Sports Ticker (31 March 2023) – Cadbury's football partners, Pitch invests in D&G and World Rugby on tackle height – a speed-read of commercial updates from the sports world

Published on 31 March 2023

In a fortnight which saw the Irish rugby team claim a 4th Grand Slam at the Six Nations and Galopin Des Champs win the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, we bring you updates on World Athletics' ruling on transgender athletes and Cadbury's deals with Chelsea FC and Manchester United. We also feature stories on TikTok joining forces with MLS and Gwyneth Paltrow's 2016 ski incident.

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.

Transgender track & field athletes to be banned from female events under new World Athletics ruling

 World Athletics have voted to ban trans-female athletes, if they have undergone male puberty, from competing in the female category at international events from 31 March 2023. World Athletics have stated that the ban is based upon their review of science around physical performance and male advantage, and that the aim of the ban is to protect the female category, including by maintaining fairness. Commenting on the complexity of the issue, World Athletics stated that the move may not be permanent, but decisions will be influenced by ongoing research. A working group has been set up for 12 months to assist with further research and guidance on transgender eligibility though some have already raised questions about the ease of gathering data now that trans athletes' participation at international level has been restricted in this way. The participation and inclusion of trans people in sport, and governing bodies' / competition organisers' approach to participation policies, is an area in which we are seeing a significant uptick in focus and activity, with sports seeking to balance inclusion, safety and fairness, and public opinion, in a variety of different ways.

Football crazy, chocolate mad – Chelsea and Man United extend partnerships with Cadbury 

 Both Chelsea FC and Manchester United FC have separately announced extensions to their partnerships with confectionary giant Cadbury. The partnerships, which both began in 2020, will see Cadbury continue to produce co-branded products, but there will be a particular focus on supporting charitable initiatives and the clubs' local communities, including ticket giveaways for both teams' 2023/24 season. For Chelsea, the extension was announced alongside Cadbury Fingers' "Sign with Fingers" campaign, which features Chelsea players learning greetings in sign language to promote greater inclusion of the deaf community. Manchester United have participated in the "Donate your Words" initiative to address loneliness in the elderly and "Give a Doubt", which looks to tackle issues of self-doubt in the nation's youth. Mondelēz International, Cadbury's parent company, are reportedly thrilled to continue working with the legendary teams that share their “glass half full ethos”.

Pitch perfect investment in D&G group

Pitch International, a major sports marketing agency, has announced a substantial investment in D&G Group. D&G, founded by former Middlesex cricketer David Nash, has raised over £25 million for charitable causes through its corporate hospitality events, working with major retailers including ASOS, Holland & Barratt and Iceland. This is an “exciting next step for the company” according to Nash and is designed to drive D&G's global reach and to expand its current offering. Pitch has “admired the D&G Group business for many years”, working with them recently on a Sport4Peace fundraising event for Ukraine. The new investment will allow Pitch to bring in D&G's hospitality expertise and provide a new offering for their clients, adding to their existing services that include event and rights management, sponsorship sales and sport film production.

Tackling the issue – World Rugby proposes "belly tackle" trial to combat head injuries

World Rugby is set to introduce an opt-in trial reducing tackle height to below mid chest. This follows calls for reform to curb head injuries in both the professional and amateur game. Earlier this year, the RFU's proposal to lower tackle height to below the waist (Ticker 79) received significant backlash. World Rugby stated that mandating that every tackle is a "chop tackle" around the legs may not be feasible due to the physical mechanics of players with different body shapes competing in a contact sport. The "belly tackle" trial is still pending World Rugby council member approval, but the governing body is encouraging member nations to take part. If they opt in, the trial would be introduced at a community level with World Rugby providing training resources to assist with implementation. Rugby Australia has already indicated they will participate in the trial.

MLS goes social to team up with TikTok

Social media giant TikTok has agreed a multiyear partnership with Major League Soccer (MLS), a league which features teams from both the US and Canada, as a way of attracting a wider audience. The partnership will provide fans with exclusive access to players from their favourite teams on TikTok and allow them to create their own TikTok content integrating their reactions into highlight clips from MLS matches. The new Club Creator Network will see TikTok content creators partnering with MLS teams to create video content for the platform to connect with their supporters year round. TikTok is doubling down on its investment in MLS with a prominent sponsorship in every stadium and its continuing co-sponsorship of the e-MLS Cup, the league's esports competition.

Extra time...

...and finally, actress Gwyneth Paltrow is being sued for negligently causing a collision on the slopes during a 2016 ski trip in Park City, Utah. Terry Sanderson is suing Paltrow, claiming she left him physically injured and emotionally distressed and seeks damages of $300,000, having dropped his initial claim of $3.1 million. The incident has been labelled a “hit and run”, although a ski expert that evaluated the incident reportedly disagrees. There are significant differences in the two parties' recall of events, which centre around who was the downhill skier at the time of the incident. Paltrow alleges that Sanderson caused the collision and accuses him of exaggerating his injuries, having uploaded a “happy” picture of himself online later that day. Paltrow is countersuing for $1 in damages and her legal costs. The trial is expected to last eight days and is set to include testimony from Paltrow, her husband and her two children...