Sports Ticker (6 October 2022) – Apple's NFL deal, struggling rugby clubs and Olympic boxing in danger – a speed-read of commercial updates from the sports world
In a fortnight which saw Apple strike a $50m annual deal with the NFL, we feature updates on a damages claim by fans following the chaos at the UEFA Champions League final, the financial difficulties facing Wasps and Worcester Warriors, West Brom's Women's team's important decision to play in navy (rather than white) shorts to ease concerns players may have about being or coming on their period whilst playing, and the possibility that boxing will not feature at the 2028 Summer Olympics.
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Apple to become a core part of the NFL Super Bowl
In preparation for Super Bowl LVII next year, Apple Music will take over from longstanding partner Pepsi as a named sponsor of the halftime show. The advertising contract is valued at $50m annually and is set to last for five years with the halftime show being labelled as the "Apple Music Super Bowl Halftime Show". The National Football League (NFL) has been looking to branch out to tech sponsors as it had branded the contract rights as a "tech/content play". The tender attracted competing interests from Verizon and the NFL's current broadcast partner, Amazon. The move by Apple is said to be part of a larger corporate strategy to expand in the sports market, having already signed partnerships with baseball and football leagues earlier this year. Apple is also currently in competition with Disney to acquire the rights to broadcast NFL Sunday Ticket games.
Fans file for damages after UEFA final furore
Following the UEFA Champions League final in May this year and an apology by UEFA in June concerning the chaos caused by overcrowding, a group of over 1,700 Liverpool fans are set to sue UEFA due to the distress the incident caused. The claim is centred on breach of contracts in ticket sales and negligence over a duty of care UEFA had towards supporters, who claim they were harmed physically and psychologically. Shortly after the final, UEFA commissioned an independent review to investigate the issues that occurred, having received 8,500 testimonies from Liverpool FC fans. The publication of the report is set to be released in November and UEFA will not provide comment before then.
Rugby sides tackling severe financial difficulties
Wasps have filed a notice in the High Court outlining their intention to appoint an administrator to “protect the club's interests”. The club's statement confirmed that this does not mean the business is in administration, but the notice was filed ahead of an “impending threat of action from HMRC”. The filing relates to the repayment of £35 million in bonds that funded their relocation from London to Coventry in 2014. A second notice of intention to appoint an administrator was filed this week, with the club buying themselves more time to reach an agreement with potential investors and funders who have come forward in the fortnight since the first notice was filed. At the same time, Worcester Warriors have been suspended from all competitions with immediate effect having missed an RFU deadline to provide proof of insurance cover and funding for the club's payroll. The suspension could be lifted this season if a buyer is found. Worcester's owners are also courting controversy with statements “apologising” that players didn't take pay cuts and saying “sorry” that the team didn't win more games and that not enough fans turned out to support the team – prompting angry responses from fans and across the rugby ecosystem. The High Court has now liquidated the company that held the contracts of Worcester players, leaving players free to depart and contract with other clubs.
Short shrift for white shorts
West Brom's women's team will switch from white to navy shorts to reduce the anxiety of having to compete wearing white shorts whilst on their period, according to a statement released by the club. The decision came after a consultation of the entire squad. Head Coach, Jenny Sugarman, described the move as a “sign of continued integration of the women's team across the club and recognition of a progressive and inclusive culture” and noted that any change that would improve the players' performance was a valuable one. The change came after the Lionesses, England's Euro-winning team, raised similar concerns during the course of the Euros. Wimbledon's strict all-white kit policy has also seen some criticism, with former Olympic champion, Monica Puig, commenting on the “mental stress” of wearing white in such a high pressure and widely publicised scenario.
Olympic boxing fighting for its life
Following repeated warnings by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in relation to widespread allegations of poor governance, corrupt judging and uncertain finances of the International Boxing Association (IBA), boxing was left off the initial roster for the 2028 Olympics. The decision demonstrates the IOC hardening its position after it withdrew the IBA's right to administer qualification and the tournament for Paris 2024 Olympics earlier this year, with the IOC opting to do so itself for the second time. The IOC has set criteria for reform that must be met for boxing to be readmitted for the 2028 Olympic Games, or boxing risks being struck off following Paris 2024.
... and finally, accusations of cheating have taken the chess world by storm over the past few weeks after world champion, Magnus Carlsen, was defeated by 19-year-old Hans Niemann, the lowest-ranked player at the tournament. Carlsen was previously undefeated for 53 games in classical chess and has dominated chess for over a decade, he also had the advantage of playing white. Soon after the game, Carlsen withdrew from the tournament. Chess.com subsequently revealed that it had previously removed Niemann for cheating, following which Niemann admitted to cheating online on two occasions aged 12 and 16, but asserted that he had never cheated in “over the board” or “OTB” chess. He even declared he would play naked to prove his innocence. Carlsen since resigned after one move when facing Niemann online and Tweeted “Niemann has cheated more […] than he has publicly admitted”, although some critics have suggested that Carlsen is wrong to have made such allegations in the absence of solid evidence.