Danish Ice Hockey player opens the door to Bitcoin’s role in sport

This year hasn’t been the most innovative of periods in the world of technology, though you feel that there are some exciting events to come in the next year.

AR and VR have yet to take off in the way that many predicted, but there is a steady slew of news stories and innovations to make sure that we know it’s still there, whilst eSports hasn’t become the huge mainstream success some thought it might have been.

But one sector of technology has had something of a breakthrough year: Bitcoin.

We haven’t covered the rise of cryptocurrency too much on Digital Sport as it’s yet to make a truly huge impact on sport, but as with everything that makes a splash in the technology world, it will seep its way into our domain, too.

And this week, Bitcoin did just that as Bitcoin Suisse – a cryptocurrency finance company – sponsored Danish professional ice hockey team Rungsted Seier Capital, and as part of the deal, player Nikolaj Rosenthal will become the first athlete paid by his club fully and exclusively in Bitcoin instead of Danish Kroner.

Rosenthal is the son of Finn Rosenthal, one of the owners of the club, and has a business degree from Copenhagen Business School, as well as being the co-founder of two businesses alongside his sporting career. He seems, in many ways, like the perfect guinea pig for such an initiative.

This year, Bitcoin has come more and more into the public consciousness and it looks set to grow in popularity, but its implications for sport could also be huge.

In an increasingly globalised world, sport – and especially its most popular incarnations – is one of the most global businesses. As the most-followed teams and leagues travel the world in search of new fans and better players, the benefits of a currency which transcends boundaries is perhaps an attractive thought, even if it’s hardly practical to pay players in Bitcoin at present.

It’s an interesting thought, though, and one that could cross the minds of athletes in a world which seems to be getting increasingly volatile. It has been reported this week, for example, that Manchester City star Kevin de Bruyne will sign a new contract with the club and be paid in Euros rather than Pounds Sterling in a Brexit-busting move designed to ensure that the player won’t lose out from any decline in the Great British Pound from the UK’s divorce from the EU. There’s always going to be risk involved with any currency, but De Bruyne clearly feels this is a consideration, and you get the feeling that plenty of others would feel similarly.

Football, being the most popular sport in many disparate parts of the globe, is perhaps an extreme example here. But many players who come from all over the world to play in places like England, Spain and France will see themselves as worldwide superstars who just happen to be playing in this particular country, As such, they can just leave if they’d rather be paid in Euros than Pounds. Bitcoin, in theory, would be much simpler for such an athlete.

As always, sport doesn’t live in a vacuum. It is permeated by global trends, and the rise of Bitcoin could well be one that changes the way things are done in such a worldwide industry. Just like the other innovations of 2017, most of which have been slow to revolutionise sport in the way that many thought they might, Bitcoin is probably a long way of changing payment in sport as we know it. But as the first professional athlete is paid exclusively in Bitcoin, there’s clearly a promise of more to come.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 723 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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