Sports Ticker (1 July 2021) - Laurel Hubbard, Nike's super spikes and the RFU's COVID Recovery Plan - a speed-read of key commercial updates from the sports world

Published on 01 July 2021

Welcome to the latest edition of the RPC Sports Ticker - providing fortnightly bite-size updates from around the sports industry.

Access the full Sports Ticker here

Welcome to the latest edition of the RPC Sports Ticker - providing fortnightly bite-size updates from around the sports industry.

In a fortnight that has seen UEFA and the Government discuss the quarantine rules for the imminent Euro 2020 finals (see here), we feature news of the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics after transition, Nike's super spike running shoes, and Benefit Cosmetics' connection with the gaming industry. We also feature Derby's £100,000 fine from the EFL's independent disciplinary commission, and the RFU's COVID Recovery Plan.

As always, if there are any areas you’d like more information on (or if you have any questions or feedback), please let us know or get in touch with your usual RPC contact.

Laurel Hubbard: Olympic first for transgender athletes

Laurel Hubbard, a 43-year-old from New Zealand, is the first transgender athlete to be selected to compete at the Olympics as a contender in the women's super-heavyweight 87kg plus category. Hubbard had not previously competed in international weightlifting before her transition; however, she has since won numerous elite titles and is seen as a real medal contender at the Tokyo Olympics. In a statement issued by the New Zealand Olympic Committee, Hubbard said “I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders”. In 2015, the International Olympic Committee amended its rules to allow transgender athletes to compete in women's events provided their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months. The sports regulatory position regarding the participation of trans athletes in sports is complex. Much of the discourse around trans athletes participating in sport focuses on trans women participating in events, rather than trans men, and there is no consensus amongst sports regulators as to how to regulate, administer and promote sport involving trans athletes. Given Hubbard's participation in the Olympics is being largely welcomed as an empowering and inclusive selection – we hope it encourages and inspires trans athletes to compete at future games. Read More


Nike causing a spike in runner performances

Nike’s “super spike” running shoes are proving themselves to be so effective that rival brands are permitting their sponsored athletes to wear them in order to not hinder performances. The decision by various brands, including Reebok and Brooks, is testament to the perceived advantage of the super spikes. Super spikes include a carbon fibre plate and a wedge of soft, energy-returning foam. According to Wouter Hoogkamer, assistant professor at UMass Amherst, Nike’s newer foams return about 80-90% of energy to the runner, rather than the previous 60%. The impact on records has been noticeable as new world bests have been set in the 5,000m and 10,000m for both men and women. Despite allegations of unfairness, many athletes have been quick to dismiss the effect of the super spikes on their performances. It remains to be seen how long Nike remain frontrunners. Read More


Beauty and the Games

Worldwide leading eyebrow brand, Benefit Cosmetics, has launched an official channel on Twitch. Benefit's pilot “Game Face” campaign, which supports and empowers women in gaming by connecting both beauty and gaming communities together, has evolved by expanding the campaign into a global program. Following the channel's launch on 21 June, Benefit has hosted a full week of live streams on Twitch – ranging from gamers' go to “Game Face” makeup routines to product unboxing. Benefit's SVP of Marketing & Communications Toto HaBa hopes “to make deeper connections with the up-and-coming generations of gamers…to create a space where they can explore and combine their interests in beauty and gaming and ultimately feel empowered to get their best “Game Face” on”. We look forward to seeing how the dynamic between beauty and gaming prevails – it is certainly a promising move that one of the most prominent beauty brands has tapped into an underrepresented area of the industry. Read More


Rather ewe than me: £100k fine for The Rams

Last week, Derby County FC was fined £100,000 for their breach of the Financial Fair Play rules. This follows an investigation by an independent disciplinary commission, who also ordered the club to file restated accounts for the financial years ending 30 June in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The Rams also face the possibility of a points deduction, which has prompted the English Football League to announce an “interchangeable fixture list” whereby Derby feature in League One rather than the Championship. Wycombe Wanders FC will be the club heading in the other direction if Derby are relegated following the final disciplinary decision. The original allegation was in relation to Derby’s policy regarding the amortisation of player registrations. Read More


RFU Council approves Covid Recovery Plan for the English game

The RFU Council has approved various changes to the structure of English professional rugby this week. Known as the “Covid Recovery Plan”, the most high profile changes relate to Premiership Rugby which will become a 14-club league after the 2021/2022 season. For the 2020/2021 season which has just culminated in Harlequins winning the men's Premiership final (to go with the Quins' women's team's same achievement a few weeks ago), the division had been ring fenced, with no relegation to the Championship. To Saracens fans' relief, there was still the chance for promotion from the Championship, with Saracens achieving that at the first time of asking. The temporary pause on relegation has been extended by the recent rule changes, until the end of the 2023/2024 season (in which the bottom placed Premiership team will play off with the winner of the Championship to determine any relegation / promotion). From then on, the current plan is that relegation and promotion will revert to being a one-up one-down basis between the Premiership and the Championship. Other changes include a commitment to maintaining funding for the Championship, revised minimum standards criteria for clubs wishing to be promoted from the Championship, and increased preparation time for the England men's squad ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Read More


Extra time...

… and finally, FaZe Clan, one of the most prominent esports organisations with divisions in games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty to name a few, are the first esports team to feature on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, an American sports magazine which features stories and pictures of people across the sporting industry. The issue was published on 17 June 2021 and it features a story around the similarities and differences between traditional sports and online gaming and FaZe Clan's growth (since it was founded in 2010) to become one of the most well-known teams in esports, gaming, lifestyle and entertainment. NBA star, Ben Simmons, told Sports Illustrated "guys can relate to them … they are people you would hang with". This is a really exciting achievement for FaZe Clan, making history as the first esports team to ever feature on the magazine's cover. Read more here.


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