Australian Open uses Metaverse and NFTs

David Bundi, MLaw  Director | Head of Compliance

Günther Dobrauz
Partner and Leader Legal, PwC Switzerland

The Australian Open (AO) is a tennis tournament held annually over the last fortnight of January at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, and is the first of the four Grand Slam tennis events held each year. Now, the AO expands into the Metaverse.

This year the AO will be the first Grand Slam to expand the tournament experience into the Metaverse and offer its fans non-fungible tokens (NFTs). An NFT is a unique digital asset stored on a blockchain allowing for digital ownership and verification. The AO NFT Collection consists of 6,776 unique and specially designed “Art Balls”. With it, the buyer not only holds a .jpg file but receives a physical ball – linked to the image of the NFT and a small plot of virtual land of the tournament’s main surface. Further, owners of the “Art Balls” will be granted gifts such as AO merchandise, wearables, and similar to the NFT Top Shots, the moment of the winning shot, if landed on their parcel, in form of an NFT video clip. NFTs not being the only highlight, as the AO will be launching an AO tournament within the Metaverse of Decentraland (MANA). For it, the AO recreated as many elements as possible of Melbourne Park providing its fans with a mirrored on-site experience. Bringing 3D live streams and allowing for a behind-the-scenes experience.

Beneficial for the event organizer and clubs

Metaverse and NFTs open in general numerous monetization opportunities. Especially in pandemic times, many people cannot travel due to travel restrictions or feel endangered in their health. By means of those Metaverse, those restrictions are diminished. Also, any potential limitations of tickets based on availability or capacity in a stadium are irrelevant. Furthermore, fans can browse virtual stores for offerings such as athleisure and sports equipment, unique souvenirs, including kits and apparel for specific games which would generate new revenue streams. Besides, gamification, underpinned by interactive and entertainment elements, opens a new world compared to physical attendance in sports stadiums. Games in the virtual world could be played not only during breaks in the sporting actions but also before and after the game.

Broader fan experience

Not only does the Metaverse dissolve physical barriers but it also delivers an enhanced fan experience. The fan interaction is lifted on a whole new level. Fans can for e.g. directly interact with players by chat in real time or can meet other friends or fans in a virtual bar before or after the game. With new multi-view camera technology, fans can also watch the game from different angles and zoom in to witness the game in more detail. On the other hand, NFTs entitle to digital collectibles of sports moments or players. The “Art Balls” of AO combines art with sport moments. There are many more opportunities of NFTs. Recently “Fan Tokens” have become very popular as owners take part in decision making processes. Further, these tokens entitle owners to receive VIP benefits, such as exclusive meet and greet events, autographs, etc.

«Not only does the Metaverse dissolve physical barriers but it also delivers an enhanced fan experience.»

Contractual rights in the Metaverse

Existing contractual rights – a key aspect that the AO and other companies need to consider before entering the Metaverse is who owns the existing contractual rights inside these virtual worlds. This may result in a big challenge as most likely neither the Metaverse itself nor its vast applications were considered at the point of signing. Take for example a design studio that granted the rights of their product to a third company. Depending on the contractual details, this third company may be able to claim and therefore exploit the existing contractual rights inside the Metaverse. Moving forward, considering that virtual world-related applications will increase and become part of our daily lives, it is critical to precisely define who owns which rights.

How can we support you?

The Metaverse and NFTs are emerging technologies that come with opportunities as well as legal challenges.

Our team at PwC is passionate and experienced in various Legal & Compliance and Regulatory topics regarding the Metaverse and NFTs. Please find below a selection of services, which we offer to our clients: 

  • Legal and regulatory guidance in the field of blockchain, NFT and IP law;
  • Support in data protection law;
  • Review of business models with legal and regulatory gap analysis and holistic implementation support;
  • Support with strategy, frameworks, policies and procedures;
  • Drafting, negotiating and risk mitigation of any kind of contracts.