Sports Ticker (30 November 2022) – new women's F1 academy, government reviews broadcasting of major sporting events and Real Madrid's theme park in Dubai – a speed-read of commercial updates from the sports world

Published on 30 November 2022

In a fortnight which saw the Qatar 2022 World Cup kick off, we bring you updates on the launch of a new all-female F1 academy, the announcement of a government review as to whether major sporting events should be free to view, and Sky and Channel 4's deal to broadcast the T20 World Cup. We also cover the development of a Real Madrid theme park in Dubai and record-breaking viewership of USA v England in the World Cup.

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.

 F1 driver academy on the grid

A Formula 1 all-female driver academy position will commence in 2023. The F1 Academy will comprise of 5 teams, with 3 cars for a 15-car grid. £130,000 funding will be provided for each car and will be matched by drivers to enter. This is part of an initiative by Formula 1 to "create greater diversity and routes into this incredible sport". The F1 Academy aims to present an alternative route into the sport for women alongside the W Series, which looks set to return for a fourth season, despite financial difficulties this year which forced the series to end early. The aim is for women to start competing on the F3 grid within the next two to three years and to build a platform for women eventually to compete in F1, something which last happened when Lella Lombardi raced in F1 back in 1976.

Drawn to a draw – US record football viewership

Friday night's faceoff between England and the USA in the World Cup saw the highest ever US viewership of a football game. The 0-0 draw averaged US viewership of over 15.3 million viewers, surpassing the previous 14.5 million record for Brazil v Italy in 1994. Viewership peaked at 19.64 million viewers during extra time. The record comes after large scale investment by Telemundo and Fox Sports. However, not only are Fox cashing in on the world cup fever, but several players also secured new commercial partnerships ahead of the tournament. England player Declan Rice is part of Müller Rice's latest campaign ('Rice, Rice Baby'…), whilst Saka features in advertisements for freelance work platform Fiverr.

Broadening broadcasting? Governmental review of broadcast rules

The UK government has identified a potential issue with how major sporting events are currently broadcast in the UK. As it stands, if an event is broadcast live in the middle of the night on the BBC, but the digital rights were owned by a different broadcaster, a wide audience will be unable to watch that event without paying for an additional subscription. The government believes that sporting events of national interest (e.g. Olympics/FIFA World Cup) should be free to view and therefore broadcast rules should be reviewed to determine if they can be adapted to the new age of digital consumption. The review will consider if public service broadcasters (e.g. BBC, ITV, Channel 4) should be guaranteed the opportunity to buy digital rights for major sporting events, alongside the impact on the revenues of sporting organisations.

Channel 4 catches T20 rights

In an effort to reach wider audiences, Channel 4 managed to strike a deal with Sky to broadcast the electrifying final of the T20 Cricket World Cup. This partnership is a continuation of key sporting moments being made available to the public such as the 2019 super over victory by England in the One Day Cricket World Cup and last year's nail-biting Formula One finale in Abu Dhabi. The final drew in over 3.19 million viewers at its peak with England securing a historic win over Pakistan to hold both the T20 and One Day World Cup. The viewership records made the final the most watched T20 match in the UK beating previous figures set in 2015 as well as the most watched domestic cricket game outperforming the men's Hundred final in 2020.

A Developing Theme – Real Madrid theme park to open in Dubai

Real Madrid and Dubai Parks and Resorts have agreed to launch the world's first Real Madrid theme park. Targeted for completion in Q4 2023, the deal aims to bring a range of Real Madrid-themed activities to Dubai including "a museum, amusement rides and games of footballing skill", plus branded retail outlets. This theme park is part of Dubai's "quest to bring the best international entertainment brands to the region". Beyond football, Dubai has the example of once-Eurocentric Formula 1, whose season finale is now held at Yas Marina Circuit - a stone's throw from the Ferrari World Abu Dhabi theme park.

Extra time...

...and finally, fans watching the World Cup have been treated to more than they bargained for with matches continuing for far longer than the prescribed 90 minutes due to significant amounts of extra time being added. England's opener against Iran lasted a whopping 117 minutes with Saudi Arabia's shock win over Argentina lasting 110 minutes. The reasons for the large amount of added time include injuries, video assistant referee decisions, substitutions, penalties, red cards as well as deliberate time wasting by the players. Chairman of Fifa's referees committee, Pierluigi Collina, has stated that fourth officials have been instructed to keep track of time lost during the game during the tournament in order to clamp down on time wasting. Unsurprisingly, the large amount of added time has led to some game changing late goals…