Sports Ticker (12 August 2021) - UEFA and PlayStation renewal, gaming industry change and Rugby League World Cup

Published on 12 August 2021

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

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In a fortnight where Team GB matched their medal total from London 2012 and brought home an incredible 65 medals from Tokyo 2020 (see here), we feature a drive for change in the gaming industry, UEFA & PlayStation's extended partnership and the postponement of the Rugby League World Cup. We also feature the Olympics' broadcast deals and Barcelona's challenge against a private equity investment into La Liga.

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.

Goals all round for UEFA and PlayStation

UEFA and PlayStation have renewed their longstanding Champions League partnership for 2021-24. Guy-Laurent Epstein, UEFA's marketing director, was delighted to “celebrate a three-year extension to our relationship”, which dates back to 1997. Alongside sponsorship rights for the UEFA Super Cup, UEFA Youth League and UEFA Fustal Champions League in 2021-23, PlayStation will present the “Official Player of the Match” and “Player of the Week” awards and continue to support the UEFA Champions League Gaming Hub with UCL Fantasy and Predictor games. Commenting on the announcement, Eric Lempel (Senior Vice-President and Head of Global Marketing at Sony Interactive Entertainment) said that “football is integral to the PlayStation DNA, and we know many of our gamers are as passionate about football as we are”. It's clear that both partners are very aware of the innovative benefits they bring to each other so we look forward to watching the next Champions League cycle. Read More

Calls for change in the gaming industry

Over 500 past and present Ubisoft employees have penned an open letter to support employees of Activision Blizzard (the company behind Candy Crush, World of Warcraft and Call of Duty) after the company was sued by the state of California for alleged violations of workplace protection laws. The suit cited a “hostile work environment” with a “frat boy” culture, which led to a walkout of its employees (read more here). The open letter, which CEO Yves Guillemot insists will be acted upon, states that it is “time to stop being shocked” by the regular accounts of workplace harassment and gender discrimination and that it is time for those responsible to be held accountable for their actions. The letter also comments on there being a “deeply ingrained culture of abusive behaviours within the industry”. The solidarity demonstrates that the industry will not tolerate frequent harassment and discrimination and is a call for industry wide action. It is a crucial time for the esports and gaming ecosystems when it comes to questions of safeguarding and working practices. We have seen a significant uplift in matters involving these issues, and we hope that an increased awareness will help to drive higher standards across the board. Read More

To try or not to try: 2021 Rugby League World Cup

Following Australia and New Zealand's withdrawal from the 2021 Rugby League World Cup (see Ticker 43), organisers have held an emergency board meeting and discussions with the UK government in order to plan a way forward for the event. Chris Brindsley, Chairman of the Rugby League World Cup, commented that, although the joint statement made by Australia and New Zealand was disappointing, the well-being of all involved is the main priority for organisers. As a result of those discussions, the tournament that was scheduled to take place across England in October and November this year, with the men's, women's and wheelchair competitions taking place simultaneously for the first time, has been postponed until 2022. The withdrawal of two of the competition's strongest contenders following COVID concerns is a cause for debate, with Jon Dutton, chief executive of the tournament commenting that “it became unfeasible and irresponsible for us to carry on”. We are pleased to see player welfare coming first and look forward to the rescheduled tournament. Read More

Jumping at the chance to broadcast the Olympics

As at the date of this Ticker, the world has now said farewell to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. However, funding the huge medal hauls by the USA (113), China (88) and Japan (58) is the International Olympics Committee's (IOC) revenue from broadcasting contracts. It is estimated that around three quarters of the IOC's revenue is made from broadcasting contracts, with its biggest deal being with US media giant NBC Universal. According to the Financial Times, NBC has paid $12bn for the exclusive right to stream the Olympics in the US between 2014 and 2032. Discovery, owner of the Eurosport network, has also paid €1.3bn for the near-exclusive right to screen the Olympics in Europe between 2018 and 2024. UK viewers may have noticed the impact of the Discover deal on UK coverage. Although the Olympics must be shown free and live to air (in accordance with UK broadcasting rules), the BBC has only been able to screen two sports live at one time. As a rule of thumb, it’s often said that where a sport’s coverage in the Olympics generates significant interest, it can have a positive knock-on impact for that sport’s broadcasting opportunities more generally. Certainly, those within Rugby Union think so (see here), with the sport’s popularity being cited in discussions with prospective private equity investors. Read More

FC Barcelona opposes private equity investment into La Liga

Joan Laporta, president of FC Barcelona, has shot down a proposed €2.7bn investment by CVC Capital Partners, a deal which would see the private equity firm take on a 10% shareholding in La Liga's media rights. According to the league, 90% of the cash would be diverted to the clubs, with other spending for league infrastructure, development and investment in women's football. However, Barcelona argues that CVC has drastically undervalued La Liga. Barcelona's response is perhaps surprising, since Laporta's acceptance of the deal would reportedly have enabled the club to retain star player Lionel Messi, who has departed Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain on a two-year contract. The exit was reportedly driven by La Liga salary caps and Barcelona's current financial situation (read more about Messi's departure here), with Barcelona reportedly in around €1.2bn of debt. It is worth noting that Barcelona's opposition to the investment may be sufficient to kill the deal, particularly against the backdrop of CVC's attempts to strike deals with the Bundesliga and Serie A, which fell through after certain German and Italian clubs elected to break off investment talks. Read More


Extra time...

… and finally, US mobile-focused esports brand Tribe Gaming has announced a partnership with communications platform Discord. Discord is a gaming-focused communications platform which provides hundreds of millions of users with instant messaging, voice chat and digital storefront capabilities – it recently walked away from a $10m offer from Microsoft amidst huge recent growth. It has grown to be (probably) one of the most important platforms in the esports and gaming ecosystem, with brands and teams using Discord for much higher levels of direct engagement and feedback with players. The collaboration will provide various Discord-based events for Tribe Gaming members, like community talent shows and facetime opportunities with Tribe content creators & A-list esports talent. In return Discord will be heavily featured on Tribe Gaming marketing content, including jerseys at tournaments. Tribe Gaming is a content collective with a roster including content creators 'Chief Pat' and 'OJ', who have amassed 4.5 million followers between them. Tribe Gaming also houses esports teams for mobile games League of Legends: Wild Rift, Clash Royale and Clash of Clans, and many others. Whilst Discord is taking steps to broaden its user base,, this collaboration shows it remains focused on its core gamer market. Read more about the deal here.

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