Sports Ticker (24 September 2021) - RFU appoints Ilube as new chairman, ECB's new kit sponsorship deal and NFTs meet fantasy

Published on 24 September 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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The RFU appoints new chairman

Tom Ilube CBE, top of the 2017 Powerlist and known for various illustrious achievements across a range of industries, has been appointed as the Rugby Football Union (RFU)'s new chairman (making history as the first black person in the role). Ilube has been involved in the sport as a supporter and a parent since he began playing at age 10. It is clear from the various press releases that Ilube is looking forward to the long-term commenting: “I really would want there to be more conversations about what do we want rugby to look like by 2030…we need the players today and the teams to win, because if they win they are going to bring in young people not the game”. As an early move, Ilube has already confirmed that the RFU would like to bid to host the 2031 Rugby World Cup as part of his long term vision (read more here). Read more

Derby County enter administration

Administrators have been appointed at Championship side Derby County, a club who were champions of England twice in the 1970s. It is the latest in a long line of difficulties for the club following the Covid-19 pandemic, a string of failed takeover attempts, and various disciplinary proceedings and disputes involving the EFL concerning financial regulations. According to owner Mel Morris, the club is losing between £1.3m and £1.5m per month which has ultimately proved fatal for a club packed with English footballing history. The decision brings an automatic 12-point deduction which sees the club fall to the foot of the table. When factoring in sporting sanctions, Derby may end up with a 21-point deduction this season all but guaranteeing relegation to League 1. Read more

The ECB partners with Castore

The ECB announced a new long-term partnership with Castore which will see the fast growing premium lifestyle and sportswear brand become the Official Kit Supplier to England Cricket. From April 2022, all of Englands national team athletes (women, disability, pathway and men's teams) will wear the bespoke matchday and training Castore kits. The 10 year, £25million deal is said to be the first time Castore is sponsoring an England national team, and represents a milestone for the growing brand following multiple recent high profile agreements with Saracens rugby club, and Premier League clubs such as Wolverhampton and Newcastle United. It is reported that England athletes will be helping to design the kits in order to create a unique England Cricket style, with the use of recycled material. For now, the England teams will continue to wear the kit provided by New Balance throughout the winter. Read more

Softbank invests in $4.3bn NFT fantasy football start-up

Paris-based company Sorare, now valued at $4.3bn, has brought about the collision of NFT collectibles and fantasy football. The company runs an online game that allows fans buy officially licensed cards representing football players and build teams which play against each other, with the outcome based on the players' performance in real-life games. Players of the fantasy game can earn or buy digital football cards (NFTs), which are underpinned by blockchain technology. The model of fans engaging with the game in this way has been popular for decades with physical collectibles such as Panini football stickers being traded across the globe. Seeing huge potential growth in the business and this shift to digital, SoftBank have recently led a $680 million investment into Sorare following in the footsteps of famous footballing backers such as Rio Ferdinand, Antoine Griezmann and Gerard Piqué. Read more 

West Ham joins 48 football clubs to fight climate change

West Ham have recently announced that, along with 48 other football teams across all levels of professional football in England, they have joined CUP26, a tournament organised by Planet Super League encouraging fans to take action against climate change. Through these actions fans can score goals for their respective teams in the tournament, which is played on a weekly basis. The UK government is also supporting the initiative through its Together for Our Planet program, and the broadcaster Sky has also thrown itself into the mix. The tournament started on 13 September 2021, with the group stages concluding on 4 October 2021. Read more

Extra time...

…and finally, Tito’s Handmade Vodka has struck a major sponsorship deal as Official Supplier and the Official Vodka of the 2021 Ryder Cup, which will be held on 21-26 September 2021 at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin. In arguably one of the most hotly contested competitions to date, in which the mighty Bryson DeChambeau will pit his wits against the skilful Rory McIlroy, the biennial tournament will see 12 of the top professional golfers from the US take on the top professional golfers from Europe in a head-to-head match play competition that has become one of the world’s greatest sporting events. PGA of America President Jim Richardson described the partnership as a “natural fit” with the drink available to spectators and hospitality guests throughout the competition week (read more here).

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