Sports Ticker: Women's World Cup smashes records, Paris Olympics share carbon commitments, and FIFA wins case against football agents – a speed-read of commercial updates from the sports world
In a fortnight which saw England advance to the quarter-finals in the Women's Football World Cup and the start of the Cycling World Championships in Glasgow, we bring you updates on the Women's Football World Cup smashing TV viewing figure records and the Paris Olympic Committee's carbon cutting commitments. We also feature stories on Manchester United's new deal with Adidas, Juventus' disqualification from the Europa League and the media rights for snow sports being centralised for the next 8 years.
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The US women's national team's 1-1 draw against the Netherlands in the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup has made history by becoming the most-watched women's group stage match ever for an English-language broadcast, with nearly 6.43 million viewers tuning in on Fox and Fox Sports Digital. The previous record was set by the US team's 3-0 victory over Vietnam, which attracted 6.26 million viewers, in both English and Spanish. The majority of viewers watched the Vietnam match in English (5.3 million), making it the third-largest English-language group stage match audience in US women's World Cup history. Both matches aired during primetime, contributing to the high viewership. Unfortunately for the US team however, they went on to be knocked out in the Round of 16 by Sweden.
Adidas and Manchester United have agreed a new commercial deal worth £900m, making it the highest value kit deal in Premier League history. Adidas previously supplied Manchester United with their kits from 1980 – 1992 until United moved to Umbro and then Nike. This new deal is off the back of United's best summer season for kit sales having released their new home and away kits in June and July. The deal is subject to United playing in the Champions League with a 30% reduction in payment if they fail to qualify for two consecutive seasons. Meanwhile, Juventus' troubles have gone from bad to worse, with the club being fined £17.14m and kicked out of the Europa Conference League. They have already been docked 10 points last season which cost them a place in the Champions League. The fine relates to UEFA rules on financial fair play. The club will only have to pay half of the fine if their financial records for the next three years comply with UFEA regulations. Juventus have decided not to appeal this latest fine and have reportedly been focusing on management restructures instead.
As the clock ticks down to the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Organising Committee has shared its “Environmental Ambitions” to reduce the event’s carbon footprint. The goal is to halve the carbon emissions of London 2012 and Rio 2016. The Games are set to be powered by the 100% renewable energy sources of biogas, wind and solar power. Food for the Games will be “sustainably sourced”, with 80% domestic ingredients and at least 30% being organically grown. To limit construction works, 95% of sporting venues will be existing or temporary structures. Spectators can travel to venues by public transport too. The measures reflect the increasing focus of the International Olympic Committee on the Games’ impact on the planet. Future Olympic and Paralympic hosts will be contractually bound to minimise their carbon emissions and encourage their stakeholders to follow suit.
FIFA has won an important ruling regarding football agents' fees in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The case was brought by the Professional Football Agents Association in response to the FIFA Football Agent Regulations. The regulations were signed off by FIFA last year and are set to come into force on 1 October 2023. The governing body is bringing in a swathe of regulations to limit the fees agents can make from player sales, setting a limit for agents' earnings from a transfer fee at 10% of that fee when the agent acts for the selling club. FIFA is also setting limits of 3% of salary for players who earn over $200,000 per year and 5% of salary for those who earn up to $200,000 per year. Football agents have objected to the upcoming changes, with this case the latest in a series of tussles. FIFA has welcomed the ruling, saying “the award confirms FIFA’s position that the (agent rules) are a reasonable and proportionate regulatory measure that help to resolve systemic failures in the player transfer system.” However, it is unclear whether other courts will make the same or equivalent findings. This dispute seems likely to continue for a long while yet.
The International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) and global sports marketing company, Infront, has announced their exclusive agency agreement for the international media rights for all FIS World Cup snow sports events. The deal kicks off in 2026/27 and will span 8 seasons until 2033/34. The media rights cover all platforms, with free access to archival and highlight footage, and “extensive” rights including course and behind-the-scenes coverage plus the rights to create documentaries, TV series or feature films. FIS has full control of the sales process, with Infront providing exclusive media operations and marketing implementation services. Johan Eliasch, FIS President, said centralising the sports’ media rights would “allow for a better product and planning…more money, investment and opportunities…[and] enable us to promote our sport more widely across all social media channels, reaching a new generation of snow sports fans”.
...and finally, a useful judgment has been given in a dispute between Puma SE and Transport for London. Advertisers running campaigns around the Women's World Cup will be particularly interested in this case as it arises from a campaign that ran during the Women's Euro finals last year. In this case, TfL alleged that it had received a series of complaints from Uefa and FIFA that a Puma campaign was effectively "passing off" (incorrectly) that Puma was an official sponsor of the Euros and consisted of ambush marketing. However, Uefa and FIFA denied making any such complaints. As a result, Puma issued a Norwich Pharmacal application requesting an order that TfL inform Puma who had actually demanded the removal of the campaign. The Court found that Puma had a good arguable case that there was a danger of being threatened with passing off. The Court concluded that “communication … has now reached a stage whereby Puma will very likely be obliged to walk away empty handed from its objection to the removal of its advertising unless the court intervenes to break the deadlock, allowing Puma to find out who complained to TfL”. The next steps in the case may have interesting implications for Women's World Cup advertisers, and advertisers of major sports events more generally.