Sports Ticker (29 July 2021) - Premier League v Man City, Rugby League World Cup and F1 TikTok content - a speed-read of key commercial updates from the sports world

Published on 29 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 

Court of Appeal says nowhere to hide for Premier League or Man City

The Court of Appeal (CA) has ruled in favour of the Premier League (EPL) on an interesting aspect of its long running (but until recently, largely confidential) dispute with Man City. The dispute relates to an EPL investigation into alleged financial fair play breaches by Man City. In December 2018, the EPL commenced a disciplinary investigation into the club after allegations about Man City appeared in various European media reports which disclosed details of confidential documents obtained from a hack of the Club's email servers. The EPL alleges that the media reports contain information suggesting breaches of the EPL rules by Man City. During the course of its investigation, the EPL requested information and documents from the club. The club objected, the EPL commenced arbitral proceedings to obtain disclosure, the tribunal ordered Man City to disclose the documents, and Man City applied to the Commercial Court alleging that: (i) the arbitral tribunal lacked jurisdiction; and (ii) the tribunal was tainted with apparent bias. The Court disagreed and opted to publish its judgment. Man City was given permission to appeal on the question of whether the judgment should be published. The EPL also submitted that the judgment should not be published, except where the EPL wanted to rely upon it in other proceedings. The Court of Appeal dismissed the parties’ arguments ordering that the judgment be published, and one of the Lord Justices commented that: “there is a public interest in the publication of a judgment [dealing with an allegation of apparent bias], because there is a public interest in maintaining appropriate standards of fairness in the conduct of arbitrations”. The transparency and openness of private sports arbitrations has resurfaced as a hot topic of discussion, with many advocating for less secrecy in regulatory decision making and dispute resolution. The full judgment is available here. The ruling comes at a time where City Football Group, the Abu Dhabi controlled parent company which owns Manchester City, has recently scored $650 million after raising a loan, which will become due in July 2028. Read more here.

No tries for Australia and New Zealand following withdrawal from the Rugby League World Cup

The Rugby League World Cup is set to take place in England at the end of 2021. However, in a huge blow to the competition, both the Australian and New Zealand national teams have withdrawn from the competition - citing concerns over player welfare and safety due to the COVID-19 pandemic and England's recent lifting of restrictions. As expected, there are now concerns as to whether the tournament can go ahead, especially considering that Australia are the reigning champions and New Zealand are strong contenders. Organisers of the World Cup have published a statement stating they are disappointed and are considering the potential “wide ranging implications” of the withdrawal. Both nations have requested that the tournament be moved to 2022; however, we understand that players were not consulted before the teams withdrew, according to Christian Welch (Melbourne Storm and Queensland prop forward and Director of the Rugby League Players' Association). Read more

Aston Martin F1's new TikTok content deal

Aston Martin's Formula One racing team has agreed a content creation partnership with TikTok as its “Official Creator Partner”. Aston Martin will work with TikTok's in-house creative team, alongside the platform's community, to produce exclusive content on the team's official account (see here). TikTok will also be launching a global hashtag challenge series, including “#CatchChallenge” which will test the platform users' reactions to see if they can match the likes of Aston Martin drivers Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll. This is the social media company's first deal in Formula One, and follows reports that sports-focused content, including Formula One, has brought in just under “100 billion views on related hashtags” across the TikTok ecosystem. Based on other recent collaborations – including launching its “I / AM” fan and partner engagement platform at Silverstone (see here) – it's clear that social engagement is a strategic focus for Aston Martin to tap into new and diverse audiences in creative (and measurable) ways. Read more 

Stop what you're doping: Sportradar's new anti-doping system

Sportradar has announced that it is launching a Remote Testing System (RTS), which will enable anti-doping organisations (such as UK Anti-Doping) to collect doping control samples remotely. The RTS utilises blockchain, multi-factor authentication and server clusters to store any data, with RTS allowing for athletes to be tested in a more efficient and a less invasive way, and allows for cost-savings for the organisations themselves. RTS includes testing methods which are integrated into the system, e.g. Exhaled Breath analysis (which analyses the compounds found through an athlete's breath) and Dried Blood Spot analysis (which analyses the composition of dried blood as opposed to liquid blood). The new system will be used in conjunction with more traditional testing methods, but this feels like a big step forward in addressing challenges with current anti-doping measures, including testing processes and logistics impacted by the pandemic. The diversification of services offered by sports data suppliers is continuing to grow, with many in the market making significant acquisitions and developments in artificial intelligence, streaming content and augmented reality. Read more 

Super. Human. C4's 2020 Paralympics' advertising campaign

“Super. Human.” is Channel 4's new advertising campaign for its coverage of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The campaign, which features various Paralympians, including Ellie Simmonds, Ali Jawad and Kadeena Cox, focuses on different sacrifices made by Paralympians in their pursuit of becoming Paralympic champions. Following its launch, Andrew Parsons, President of the International Paralympic Committee, commented “Channel 4 continues to set the benchmark for how all other broadcasters around the world cover the Paralympics, not just in terms of Games-time coverage and the diversity of on-screen talent, but with regards to engagement and promotion”. As well as the Channel 4 coverage, Bridgestone (the Worldwide Olympic and Paralympic Games Partner) has unveiled a new 10 part series which takes fans “behind the scenes” at the Team GB preparation camp during final Games build-up. We're looking forward to getting an insight into what preparation looks and feels like for these athletes, especially for such an unusual Games (read more here).


Extra time...

… and finally, in April this year, following the downfall of the European Super League, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced an independent review into the English football system in order to improve governance, ownership and financial sustainability. The interim findings and recommendations are set out in a letter from MP Tracey Crouch (who is leading a review into football governance) which was published last week, on 22 July 2021 (see here). The findings, which follow engagement with fans and stakeholders including the leagues, clubs and the FA, include the need for an "Independent Regulator for English Football". The exact role that an Independent Regulator will play is still to be discussed, but it is envisaged it would seek to address issues relevant to the risks to English football (Read more here).

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