Sports Ticker (1 March 2023) – New football regulator, BT Sport and Eurosport merger and LaLiga docuseries – a speed-read of commercial updates from the sports world

Published on 01 March 2023

In a fortnight which saw the UK Government present early details of its eagerly awaited plans to regulate the football industry, and the PGA and LPGA announce a new annual mixed-team golfing event, we feature updates on the BT and Eurosport merger, the newly announced Netflix docuseries on LaLiga and the NBA's new live avatar experience app feature.

As always, if there are any issues on which you'd like more information (or if you have any questions or feedback), please do let us know or get in touch with your usual contact at RPC.

NBA slam dunks new live avatar experience

Have you ever wanted to dunk like King James, shoot like Steph Curry or dribble like Chris Paul? Now basketball fans can, with a new app feature from the NBA. As part of the NBA's All Star tech summit, commissioner Adam Silver unveiled a feature that allows fans to scan themselves and transpose their avatar into a live NBA game. The scanned avatar will replicate the physical moves of the selected player so that it looks like they are in the game themselves (see here for a live demo). The new feature is made possible through LiDAR which is short for "Light Detection and Ranging", a remote sensor technology. The NBA has not provided a release date for this new feature, however, as part of its press announcement, it suggested that the NBA app will allows players to transport a game to new virtual locations.

Olympian Peter Bol up and running again following contradictory doping results

Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) have confirmed that Australian middle-distance runner Peter Bol’s provisional suspension for doping has been lifted, but insist that an investigation into the findings “remains ongoing”. Bol was provisionally banned by Athletics Australia in January 2023 after a urine test showed signs of synthetic EPO, a performance-enhancing agent that is on the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned list. Bol, who finished fourth in the 800 metres at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and won silver in the men’s 800m at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last year, has denied taking the substance - and relies upon an analysis of his B sample, which has now returned an atypical finding (ATF). However, SIA have stressed that an ATF “is not the same as a negative test result”. With his provisional suspension now lifted, Bol may return to competing ahead of the world championships in August 2023 and 2024 Paris Olympics - albeit, no doubt nervously, awaiting a verdict from SIA concerning whether any anti-doping rule violations have been committed. The news comes in a fortnight where Conor Benn was found to have had a "reasonable explanation" by the WBC for his failed test ahead of the aborted bout with Chris Eubank Jr.

TNT Sports to explode into action following BT Sport and Eurosport merger

Following a joint venture formed between BT Group and Warner Bros. Discovery in the UK last year, BT Sport will rebrand as TNT Sports this summer. The merger will create one the UK's largest sports offerings under a single service, including Premier League, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League football, as well as the Olympic Games and Grand Slam tennis tournaments. TNT is expected to launch in July 2023, in time for the start of the 2023/24 football season. The launch will be the TNT Sports brand's first foray into the UK market, although the name is already widely used by Warner Bros. Discovery in Latin America and the US. The streaming version of the subscription service will fall under Eurosport's existing Discovery+ umbrella with prices to be announced in due course.

Refereeing the industry - UK government proposes new regulator for English football

The UK Government has released its white paper on football governance, which includes details of its proposal to introduce a new independent regulator into English football, and which will make football the only sporting industry regulated by the government in the UK. This follows last year's Fan-Led Review of Football Governance (see RPC's blog post here) which emerged, amongst other reasons, from the fallout of attempts by the Premier League's 'Big 6' football clubs to join a breakaway European Super League. Early indications suggest that the priority for any new body will be protecting the cultural heritage of English football by incorporating fan involvement at club decision-making level. Additionally, a new more stringent owners' and directors' test has been proposed. This “enhanced” test's stated aims are to ensure “good custodians of clubs, stronger due diligence on sources of wealth and a requirement for robust financial planning”.

Netflix's LaLiga, like never screened before

The Spanish football league, LaLiga, will be televised like never before in Netflix's behind-the-scenes docuseries, providing fans with “an unprecedented opportunity to experience the excitement of one of the most exciting sporting competitions on the planet, first-hand”. This series follows the success of F1: Drive To Survive, Break Point (tennis) and Full Swing (golf) and Netflix is clearly looking to expand its offering in this sports-docuseries area, with plans for 2023/4 for new series on the Six Nations (rugby) and Tour de France (cycling), as well as LaLiga. Netflix has high hopes for LaLiga, its first docuseries produced in Spain, and equally, Óscar Mayo, executive director of LaLiga described the show as “a unique opportunity to take our football beyond the fans, to share with the world the excitement of the sport we love, and the chance for all our fans to see LaLiga from a totally different angle”. The LaLiga series will be available worldwide in 2024.

Extra time...

...and finally, A federal court will reconsider a lawsuit challenging a Connecticut policy that allows transgender students assigned male at birth to compete in girls' high school sports. The case, brought against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), on the grounds that the policy violated Title IX (a law originally designed to protect against sex in education and athletics) was initially rejected by a panel of three judges who stated that the plaintiffs had not shown they were deprived of opportunities as they all regularly competed in state championships and often won. The argument that cisgender female athletes are being deprived of wins and athletic opportunities by having to compete with transgender female sprinters will now be heard by the New York based 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals after a majority of judges voted in favour of hearing it....