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SailGP Will House Pro Sports’ First-Ever DAO-Owned Team

The 10-team world sailing league will make history in partnership with Web3 blockchain platform NEAR, beginning with its fourth season in 2023. Will it set a precedent for the major professional sports leagues?

One of the biggest development in the world of tech over the last several months has been the proliferation of DAOs, or decentralized autonomous organizations.

DAOs have been formed to shake up established and entrenched corporate hierarchies and bureaucracies β€” aiming to do everything from buying the U.S. constitution, an NBA team, and the Denver Broncos. Brothers Steph and Seth Curry are members of LinksDAO, a group dedicated to owning and operating physical golf courses.

We’ve openly asked here at Boardroom whether a DAO could actually successfully purchase a sports franchise.

We now know the answer to that question is yes.

SailGP, a 10-team world sailing league comprised of national teams competing in races all over the world, announced Thursday that it’s partnering with Web3 blockchain platform NEAR to form a DAO that will own and operate 100% of a new franchise set to begin competing in 2023.

It will be the first DAO-owned professional sports franchise β€” a feat that has the potential to be a disruptive force in the way ownership models exist and operate across sports.

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Global racing fans and the Web3 community will be eligible to join this DAO in July, when memberships become available via NEAR’s carbon neutral blockchain. NEAR boasts 200,000 community members, 1,700 actively monthly builders, and more than 100 guilds.

The team will be owned by these fans and operated by a governing body elected by DAO members β€” just like any other regular DAO β€” who will have say in all the operational, revenue and performance aspects of the racing team. NEAR will act as the team title partner when the DAO team debuts in SailGP’s Season 4 in 2023.

Across ticketing, NFTs, app integration, and gaming, NEAR plans to leverage the global SailGP technology platform β€” and the world’s most technologically advanced sport β€” to develop real-world IP and Web3 applications across fan engagement, data delivery and management, and league management.

β€œWe welcome NEAR to the SailGP family and we are looking forward to them participating in the most exciting racing on-water, featuring the world’s best sailors.” said Larry Ellison, SailGP founder and billionaire Oracle co-founder and executive chairman.

The partnership with NEAR will also include NFT-based fan experience that will live on the company’s blockchain.

“With SailGP, we have found a sports and entertainment company that aligns with our company values, and we have both set out to reimagine our sectors and create impact in our industries and beyond,” said NEAR CEO Marieke Flament.

NEAR is backed by top VCs such as A16Z, Pantera Capital, Electric Capital, Dragonfly Capital, Coinbase Ventures, Blockchain.com, and Baidu Ventures.

SailGP currently features 10 teams with players based on their country of origin, representing the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, and Japan. Short, thrilling races take place all over the world and feature speeds up to 60 miles per hour on the open seas.

“Being a new sports and entertainment property, this partnership allows us to do something different that other, more established, leagues might struggle with,” SailGP CEO Russell Coutts told Boardroom. “We see ourselves as a disrupter in the sports space and I think that shows with this announcement. Together we are empowering fans to get closer to the sport, teams and athletes than ever before and, with NEAR, we will work on new forms of fan engagement, from creating a DAO – to make team ownership accessible to a community of fans – to NFTs, ticketing and gaming. We think that it will provide unprecedented access, place fans at the heart of the sport and lead the next generation of innovation in sports and entertainment experiences.”

The league’s third season begins May 13 in Bermuda, part of a nine-race schedule that includes events in Chicago, Copenhagen, Saint-Tropez, and Dubai before the $1 million finale event in San Francisco in May 2023.

Season 4 will commence shortly thereafter, headlined by the first DAO-owned pro sports team in history.

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About The Author
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.