Sports Ticker (12 Mar 2021) - Rugby World Cup, Fenway Sports Group and Dettol

12 March 2021. Published by Jeremy Drew, Head of TMT and Joshua Charalambous, Senior Associate and Stuart Harris, Associate and Samuel Coppard, Associate

Welcome to the latest edition of the RPC Sports Ticker - providing fortnightly bite-size updates from around the sports industry.

Access the full Sports Ticker here.

In a fortnight where former Team Sky and British Cycling Doctor, Richard Freeman, has been found guilty by a medical tribunal of ordering a banned substance to help an athlete improve their performance (see here), we consider Brisbane as preferred partner to host the 2032 Olympic Games, rescheduling of the 2021 Rugby World Cup and Sky Sports’ new pop-up Rugby League channel. We also take a look at the imminent deal concerning Fenway Sports Group and a new partnership between Dettol and the FA.

1. 2021 World Cup forward pass to 2022

World Rugby has confirmed this year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup is officially postponed to 2022. The competition was scheduled to be held in New Zealand from 18 September 2021 until 16 October 2021; however, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the New Zealand border is currently closed to almost all arrivals. Commenting on the decision, the governing body said: “Given the number of athletes and personnel arriving from numerous locations, recent COVID-19 developments mean that it is simply not possible to guarantee optimal conditions for all teams to prepare for their pinnacle event, with continued uncertainties regarding training and match preparation.” Despite the general decline in COVID-19 infection rates worldwide, and the emergence of vaccines, it remains to be seen whether there will be a consistent trend towards or against further postponements.

2. RedBird Capital nearing deal for stake in Fenway Sports Group

RedBird Capital is set to make further waves following its acquisition of Toulouse FC and the XFL,  as sources report it is looking to pay around $750 million to acquire a 10% stake in Fenway Sports Group (the owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC). The acquisition has been a long term goal for RedBird founder Gerry Cardinale and is likely to close within the next five weeks. With a vast and successful portfolio, in addition to the Red Sox and Liverpool FC, including Roush Fenway Racing and the New England Sports Network, the deal will value Fenway at over $7 billion. Redbird is also a stakeholder of the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network, the regional broadcaster of the Red Sox rival New York Yankees, while the RedBird founder himself is a stakeholder in the OneTeam Collective. 

3. Sky Sports to launch pop-up Rugby League channel

Sky Sports is to launch a new pop-up Rugby League channel ahead of the 2021 Betfred Super League season, with Sky Sports Arena to show non-stop action for five days leading up to the opening matches on Friday 26 March. Rugby League fans should be delighted as they will be treated to 40 classic Rugby League matches as well as archive content including documentaries such as Rob Burrow: The Magnificent 7, Super League Super Men, and Warriors Down Under from Monday 22 March. There will also be two live National Rugby League matches to whet the appetite of Rugby League fans ahead of the action of the opening Super League fixtures at the end of March. Sky Sports’ social media channels will also be adding to the hype around the new season, with the launch of a new #RugbyLeagueTakeover hashtag. It is expected to be a welcome boost for the sport which has been acutely hit by the impact of COVID-19.

4. Dettol and the FA clean up

Dettol has been announced as the official hygiene partner of the England men’s and women’s senior football teams, Wembley Stadium, the wider grassroots game and St George’s Park. In the midst of a global pandemic, the partnership hopes to help reinforce important hygiene habits across every level of the game. Over 17,000 grassroots clubs and 1.4 million players will be given access to educational materials and a wide range of Dettol’s hygiene products, such as hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes. Kathryn Swarbrick, The FA’s Commercial and Marketing Director, said: “It is more important than ever before to ensure that football has all the necessary measures in place to help protect all participants and supporters. This new partnership will give us added reassurance as we look ahead to the complete return of our much-loved sport.” Dettol’s football campaign will kick off ahead of the Three Lions’ first 2021 international fixture against San Marino on 25 March and the grassroots campaign will begin when clubs in England return to action. 

5. Brisbane chosen as 'preferred partner' to host 2032 Olympic Games

Last month, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced Brisbane is the preferred bidder to host the 2032 Olympic Games. The IOC’s announcement sees Queensland’s capital take considerable steps towards hosting Australia’s third Olympics (Melbourne in 1956 and Sydney in 2000). The IOC statement said that it was “considering seizing the momentum offered by the excellent project of Brisbane 2032 and the Australian Olympic Committee, in this way, bringing stability to the Olympic Games, the athletes, the IOC and the whole Olympic Movement”. The move from the IOC will offer some certainty to future Games after the setbacks to Tokyo 2020 caused by COVID-19. Closer to home, Birmingham 2022 has unveiled the largest ever Commonwealth Games schedule, with over 286 sessions for fans to look forward to. The event will be the biggest multi-sport competition to be staged in the UK for a decade, and promises to be a magnificent edition of the Games - read more here.

Extra time... 
…and finally, Tiger Woods has admitted he was ‘touched’ to the see the huge display of support from his fellow players last week at the final round of WGC-Workday Championship in Florida. A large number of Woods’ colleagues opted to don his famous Sunday red shirt with black trousers in order to show solidarity with the 15-time major champion, who is recovering from leg injuries sustained in a car accident in late February. Woods Tweeted that “It is hard to explain how touching today was when I turned on the TV and saw all the red shirts,” and “To every golfer and every fan, you are truly helping me get through this tough time.” Woods now faces what appears to be a prolonged period on the side-lines but was reported to be “in good spirits” after being moved to a new Los Angeles hospital for treatment last week. (Read more here).