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Football Heavyweight Inter Sweating Over Crypto Firm’s ‘Non-Payment’ of Sponsorship Deal

Source: AdobeStock / lester120

The Milan-based Italian footballing giant Internazionale is facing a rocky start to its relationship with crypto – amid reports that DigitalBits, a company that agreed to a USD 87m sponsorship deal with Inter this year – has defaulted on a sponsorship payment.

Inter made headlines in the footballing and crypto world in January when reporters revealed that the company was set to strike a three-year deal with DigitalBits. The terms of the deal will see the DigitalBits logo displayed on the front of the first team jersey from the 2022-2023 season. The deal is due to expire in 2025. Inter has an existing relationship with DigitialBits – the company paid for sleeve sponsorship rights during the 2021-2022 season.

The crypto company has also become Inter’s “official crypto partner.” But, Italy’s top footballing newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport reported that DigitalBits has not “honored” a “tranche” of payments to Inter – a fact that has led the relationship between the club and its main sponsor to “become complicated.”

Both parties had denied the existence of any financial-related issues several weeks ago after rumors about a non-payment first began to circulate.

But the situation appears to have changed for the worse since then. Inter is “not standing still,” the newspaper reported. And it has responded to what now appears to be a clear non-payment by “doing what it can do.”

The club has removed most DigitalBits branding from its web-based platforms. While the firm’s logo can still be seen in photos of the club’s shirts, no other mention of the crypto company is now visible on Inter-related sites. The company’s name has also been removed from a list of official partners on the club’s website.

A friendly match held over the weekend saw the sponsor’s name removed from scoreboards in the stadium, and Gazetta reported that it was “likely that it will also be the case” when the team plays its next pre-season match on August 6.

Both the crypto company and the club appear keen to remain tight-lipped on the matter. The newspaper claimed that there was “no clarity” on the amount of money owed in “the overdue tranche” – although everything appeared to be in order when Inter published its most recent balance sheet on June 30. This would appear to suggest that DigitalBits had honored its payment obligations up until this point.

The newspaper added that DigitalBits may have suffered financial losses due to the fact that its XDB token has struggled during the harsh crypto winter. In March, the coin was trading for almost USD 0.646, while its all-time high stands at 0.85 as recorded in November 2021, per CoinGecko data. At 13:37 UTC on August 1, however, the token is trading at USD 0.027, down 6.4% in a day, 31% in a week, 29% in a month, 76% in a year, and 97% from its all-time high.

XDB 1Y-price chart. Source: coingecko.com

Further repercussions are on the way, Gazzetta added: the club had been set to unveil its away jersey before August 10, but “will in all probability” postpone this to September – as it has no desire to give more “visibility” to DigitalBits before the latter honors its contract.

However, Inter’s options are somewhat limited: The club has already sold thousands of DigitalBits-branded replica shirts ahead of the Serie A season opener away at Lecce on August 13.

The outlet wrote that while a “change of sponsor” at this stage would be “tremendously complicated,” in “the future, nothing can be excluded.”

DigitalBits still stands to receive an enormous amount of exposure through the sponsorship deal: as well as wearing DigitalBits-branded shirts in the Serie A, Inter is also set to compete in the Champions League, Europe’s premium cup competition. They are also due to defend the Coppa Italia, which they won in May – defeating perennial rivals Juventus in the final.

One journalist close to the club insisted that Inter would not be left out of pocket, however.

An Inter fansite quoted the journalist Fabrizio Biasin as stating that the club’s contract with DigitalBits was “armor-clad,” remarking:

“We are facing a delay, but the money will come.”

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