Sports Ticker (21 October 2021) - A women’s B&I Lions team, UKGC warning on Sorare, and the latest tech innovations
In a fortnight which has seen UEFA hand England a one-match Wembley Stadium ban for Euro 2020 final crowd trouble, Rory McIlroy dazzle at The CJ Cup and 18 EPL clubs vote to temporarily block certain related party transactions whilst considering future regulations on the issue, we feature the potential for a women's British and Irish Lions team, Google's new partnership with the NBA plus key developments at the interface of sports and technology.
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.
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has issued a consumer information notice in respect of Sorare, the popular blockchain-built fantasy football platform where users buy, sell and trade virtual football cards (NFTs) to manage their virtual fantasy teams (see Ticker 47). Sorare does not hold a UK gambling licence and the UKGC is currently carrying out enquiries to establish whether one is required. This means any activity completed on the website by consumers in Great Britain is currently outside of the gambling regulations. Sorare has since issued a statement expressing confidence that it “does not offer any forms of regulated gambling” which has been “confirmed by expert legal opinions”. Gamified platforms often do come close to what the UKGC has described as a “grey area” when it comes to what constitutes “betting” and “gaming”, and with wider regulatory reforms on the horizon, we expect there will be more to come on this story.
The potential for a women's British and Irish Lions team is step closer to becoming reality. Seen as the pinnacle of the men’s game for rugby union players in the home nations, there is great hope that this will be replicated for the women's game. That hope rests on the shoulders of a newly-formed feasibility group, chaired by former Wales and British Lions try-scoring machine, Ieuan Evans. However, there are some significant challenges to overcome in order to set up an effective and successful women's tour. Most significantly, the steering group must consider the financial viability, suitable opposition as well as ensuring appropriate scheduling. The steering group is supported by Royal London who in March 2021 became the official partner of the Women’s Lions Programme. Royal London will support research and analysis in order to help grow the Women’s game as well as fund the feasibility study spearheaded by the steering group. It’s important to recognise that ‘what good looks like’ in women’s sport does not always mean replicating men’s equivalents - something which has been cited very regularly in rugby - so we look forward to seeing whether there are any innovations when looking at the feasibility results, including tour destinations and caps on players selected from each home country.
Walljam Limited, trading as 'Metrix', has acquired the financial backing of three prominent names in the football world (Serge Gnabry of Bayern Munich, Gary Cahill of AFC Bournemouth and Glenn Hoddle, formerly of Tottenham Hotspur), amongst others, for their “football entertainment experience”. Through its various smart-panel game modes (think fairground 'kick the ball through the wall' game meets modern technology), Metrix claims to combine the worlds of social interaction and sporting rivalry. Players of the skill-based games will have their speed, power and more tested with their scores added to a digital leaderboard. UEFA has demonstrated its belief in the project by agreeing to the use of its Champions League branding as a theme for Metrix's upcoming purpose-built facility, set to arrive in 2022. Until the facility opens, those wishing to play the games must enter the field…Westfield, that is (Europe's largest shopping mall and the home to Metrix's pop-up facility).
The games development platform Unity has unveiled its new innovation – Unity Metacast - that will lead the real-time 3D evolution for professional sports. The new platform scans athletes in real-time during live sporting events and is said to be able to capture roughly “five million voxels per second”. The range of possibilities brought about as a result are vast. The solution overlays mixed and augmented reality (such as player stats) onto broadcasts allowing fans to benefit from a truly immersive experience. There is also huge potential for coaching and training, with sports teams being able to use the platform to assess performance and prevent injuries. Unity has already collaborated with the UFC and its MMA fighters to integrate real-time 3D within UFC content, ultimately enhancing the experience of all UFC fans. In what is an extremely exciting development, we cannot wait to see what is next for this technology!
Ahead of the Pixel Fall Launch event, Google has announced a new multiyear partnership with the NBA to offer users of the Google Pixel - Google's smartphone - new immersive experiences. Google revealed that the Google Pixel line-up is now the Official Fan Phone of the NBA, NBA G League, and NBA 2K League. In addition, the deal sees Google as each of the league’s Official Search Engine, Search Trends, and Fan Insights partner. On top of that, the Pixel line-up will also be the first-ever presenting partner of the NBA Playoffs, joining YouTube TV, NBA Finals presenting sponsor in the postseason. The good news just keeps on coming for NBA fans as Google and the NBA will also team up to make apps on the Google Play Store for fans to engage with Google’s 3D and AR technology.
…a new competition in the US is exploring the link between esports skills and cybersecurity. Designed to help identify and develop the US's cybersecurity professionals of the future, the US Cyber Games is run by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, in partnership with marketing and cybersecurity games company Katzcy. Sponsored by TikTok and others, the Cyber Games saw hundreds of cyber athletes, aged between 18 – 26, compete in esports-style events, drawing on a range of cybersecurity skills such as reconnaissance, cryptanalysis and malware analysis. Earlier this month, the top 20 cyber athletes were awarded a place in the US Cyber Team. The US Cyber Team will participate in the International Cybersecurity Challenge in 2022 (read more here).