Sports Ticker (17 June 2022) - PGA Tour vs LIV Golf, BT x WBD deal and AC Milan sale - a speed-read of commercial updates from the sports world

Published on 20 June 2022

In a fortnight which saw UEFA issue an apology to fans following events at the Champions League final in Paris and Rafael Nadal's 14th victory at the French Open, we feature updates on the CMA's investigation into the BT and Warner Bros Discovery pay-TV deal, RedBird's purchase of AC Milan and the suspension of PGA Tour members following LIV Golf.

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

PGA Tour suspends LIV Golf participants

Golf's premier professional circuit, the PGA Tour, has suspended all members that are participating in the LIV Gold Invitational. The LIV Invitational, which is backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, has pulled in many notable names, such as Phil Mickelson, with its biggest draw being the $25 million prize pool. Some players participating in the tournament had already withdrawn their memberships from the PGA Tour (such as Sergio Garcia); however, others were immediately suspended as they failed to obtain the necessary conflicting event and media rights releases to play in the LIV Invitational. It remains to be seen whether other tournaments, like the DP World Tour, will take similar steps. According to the PGA announcement, the suspended players will not be allowed to participate in any of the tournaments on the PGA Tour. 

CMA launches investigation into BT x Warner Bros Discovery merger

In the last edition of Sports Ticker, we reported on the joint venture between BT and Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) to provide a new premium sports offering. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has now launched an investigation into whether this partnership, involving the UK's largest broadband and mobile provider, is in breach of competition law in the UK.  Both BT and WBD have commented that the investigation is a “normal part of the process” in seeking regulatory approvals for a deal of this kind, but the CMA has until 28 July 2022 to decide whether to clear the deal or progress it to an in-depth “phase 2” probe. 

RedBird to buy Serie A's Red and Blacks

RedBird Capital Partners has agreed a $1.3 billion deal to buy Serie A champions AC Milan, following the team's first league title win in 11 years this May. The U.S. investment firm’s founder has said that they are “excited” to continue the return to glory overseen by current owners Elliott, who took over the club in 2018. Elliott, a US private equity group, will retain a minority investment and seats on the board, expressing their confidence in RedBird. This deal will add to RedBird’s existing interests in sports teams, with their investment into Fenway Sports Group in 2021, the owner of Liverpool and the Boston Red Sox baseball team, and their controlling stake in French rugby club, Toulouse.

UFC fights on in the UK after multi-year agreement with BT Sport

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has renewed its UK and Ireland broadcast partnership with BT. As a result of the multi-year extension, BT and the UFC will celebrate a decade-long broadcast partnership in 2023. All UFC live events, including UFC Fight Nights and UFC pay-per-view events, will be exclusively available on BT Sports and the BT Sports Box office service respectively. The sport has proven popular with fans who attended the UFC’s first UK event in three years this March. The UFC president Dana White said he was “thrilled to continue” the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) promotion’s affiliation with the broadcaster.

“En Français s'il vous plait!” - English gaming tech words officially banned in France

France has given official French translations to several gaming tech words in an effort to preserve the purity of the French language. L’Académie Française – the French Language Council – had previously expressed displeasure at the adoption of anglicisms, which they said caused a “degradation” to the French language, highlighting phrases such as “big data” as problematic. Although this term has not been changed, “Cloud gaming” (“jeu video en nuage”) and “esports” (“jeu video de competition”) are among the terms with new official French alternatives. The Culture Ministry tried to include existing French terms, to “allow the population to communicate more easily” and avoid “a barrier to understanding” for French non-gamers.

Extra time...

…and finally, as part of London Tech Week 2022, RPC was joined by Daniel Bobroff (Founder & Former Investment Director at ASOS Ventures) and Miles Lowry (Strategy Business Partner at Formula 1) to consider the future of “direct to consumer“ marketing  for consumer brands, platforms, advertisers and sports and entertainment organisations. Topics discussed included the way brands can exploit content to drive potential customers to the brand's platform, as well as the opportunities ahead to reach a wider and younger generation of target consumers via live streaming and the metaverse.  

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