another benefit of CBDC is its ability to reduce carbon emissions. However, the greatest benefit of CBDC is almost certainly its efficiency and its ability to reduce friction in payments. 

In use cases where individual privacy is less of a concern, the technology could come into its own. In particular, when banks and other financial institutions have to transact with each other.

“However, if we’re talking about wholesale CBDC—used for settlement between financial institutions—then there are some interesting pros,” continues Oliveira. “Namely efficiency and savings which result from the digital transformation of processes which are still largely bureaucratic and manual. These wouldn’t fundamentally change the current system nor make retail banks irrelevant.” 

At the time of writing, eight countries are working on a wholly wholesale CBDC. Twenty-one countries intend to use CBDCs for retail and wholesale purposes, including the U.S., China, India, and Australia.

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US Treasury Sanctions Hit Russian Arms Dealer’s Crypto Wallets

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The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has imposed full blocking sanctions on 22 individuals and entities across several countries, including Russia and Cyprus, as part of its sanctions evasion network that supports Russia’s military-industrial complex.

The sanctions were imposed under Executive Order 14024 and are part of the U.S.’s strategy to target sanctions evasion globally, close key channels, and limit Russia’s access to revenue for its war in Ukraine.

US Treasury Goes After Russian Arms Dealer’s Cryptos

The U.S. Treasury’s sanctions were imposed by the Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO) Task Force, a multilateral effort to identify, freeze, and seize assets of sanctioned Russians worldwide. This task force leverages information from international REPO partners and key data from Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to share information, track Russian assets, and sever Russian proxies from the international financial system.

The REPO Task Force aims to maximize the impact of multilateral sanctions while preventing opportunities for Russia to evade or circumvent U.S. and partner sanctions.

The primary target of the sanctions is a Russian sanctions evasion network led by Russia and Cyprus-based arms dealer Igor Zimenkov and his son Jonatan Zimenkov. The Zimenkov network has been involved in projects related to Russia’s defense capabilities, including supplying a Russian company with high-tech devices after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. They have also supported sanctioned state-owned Russian defense entities, Rosoboroneksport OAO and State Corporation Rostec, which are critical components of Russia’s military-industrial complex.

Igor and Jonatan Zimenkov have worked closely together to enable Russian defense sales to third-party governments and have engaged directly with Rosoboroneksport’s potential clients to facilitate sales of Russian defense material. Igor Zimenkov has also supported the Belarusian military-industrial complex by enabling the sales efforts of State Owned Foreign Trade Unitary Enterprise Belspetsvneshtechnika in Latin America.

Today, Igor Zimenkov was designated for operating in the defense and related materiel sector of the Russian Federation economy, while Jonatan Zimenkov was designated for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for Igor Zimenkov, Rosoboroneksport, and other sanctioned entities.

The Zimenkov network used front companies to funnel money and maintain a lawful appearance. Singapore-based Zimenkov network shell company Asia Trading & Construction PTE Limited and its director, Serena Bee Lin Ng, have sold helicopters to clients in Africa on behalf of the Zimenkov network. Additionally, Cyprus-based Zimenkov network shell company Lobster Management Limited and its director, Mikhail Petrov, have facilitated sanctions evasion by providing support to sanctioned entities.

The Treasury’s OFAC continues to work with its international partners to coordinate information sharing and enforcement and to travel the world in pursuit of sanctions evasion. The sanctions imposed today are a clear signal to Russia and its military-industrial complex that the U.S. and its partners are committed to tightening sanctions enforcement and preventing the evasion of international sanctions.

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BeInCrypto has reached out to company or individual involved in the story to get an official statement about the recent developments, but it has yet to hear back.



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Digital Wallet Growth Will Enable More Closed-Loop Transactions

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Crypto and fintech investment firm Ark Invest has made bold predictions about digital wallets, estimating that more than half the world will soon be using at least one.

In its Jan. 31 ‘Big Ideas 2023’ research report, Ark Invest revealed that digital wallet global population penetration is currently 40%. This equates to around 3.2 billion users, the firm added.

However, the research suggests that the number of online wallet users will increase at an annual rate of 8%. The firm predicted that this will result in a global population penetration of 65% by 2030:

“Having onboarded billions of consumers and millions of merchants, digital wallets could transform the economics associated with traditional payment transactions, saving them nearly $50 billion in costs.”

It also noted that digital wallets were gaining market share in online and offline transactions. Cash is definitely in decline, accelerated by government initiatives to go digital, as recently seen in Nigeria.


Payment method trends - Ark Invest
Payment method trends – Ark Invest

Digital Wallet Growth to Continue

Ark reported that digital wallets were scaling faster than accounts at traditional financial institutions. Furthermore, U.S. digital wallet adoption rebounded in 2022, surpassing previous highs following a COVID-induced dip.

The firm estimates that U.S. digital wallet users will increase by 7% annually during the next eight years. This will be a growth of around 160 million in 2022 to more than 260 million by the end of the decade.

Digital wallet user growth - Ark Invest
Digital wallet user growth – Ark Invest

Furthermore, online wallets are enabling “closed-loop” ecosystems. This is where consumers and merchants can transact directly, cutting out the middleman. 

“Digital wallets are onboarding millions of merchants to platforms that enable direct consumer-merchant transactions that disintermediate traditional financial institutions,” it noted.

In this closed-loop environment, wallet providers capture more value per transaction, enabling savings to be shared with merchants and consumers.

Open and Closed Lopp transactions - Ark Invest
Open and Closed Lopp transactions – Ark Invest

Additionally, Ark noted that closed-loop transactions could boost the margin structure of wallet providers.

It used Block Inc. (formerly Square) as an example, stating that it paid around 60% of customer transaction fees to third parties in 2022. The fees were paid for interchange, assessment, processing, and bank settlement fees. Block’s net take rate could more than double if customers transacted directly with merchants.

Block Inc. fee structure - Ark Invest
Block Inc. fee structure – Ark Invest

Closed Loop Transactions Could Top 50%

Finally, Ark predicted that these closed-loop transactions could account for over 50% of digital payments by 2030.

It used China as an example where wallets and merchants are largely internal or domestic only.

Closed loop cost savings - Ark Invest
Closed loop cost savings – Ark Invest

In conclusion, digital wallet growth is set to continue. Cutting out the intermediary which they facilitate is beneficial to both the consumer and merchant.

Disclaimer

BeInCrypto has reached out to company or individual involved in the story to get an official statement about the recent developments, but it has yet to hear back.



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