Sports Ticker (22 April 2021) - Super League, full stadiums and Coin for Respect

23 April 2021. Published by Jeremy Drew, Partner, Head of Commercial and Joshua Charalambous, Partner and Samuel Coppard, Senior Associate

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.

In a fortnight during which Chinese live-streaming platform Bilibili entered into a multi-year exclusive broadcasting rights deal with Overwatch League owner Activision Blizzard (see here), we consider the controversial European Super League, Under Armour's new kit partnership and plans for stadiums to get back to full capacity. We also feature DAZN's future IPO and the Coin for Respect Campaign.

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.

  1. Everybody’s talking about the Super League (and the Special One)

    What a difference two days makes in the world of football. Over the weekend, announcements were made that Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Man United, Liverpool, Man City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea had founded a new ‘Super League’ and intended to walk away from UEFA competitions. Key executives at these clubs who had places at the table of the European Clubs Association resigned, and the whole sporting world focussed on what would happen next. Read more.

  2. Getting kitted out with Itoje and Under Armour's new partnership

    England and Saracen's star Itoje has signed an endorsement deal with Under Armour, under which it is understood that Under Armour will subsequently be donating £1 million in sports apparel to Kit Us Out - a UK charity that works with grassroots sports initiatives by providing kit and equipment. The donation forms part of Under Armour’s global community impact programme, which seeks to recognise and alleviate certain barriers for young people engaging in sport. To add to the star-studded nature of this deal, the partnership has been developed by Jay-Z's sports management company, Roc Nation Sports, who signed Itoje last year. For Itoje himself, the partnership follows his previous work to reduce educational inequality in the UK, where he campaigned to highlight the “digital divide” among young people from different backgrounds earlier this year. Read more.

  3. Spectators' delight: full stadiums on the horizon?

    In a letter addressed to UK political party leaders this month, sports organisations such as the English Premier League, Rugby Football Union and the England and Wales Cricket Board have backed measures to support the return of fans without social distancing requirements. Those measures include the use of COVID-19 certificates and technology to authenticate tests (good timing - given the recent debates in Number 10 about the possibility of “Covid passports” for stadiums, the right measures certainly seem to be a hot topic for politicians). The government has already sought to take steps to mitigate losses suffered by clubs which rely heavily on ticket sales, for example, by agreeing to provide an additional £40 million for horse racing, rugby league, speedway and drag racing and £10 million for non-league football clubs in steps 1-6 of the National League. As clubs play an important role in many communities, it is hoped that the additional funding and fans returning will allow the clubs to bounce back and continue on strong footing. The Premier League is already planning for football stadiums to operate at a 25% capacity (or 10,000 people, whichever is lower) from 17 May. Read more.

  4. Is DAZN seeking a knockout IPO in the week it is reported to have landed a deal with Matchroom Boxing?

    British sports media company DAZN Group, often dubbed the “Netflix of Sports”, is reportedly planning for an IPO in the near future to drive further growth. This follows recent big wins for the company in which it acquired the rights to screen all Serie A matches in Italy, and as reported this week, the rights to stream all of Matchroom Boxing’s fights in the UK and Ireland after the existing deal with Sky expires this Summer. It is reported that future efforts could include a bid for the rights to the English Premier League, presumably supported by any monies made from a potential float. DAZN's current service enables viewers to subscribe for a flat rate to watch as much live sports as they want, and the push for further growth by DAZN will likely ensure that many of its rivals pay close attention to their ongoing rights acquisitions. Read more.

  5. Coin for Respect Campaign: Hatch, Nationwide and the FA

    Leeds based PR agency Hatch has been appointed by Nationwide and the FA to deliver the “Coin for Respect” campaign, an initiative aimed at promoting respect in grassroots football. The campaign will give children across the country the chance to design a new official coin that “will start every game with respect”. The winning design will be manufactured and distributed to over 20,000 grassroots referees for use in the pre-match coin toss. Hatch, which has previously worked with the EFL, Rugby League and World Cup 2021 will lead the PR and creative content delivery throughout the campaign later this year. “Mutual respect is at the heart of what we believe in, and we are excited to launch this initiative to ensure that a moment of respect will start every grassroots game from the beginning of the 2021 season”, said Paul Hibbs, director of advertising at Nationwide. We very much look forward to this being rolled out, particularly following grassroots football being given the 'greenlight' last month to restart.  Read more.

Extra time... 
… and finally, the countdown for the Tokyo Olympics begins. The opening ceremony is scheduled to take place in less than 100 days, on 23 July. This exciting milestone comes after the 2020 Olympics were postponed last year as a result of the pandemic. Although the Olympics will look slightly differently this year, with the IOC releasing guidance explaining the rules which must be followed to ensure everything runs safely and smoothly, the venues and stadiums are set up and ready to go. Team GB's preparations are also well underway. Despite having to make some changes to their plans to ensure the safety of the 370-athlete strong team, Chef de Mission Mark England, said that "with just 100 days until the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games our preparations are progressing really well". Despite local reservations, we look forward to seeing how the Olympics and Paralympics (which is set to commence on 24 August 2021) pan out. Read more here.

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