FC Barcelona cancelled a marketing deal with non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace Ownix on Thursday. The decision comes less than five days before the soccer powerhouse is scheduled to auction its first NFT collection through the platform.
The Associated Press and other publications reported that the cancellation followed the arrest earlier Thursday of Israeli crypto mogul Moshe Hogeg on fraud involving cryptocurrencies and assault charges. The publications also reported that Hogeg has ties to Ownix, which operates on the Ethereum blockchain. Hogeg lists the company in the Interests section of his LinkedIn profile.
“In light of information received today that goes against the Club’s values, FC Barcelona hereby communicate the cancellation of the contract to create and market NFT digital assets with Ownix with immediate effect,” the club said in a statement on its website.
At the time of publication, the club had not responded to CoinDesk requests for comment.
Announced just 15 days ago, the FC Barcelona NFT auction based on photos and videos from the club’s 122-year history is slated to take place on Nov. 24, according to a countdown timer on the Ownix website. The launch will feature remarks from Joan Laporta, who took over as FC Barcelona president earlier this year and other “key members” of the club, an email from an FC Barcelona representative to CoinDesk said.
Barça, as the team is known, is second in value only to Spanish rival Real Madrid, according to a ranking by Brand Finance, which said the team might drop down the ladder because of the departure of star striker Lionel Messi – who has his own NFT collection – for Paris St. Germain in a deal that also included NFTs.
Sports teams worldwide have been exploring NFTs as a way of generating income and raising fan engagement. FC Barcelona has faced severe financial issues in recent years with its CEO Ferran Reverter telling reporters in October that the club was “technically bankrupt” earlier this year and would have been “dissolved” if it had been a public limited company (PLC).