Sports Ticker (25 March 2022) - F1 gearing up, Cardiff City dispute settled and Saudi-backed golf competition launches

Published on 25 March 2022

In a fortnight which has seen the return of F1 in Bahrain, and the surprising retirement of tennis world number one Ashleigh Barty aged 25, we feature the recent settlement between Cardiff City and former owner Sam Hammam, the Premier League's first NFT partnerships and the Leicester Tigers salary cap investigation. We also take a look at F1's most recent sponsorship deal and the Saudi-backed golf Super League.

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F1 gears up for $30m-a-year sponsorship deal

Formula 1 is set to announce a significant sponsorship deal with US based enterprise software company, Salesforce. The purported 5 year deal between F1 owner (Liberty Media Corporation) and Salesforce is set to be worth $30 million annually and marks the latest in a series of new brand partnerships for F1. Like many sports, F1 felt the financial pinch of the pandemic, but has bounced back to report significantly improved financial results. An increase in sponsorship revenue was referenced as one of the reasons for this improvement. As interest in F1 continues to swell, including as a result of the popular Netflix series "Drive to Survive", Salesforce are not the only tech giant to seize an intelligent marketing opportunity, with Google set to announce a significant sponsorship deal with F1 team McLaren that will see Google's Android-branded devices and Chrome operating system receiving prominent exposure. With last season's viewing figures hitting 1.55 billion (up 4%) paired with a significant global reach, it is no surprise that big tech has entered the arena seeking to maximise visibility.

Behind closed doors: £15m dispute between Cardiff City and former owner settled out-of-court

Cardiff City FC have settled their long running £15m legal dispute with former owner Sam Hammam. The dispute arose around the terms and conditions of a presidency role Hammam was given by the club's present owner, Vincent Tan, nine years ago as a goodwill gesture whilst ending the historic and controversial £24million Langston loan notes debt taken out by the club. The out-of-court settlement terms are undisclosed, however a joint statement by Cardiff City and Hammam confirmed that Hammam will step down as the club's life president, and it is understood Hammam will sever all ties with the club. The matter was due to be heard in the English High Court in May.

Premier League eyes up first NFT partnerships with ConsenSys and Dapper Labs

Following a discussion on the sale of non-fungible token (NFT) rights by the Premier League clubs at a recent shareholders' meeting, the Premier League is reportedly considering bids for prospective NFT partners in a move, some suggest, to increase fan engagement and market appeal. It is reported that the agreements could be worth more than £434 million, and possibly see official digital assets from the 20 clubs launch within the year. The clubs have reportedly approved an arrangement for rights to mint NFTs based on still images with ConsenSys, however, a deal for Dapper Labs to acquire video rights is still under consideration. The Premier League is the latest sports organisation to explore the new potential revenue stream, following in the steps of the Major League Baseball (and its NFT partnership with Candy Digital) and the National Basketball Association and the National Football League (and their collaborations with Dapper Labs). Despite the Premier League's previous caution regarding the prospect of NFT rights, the deal could reportedly be announced as early as this Summer.

Gallagher Premiership claws back £300,000 from Leicester Tigers for salary cap breach

Following an investigation into historic salary cap spending, Leicester Tigers have been fined a total of just over £300,000. The fine results from several years of 'overrun' that occurred between the 2016-17 and 2019-20 seasons, whereby the salary cap was exceeded by between around £55,000 and around £147,000 each season. The cap was exceeded as a result of payments being made by a third party to players' image rights companies that, it has now been held, should have been classed as salary but were not. The investigation into the breach, initiated by Andrew Rogers, salary cap director at Gallagher Premiership Rugby, comes off the back of a change in regulations in 2020 that gave the league stronger powers of investigation. Leicester Tigers have accepted the report's findings and, due to the breach not exceeding the 'Overrun limit', will not be subject to any more formal charges, which could have included a points deduction.

Centurion Club in St Albans to kick off Saudi-backed golf Super League in June

The Saudi-backed golf super-league is set to begin on the 9th of June, a week before the start of the US Open, with the first event to take place at the Centurion Club in St Albans. The league, consisting of eight-tournaments boasts a total prize fund of USD250million (£191m), will also host events from June through to the end of October in Portland, New Jersey, Boston, Chicago, Bangkok and Jeddah. Over 250 golfers have been invited to play in the league. Greg Norman, the league's commissioner, has insisted that they will be able to play the league alongside other commitments stating that their events "are truly additive to the world of golf" and that they will "help in any way possible" to allow golfers to achieve their full ambitions. However, the PGA Tour, which includes the US Open and the Ryder Cup, have threated to ban golfers who sign up to participate in the Saudi league from their events. Leading players such as Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson have already disassociated themselves with the idea of these events.