In a bid to boost its popularity and endorse the cryptocurrency in the process, Polish soccer club GKS Katowice has announced plans to enable bitcoin payments for tickets and club-related merchandise.
The club’s supporters can now make donations to their favourite side in the digital currency, GKS Katowice said in a statement.
"We are open to new technologies. We want to be innovative and [...] show our fans that we have great ambitions,” said Wojciech Cygan, chief executive of GKS Katowice.
Under the plan, the fans will be able to pay in the digital currency through customized bitcoin wallets.
First soccer club to endorse bitcoin
Maciej Ziółkowski, an expert from local news site Satoshi.pl, was quoted in the statement saying that GKS Katowice is the first professional soccer club in the world to endorse the digital currency. Ziółkowski said:
Ziółkowski pointed to the experience of US basketball team Sacramento Kings which in January became the first NBA team to accept bitcoin for products sold online and at its home stadium.
According to Marcin Ćwikła, the club's press officer, the next step for GKS Katowice will be to sell match tickets and club-related merchandise such as squad jerseys and gadgets with the use of cryptocurrency payments.
Set up in 1964 and based in Katowice, in Poland’s Silesia region, GKS Katowice has a significant following in the country’s south-west.
The club is currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of its establishment. Some of the major achievements of GKS Katowice include three Cups of Poland in 1986, 1991 and 1993, as well as two Super Cups of Poland in 1991 and 1995.
After its rise to prominence in the early 1990s, the soccer club experienced a downfall which resulted in its relegation from the Ekstraklasa to the I Liga, the second tier of Poland’s professional soccer league.
Despite this, the club has remained highly popular both in Katowice and a number of neighbouring municipalities, and maintains a budget which matches those of some of the clubs which compete in the country’s top soccer league.
The latest move to introduce digital currency donations is one of a wide range of initiatives designed to bolster the club’s media presence and lure new supporters.
After the first half of the 2013/2014 season, GKS Katowice is currently ranked third out of the 18 clubs which play in Poland’s I Liga. This means that the club still has a chance of being promoted to the Ekstraklasa, which will accept the top two squads of the I Liga to its ranks in the next season.
GKS Katowice’s last season in the top tier of Poland’s professional soccer league ended in 2005. The supporters of the Katowice-based side can now show appreciation of their club’s efforts to return to the Ekstraklasa with donations made with the cryptocurrency.
GKS Katowice’s stadium has a seating capacity of more than 10,000. The city of Katowice is its majority shareholder, with a 52.78% stake in the Polish club.
Bitcoin in Poland
Despite the lack of official recognition of bitcoin by the Polish government, Poles trade digital currencies on local platforms.
The question of bitcoin’s legal status was addressed in a policy document signed by the country’s Deputy Minister of Finance Wojciech Kowalczyk and released in July 2013, as earlier reported.
Under the current regulatory framework, all transactions made in bitcoins are to be considered as a result of two parties agreeing contractually to use the digital currency in settling their dealings, according to the document.
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