Sports Ticker (25 November 2021) - FIFA, UEFA's COP26 commitments, Fnatic's latest partnership and LIV Golf's shake up
During a fortnight in which Tracey Crouch has reported on her fan-led review into football (more on that in the next edition) and which has seen managerial exits and arrivals in the Premier League, the launch of DAZN's new innovation hub and Czech billionaire Kretinsky acquiring a 27% stake in West Ham, we feature Fnatic's new partnership with the New York Institute of Technology and COP26 commitments from UEFA and FIFA. We also take a look at the racism scandal at Yorkshire Cricket Club, the attempted shake up of professional golf and Sportsbet.io's new crypto fan fund.
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 dutiful game – footballing bodies make environment their next goal
At the recent UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, a number of significant sporting organisations added their names the growing list of those signed up to the UN's Sports for Climate Action Framework. The 280+ strong list of signatories now includes the Premier League, as well as European and global footballing bodies UEFA and FIFA. Both UEFA and FIFA have recently come under pressure concerning plans and actions that are likely to lead to, or have already led to, increased carbon emissions – for example, this summer's UEFA Euros tournament saw teams and fans travel to eleven different nations for matches, and FIFA is currently proposing that its highly international World Cup takes place every two years rather than every four, as is the current format. In signing up to the UN's framework, signatories, including the footballing bodies, have committed to targets such as halving their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2040. Only time will tell if committing to these targets is a realistic goal - or an own goal. Read more
Fnatic partner up with New York Tech
Fnatic, the London-based esports organisation, has teamed up with the New York Institute of Technology (New York Tech) to research the effects of upper and lower body compression sleeves on professional gamers. The collaboration will focus on two studies - the first will focus on upper body compression sleeves on competitive gamers and will assess whether the esports wear positively increases the longevity of performance and improves recovery rates, and the second study will examine the effects of lower body compression sleeves and will assess whether the sleeves help to enhance the blood flow of gamers and reduce the long-term, lower body health risks of esports professionals. The news of Fnatic's partnership with New York Tech comes after recent partnerships with BMW (see Ticker 46) and ASOS (see Ticker 48). The results of both studies could bring about exciting opportunities for major retailers in sportswear with an increased demand for esports gaming apparel. Read more
Erasmus in hot water
This summer's British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa had everything. Alun Wyn Jones' amazing injury comeback, the dancing feet and skill of Cheslin Kolbe and ultimate heartbreak for the Lions. However, the tour was not without controversy with South Africa's director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, publishing an hour-long video criticising the refereeing in the Springboks' defeat during the first test. Erasmus was instrumental in leading the Springboks to victory against England in the Rugby World Cup Final in 2019 and had a huge part to play in South Africa's 2-1 series win over the Lions this summer. Yet World Rugby's independent committee – who found the offences "especially serious and egregious" - has issued Erasmus an immediate two month ban from all rugby as well as a suspension from all match-day activities until 30 September 2022. Erasmus and SA Rugby, who also faced two charges, have confirmed that they will appeal the decisions. Perhaps his outburst was the catalyst for the Springboks' success in the summer, though they'll be sure to miss his on-field instructions as coach / water-boy extraordinaire. Read more
Racism allegations rock Yorkshire CCC
In the biggest story this fortnight, a report has found Azeem Rafiq was a victim of "racial harassment and bullying" by former Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) players. Players, including Gary Balance and Michael Vaughan, were found to have repeatedly used a racial slur towards Rafiq, which the club deemed "friendly banter" between the players. The chair and chief executive of YCCC are the latest senior figures to have quit following the club’s response and failure to act on allegations. YCCC has been suspended from hosting international matches by the England and Wales Cricket Board and has drawn widespread criticism from politicians and top sponsors. Julian Knight MP, chair of the UK parliament’s influential Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, said more players were coming forward with allegations, which made it clear that “the club’s failure to tackle the racial harassment of Azeem Rafiq was part of a much deeper cultural problem”. He called the scandal “one of the most repellent and disturbing episodes in modern cricket history” and the UK government said it is ready to "step in" if Yorkshire and the ECB do not take "real action" following the Rafiq case. Rafiq, who has publicly detailed his experiences at YCCC, gave evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday last week. Read more
LIV Golf Enterprises plots pro-golf shake up
LIV Golf Enterprises, a company set up and funded by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, will spend over $200 million on setting up ten new annual Asian Tour events over the next ten years. The venture is spearheaded by former golfer Greg Norman and the Asian Tour is thought to be the first step in organising a golf super league. The new event is set to start in 2022, which will mostly be played in Asia with some events taking place in both the Middle East and Europe. The Saudi international event is headlining the new tour, sporting a $5 million prize. Many notable players, including Dustin Johnson, have already sought a release from the PGA Tour to take part in the Asian Tour; however, the PGA Tour has made it clear it won't allow players to compete in the tournament. Read more
…and finally, in an innovative initiative, bitcoin-led betting platform Sportsbet.io has launched the first-of-its-kind 'Crypto Fan Fund', donating two BTC to its partner club Southampton FC. The fund will be used to deliver a series of fan-led initiatives across the 2021-22 season, and beyond. All decisions on how and where the fund is used will be made by Saints Voice, Southampton's long-standing supporter panel. Sportsbet.io will underwrite the fund for the value of 2BTC at the point of donation, guaranteeing the club access to at least the minimum value of the fund, plus any additional profits accrued from deflation. Commenting on the initiative, Sportsbet.io's Head of Responsible Gambling, Helen Edwards said "the opportunity to use Bitcoin in such an innovative way by setting up this fan fund is incredibly powerful" and that the platform was "excited to see how the value of the fund could continue to rise, allowing for even greater investments for Saints fans and the wider community."