Sports Ticker (6 February 2023) – Equal pay in Welsh football, Meta VR sports, and Gloucester Rugby's net zero ambition – a speed-read of commercial updates from the sports world
In a fortnight which saw the Football Association of Wales reach an equal pay agreement, we feature stories on Meta's foray into the NBA and Rugby World Cup and Team GB's renewal of its licensing agreement. We also bring you updates on Gloucester Rugby's strive for net zero and Sir Jim Ratcliffe's bid for Manchester United.
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The Football Association of Wales has reached a landmark agreement whereby both the Welsh men and women's team will be paid equally and receive the same percentage of prize money in international competitions. The new agreement takes effect immediately and will run up to and including the 2027 FIFA Women's World Cup. The agreement sees Wales join a growing list of countries including England, United States, Brazil and Sweden that offer equal pay to their national teams. Wales Women will be back next month as they compete in the Pinatar Cup in Spain in preparation for the 2025 European qualifiers in September. Scotland's women's football team have not been so successful, with talks over equal pay and treatment breaking down and leading to players commencing legal action against the Scottish Football Association last December.
In 2023, Meta is looking to showcase the potential of virtual reality in the world for major sporting events by collaborating with the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Rugby World Cup 2023. The NBA and Meta have announced that they have extended their partnership to create a new virtual reality experience called NBA Arena. NBA fans will be able to watch live NBA events with their friends through Meta Horizon Worlds using the Meta Quest headset. Meta are also the official social media services supplier for the 2023 Rugby World Cup and have plans to provide virtual reality and augmented reality features to enhance the experience of fans as well as a customisable fan Avatar Creator. Virtual reality will allow a wider audience to experience sporting events.
Team GB has renewed its licensing and retail partnership with The Point.1888, which is set to run to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. The renewal comes off the back of a successful partnership during the Tokyo 2024 Olympics and the successful signing of over 30 licences with Team GB in the past four years. Recent licences include apparel, footwear and accessory brand Fashion UK, as well as jewellery brand Mappin & Web. The renewal also comes in advance of a suite of planned partnerships, including with BDA, The Royal Mint and Greensnow. Paul Ellis, Head of Licensing at Team GB, stated this to be a vital moment in the build up to the Olympics and confirmed that the team would "shortly be unveiling some new licensing assets that will take this programme to the next level".
Gloucester Rugby has entered into a new partnership with energy management consultancy, Amber. Amber will assist Gloucester in reducing their energy usage in order to save costs, reduce their carbon footprint and become as "sustainable as possible". The partnership will work to make Gloucester Rugby a Net Zero business – recognising that both the fans and corporate partners of Gloucester "want to see their clubs doing the right thing in terms of the planet". Amber aims to increase energy efficiency during the development of Gloucester's proposed new training and conference facilities. Amber has already worked with a number of UK sports clubs to boost their sustainability, including Gloucester Cricket, Glamorgan Cricket, Fulham FC, Edgbaston and the Welsh Rugby Union.
One of the UK's richest men, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, has formally announced his intention to buy Manchester United. Mr Ratcliffe is the founder of the chemical group INEOS and is no stranger to sports asset ownership, having previously purchased French side OGC Nice and Swiss side FC Lausanne-Sport, as well as one third of the Mercedes F1 team. Manchester United is one of the most recognised brands in sport and is valued at just under $4.5bn. This is not the first time Mr Ratcliffe has tried to buy a coveted premier league team, having unsuccessfully bid on Chelsea last year. Last November, Saudi Arabia's sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal also publicly expressed an interest in purchasing Manchester United, suggesting that a bidding war could be on the cards.
...and finally, Ellie Downie, winner of 12 artistic gymnastics medals including a European all-around gold, announced her retirement from the sport this week, due to the toll it was taking on her mental health which "was taking a beating". Ellie cited abusive behaviour within British Gymnastics following her and her sister's speaking out on this as a factor in her decision. Ellie's comments led to the conduction of the Whyte Review into systemic abuse in the sport in Britain. The announcement was made during the gymnast's appearance on Dr Alex George's Stompcast podcast where she details her struggles and experiences in the sport, particularly following the death of her brother in 2021 and her treatment by British Gymnastics. British Gymnastics itself, meanwhile, continues with its Reform '25 action plan to deliver on the Whyte Review's findings...