Views From The Industry: This Week In Sports & Business
By Ben Page | February 25, 2022
iSportConnect takes a look at some of the biggest happenings and talking points around sport and business over the past seven days and what the industry has been saying.
UEFA & Sport Forced To Take A Stand Against Russia – Latest updates correct as of 5pm GMT 25/02
After Russia’s invasion on Ukraine, sport has been quick to take a stand and try to react to the country. Saint Petersburg has been stripped of the Champions League Final, with the game now confirmed to take place in Paris after talks between UEFA chief Aleksander Čeferin and French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday.
UEFA are also weighing up their major deal with Gazprom, which is coming under increased scrutiny, while Manchester United have today withdrawn the sponsorship rights of Russian airline Aeroflot.
Also taking place in response to the issue:
- Formula 1 have cancelled the Russian Grand Prix
- FC Schalke 04 have removed their Gazprom shirt sponsorship
- The FIS cancelled their ongoing event within Russia as every non-Russian participant did not take part
Simon Leaf, Partner & Head of Sport at Mischon De Reya, says: “Generally speaking UEFA holds all of the cards when it comes to negotiating hosting agreements for major events, which means that it can generally act without fear of legal reprisals from local organisers. The situation with sponsors is likely to be different though, as these types of agreement tend to be much more heavily negotiated with a much more even distribution of negotiating power. With that in mind, it is likely to be much harder for UEFA to move away from long-term sponsorship deals with Russian parties, such as Gazprom.
“Ultimately, however, UEFA and other similar rightsholders may do more long-term damage to its relationship with its other corporate sponsors and ultimately fans by not curtailing problematic sponsorship deals. This is perhaps why Manchester United have taken such decisive action in ending its own deal with Aeroflot. It is a difficult balance that will need to be struck, and one that will no doubt be keeping UEFA and its lawyers up late to try to resolve.“
Steve Wilson, who has covered more Olympics than you can even count, noted the unique nature of this scenario, with the IOC weighing in to turn its back on Russia and its strong ally Belarus.
SportAccord has now also been forced to cancel their upcoming World Sport & Business Summit, which had been due to take place in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
“This is just the beginning. In the next decade, we will see global sporting events without Russia and away from Russia,” said Ricardo Fort, former Head of Global Sponsorship at Coca-Cola.
Having An Influence
Major League Soccer this week announced an all-new partnership with TikTok star and social media influencer, Noah Beck, to become the league’s first ‘Social Playmaker’.
20-year-old Beck, who was previously an academy player at franchise Real Salt Lake will be utilised by creating ‘pieces around the culture surrounding MLS and participate in special events and moments throughout the season,’ say the league.
This is another use of a highly powerful social media name, following the Golden State Warriors bringing in K-pop star BamBam as a global ambassador earlier this season, who played a huge role in recruiting for social media All-Star votes to get Warriors players into last weekend’s fixture.
Can This XFL Finally Break The Barrier?
After numerous failed professional American football leagues, including previous editions of the XFL, have tried and failed to take off, there finally seems to be some real momentum behind the most recent attempt to revive the league, led by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.
Joining forces with the NFL is likely a necessity for the league to survive and you would expect that this is something the NFL should actually want to support and help to get off the ground, as it will never compete on the same level but could be a great feeder product.
Having a prospering XFL will ensure that players who are coming into the NFL during the season have been playing competitively (rather than just training on practice squads), give opportunities for late developers who improve in their mid-late 20s and provide many more careers for players when they leave college, while also being another entertainment platform for the sport.
The Saudi Golf League Falls Flat
After some extremely ill-advised comments from Phil Mickelson, who had been a ringleader in supporting the new Saudi Golf League over recent months, were released to the wider world, there was tremendous backlash towards the legendary golfer.
Many of the PGA Tour’s key names were quick to come out and state that they would not be partaking in any competition that would see them banned from the PGA Tour, including Rory McIlroy, Colin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka.
The reaction was such that two major players, Bryson Dechambeau and Dustin Johnson, who had both been rumoured to have been offered huge deals to play in the league, released statements announcing they would be remaining on
Mickelson’s statements were so incendiary that he himself has already lost two major sponsors over the debacle, and been forced to release an apologetic statement, saying he will be taking an indefinite break from golf.
However, in a stern letter to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, it seems LIV golf investments chief Greg Norman is not willing to take this lying down…
And Finally… It Can’t Get ‘Batter’ Than This
Over recent months Arsenal have been running campaigns to support local businesses within the community, the latest of which is a brilliant piece of social media work from the team at Arsenal showcasing a local fish and chip shop near Emirates Stadium.