Sports Ticker: Commonwealth Games thrown into doubt, Al-Hilal bid for Mbappe and Pepsi partners with EA Sports FC – a speed-read of commercial updates from the sports world

Published on 28 July 2023

In a fortnight which saw the FIFA Women's World Cup kick off, Ben Harman cruise to victory in The Open and England's attempted comeback in the Men's Ashes fall painfully short, we bring you updates on the uncertainty surrounding the Commonwealth Games and the world record bid for Mbappe. We also feature stories on a mooted women's Champions League in cricket and a new partnership between Pepsi and EA Sports FC.

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.

2026 Commonwealth Games thrown into jeopardy

The Commonwealth Games 2026 may not go ahead after the Australian state of Victoria withdrew as host citing cost concerns. While the event was projected to cost over £3 billion, according to Victoria's premier, the estimated cost of the Games has tripled, outstripping the economic benefit it brings to the state. While it committed to finding a solution, the Commonwealth Games Federation reported feeling blindsided by Victoria's last-minute decision to withdraw and disappointed by Victoria's failure to discuss possible solutions with it, especially when Victoria had driven up the costs through its delivery model and its decisions to add more games and move venues. Athletes looking to compete are frustrated seeing the Games as a good test-run ahead of the Olympics. However, Victoria's residents have given mixed reviews of the decision, with some viewing the u-turn as a lost economic opportunity, while others are happy to have dodged an economic blow.

Al-Hilal table bid of £259 million for PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe

Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal have made a sensational world record bid of £259 million for World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe. Mbappe, who currently plays for PSG, was given permission by his club to engage in discussions with the Saudi team, but has reportedly poured cold water over the move. Whilst the transfer would have comfortably surpassed the current transfer record of £200m for Neymar's 2017 move to PSG, Mbappe's contract with PSG expires next year, and it has been suggested that his club is eager to sell him this summer rather than risk losing him for nothing in 2024. The bid comes against a backdrop of fervent transfer activity in the Saudi Professional League. Cristiano Ronaldo was the first global star to join a Saudi team this year, moving to Al Nassr shortly after the World Cup. He was followed by Karim Benzema, Ngolo Kante, Ruben Neves and Kalidou Koulibaly, who all joined Saudi clubs in June, along with a host of other big names. The list of top footballers moving to the Saudi Professional League continues to grow.

Women's Cricket Champions League mooted

Australia, India, and England are engaging in discussions to establish a women's Twenty20 Champions League, inspired by the success of the Women's Premier League (WPL) in India. The proposed league would aim to leverage the growing popularity of women's T20 cricket and generate shared broadcast revenues. Recent decisions such as allocating a significant portion of revenue from global events to the BCCI (the Board of Control for Cricket in India) have further fuelled these talks. The introduction of a women's "Champions League" would be an impressive milestone, potentially leading to enhanced contracts and match payments for players. While specific details are yet to be finalised, the initial focus is on involving teams from Australia, India, and England, with the potential to include other leagues in subsequent editions. The idea is for host locations to be rotated and for the host nation to retain match revenue from tickets and corporate hospitality.

Pepsi and EA Sports FC enter into new partnership

Global drinks company PepsiCo has entered into a new partnership with EA Sports FC. EA Sports FC is the successor to the FIFA video games franchise, following the end of EA Sports' long-running partnership with FIFA. Pepsi announced that the agreement will enable real collaboration between the partners to enhance experiences for gamers. Vinicius Junior and Leah Williamson are just two of the global stars lined up to appear in activations. Adam Warner, Head of Global Sports and Partnerships at PepsiCo, said “With PepsiCo's history and extensive involvement in football and entertainment, our brands are uniquely positioned to push the boundaries of football fandom”. David Jackson, VP of Brand at EA Sports FC, shared those sentiments, noting: “We're proud to partner with PepsiCo to create more unmissable experiences that will undoubtedly captivate fans of the World's Game”.

Fanatics launches new business in live events

Fanatics, the global digital sports platform, is entering the live event space through the introduction of Fanatics Events. In collaboration with IMG, the project aims to provide personalised experiences for fans and collectors, blending sports, collectibles, and popular culture. Fanatics Events will leverage the extensive global network of Endeavor, which includes the management of event services for upcoming Olympic Games. Spearheaded by Lance Fensterman, the former president of ReedPop renowned for organising notable events like New York Comic Con, the initiative primarily focuses on enhancing the live gathering experience for collectors while also expanding into shared cultural events involving athletes, celebrities, and musicians. The anticipated launch date is 2024, aiming to create remarkable live fan experiences that encompass various facets of fandom, spanning sports, fashion, music, and entertainment.

Extra time...

....and finally, The Chief Executive of BT Group, Philip Hansen, has announced he will be stepping down. While an exact succession plan is yet to be finalised, it is expected that he will be leaving his post during the course of 2024. It has been reported that a number of potential candidates for Hansen's replacement have been identified while the Board of the BT Group is taking on a role in the discussions. Hansen has been Chief Executive since 2019. At BT Group's AGM held in Birmingham on Thursday 13 July, Hansen confirmed the news, and stated "we’ve made so much progress over the last four and half years and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved to date". The change will take place against a backdrop of deeper discussions about BT's future, with talk of a possible corporate takeover refusing to go away. As BT is a key British institution, any such moves are likely to be scrutinised closely by regulators.