Broadcast, Digital & Media, Future Trends, Governance & Commercial Growth, Partnerships, Sport Business | Feb 3, 2021 | 8 min read

Charting the money, the moves, and the media across the global business of sport.

By James Emmett


Hello one and all; James Emmett here with the latest edition of the Leaders Digest, your fortnightly round-up of what matters across the global business of sports and entertainment. Thanks for welcoming me into your inbox; and thanks, too, to my excellent colleague David Cushnan for keeping the engine oiled and the wheels turning while I’ve been away over the last month. To business:


4  Questions, Answered

1.)    Should Netflix buy a sports league? 
It’s almost certainly a better option than a traditional rights deal. (NB – but it won’t).


2.)    Is there one single action that can sum up what’s happening in the French football TV rights crisis?
Following the collapse of the ambitiously priced Mediapro deal, a contentious tender process this week has ended with no bids matching LFP’s reserve price. Dependable but slighted French football broadcasters beIN and Canal Plus refused to bid. But arguably the thing that sums the whole sorry story up is the fact that Jean-Michel Roussier, Editorial Director of Mediapro’s Telefoot network, the entity that kicked it all off, reportedly put in a bid as an individual himself. Quelle bizzarerie.


3.)    Any thoughts on Clubhouse?
We covered it in last week’s Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin and the buzz around the new audio-only, invite-only platform continues. I’m yet to have any original thoughts on it, so here’s a pretty good one – on how it could fit into a monetisation model – from someone else (Matt Navarra, who is great).


4.)    Is the GameStop/Robinhood farrago significant for the sports industry?
I certainly wouldn’t categorise myself as a full time banker, so my understanding of last week’s retail trader pile-in on GameStop, a spluttering ‘old world’ retailer that had been shorted by hedge funds only to have its share price skyrocketed by an unconventional wave of small-scale investors, is several layers below expert. I’m led to believe that short squeezing and manipulated market spikes are nothing new, but the way the manipulation occurred – basically via a Reddit message board, some motivated and powerful influencers, and an online community of several thousand ready to be persuaded, to ‘take action against Wall Street’ (however misguided), and to make a little money in the process (however misguided) – is new. What’s this got to do with sport? Well, can there be a more potentially motivated online community than a fanbase? Is there now an instrument through which a fanbase can now tangibly affect a publicly listed sports entity? Could an army of small-scale retail traders not ‘artificially’ boost a football club’s share price, allowing it to issue a new round of shares to raise capital? Or even take a concerted and sustained short position to put pressure, for example, on unpopular majority owners? In short, maybe.


The Digest, Digested

Seven trends to define digital sport in 2021 (12 mins)

Murray Barnett | Trends and predictions for 2021 (6 mins)

2021 trend reports (hundreds of minutes)

Private equity giant CVC aims to score with $300m global volleyball deal (2 mins)

Burnley’s US takeover has left club £90m worse off and loaded with debt (3 mins)

Benedict Evans presentation: The Great Unbundling (71 minutes)

Chain Conversations: Lenah Ueltzen-Gabell and Hannah Redfern (22 mins)


What’s new

–    On-field branding at the Super Bowl – well, kind of. Six sponsors will be paying between $1.5 million and $2 million to take newly created LED board inventory to cover the first seven rows of seats at the Super Bowl this weekend. It’s a makegood, but once you’ve popped, can you stop?


What’s trending?

–    Trends – of course, tis (still) the season and all that. Here are three worth clicking on: Seven League’s always insightful annual digital forecast (it’s a hard agree from me on trend number seven in here especially), Murray Barnett gives his own comprehensive overview of the year ahead, and a veritable pan-industry treasure trove unearthed by the Howard Carter of trend digging, David Cushnan.

–    PE investment in second tier sports – There’s been a lot of noise in football, but the real deals are being done one layer below, it seems. Fresh from a raft of investments in rugby, CVC has signed a reported $300 million deal with the International Volleyball Federation that should see a structural and commercial overhaul across the sport. Former DAZN leader Simon Denyer is onboard.




–    Scottish Rugby COO Dominic McKay will leave his role later this year to replace Peter Lawwell as CEO of Celtic. Lawwell will retire in June having been CEO of the Glasgow club since 2003.

–    Ceri Reed has been appointed as the new MD of The Playbook brand communications agency.

–    John Cooper has been promoted to the role of General Counsel at Endeavor’s experiences, rights and events businesses.

–    Rob Bloom has left his role as Group Digital Director at McLaren for the new position of CMO at the Aston Martin F1 team.

–    Former Facebook VP and San Francisco 49ers CFO Cipora Herman has been appointed as the new CFO of the LA 2028 organising committee.

–    Former Liverpool CEO Peter Moore has rejoined the gaming industry, having taken up a new role as SVP and GM of Sports & Live Entertainment at video game development company Unity Software. Before joining Liverpool in 2017, Moore had held leadership roles at Sega, Microsoft and EA.

–    Former Speed Communications MD and M&C Saatchi CMO Kate Bosomworth has been appointed as the new Chair of Onside Law. She will combine the non-executive role with her work building her new brand agency, Platform London.

–    Val Ackerman has signed a three-year contract extension that will take her tenure as Commissioner of the Big East college conference through to 2024. Ackerman has so far spent eight years in the role, having been appointed in 2013.

–    Michael Higham has left his role as Head of Sponsorship at Sevilla for a new position as Senior Director, Commercial Partnerships at Roc Nation Sports.



–    Are you Fifa’s new Head of Clearing House?
–    Are you one of 100 new hires at Rogers Sports & Media?
–    Are you DFL Digital Sports’ new Head of Content?
–    Are you the IOC’s new Commercial Finance Manager?
–    Are you Everton’s new Senior CRM and Insight Manager?​​​



How do you manage?

A window into the working worlds of people from across the sports industry now that nothing is as it was.

Collette Roche is the Chief Operating Officer at Manchester United, a role she’s held since 2018. She lives in Cheshire, in the north west of England, with her husband Graham, two daughters and dog Bobby.


Are you working from home or the office? If both, what’s the split like?
As COO at Manchester United, I need to split my time between my home office, Old Trafford and our training ground. In line with the government guidelines, we are encouraging and enabling our colleagues to work from home as much as possible, so I spend around 60% of my time at home, 30% at Old Trafford on or around matchdays and 10% at the training ground, where I have twice weekly Covid tests.

How have things changed since Covid? 
I am very proud at how well we have adapted to a Covid world at MUFC. At the onset of the pandemic, I was asked to lead the club-wide Covid response team, so quickly mobilised the leadership team, setting clear priorities around our players, our people, our partners, our fans, and our community, and then worked with our amazing teams to develop plans to deliver on our commitments. From day one, we transitioned 900 colleagues to working from home, secured the stadium and offices and started to build policies and processes around creating a Covid-safe training and playing environment.

Who do you share your ‘home office’ with? 
I am currently sharing a `home office’ with my husband, who works as an apprenticeship trainer/assessor, my eldest daughter who is studying Business Management at Newcastle University and my youngest daughter who is studying A-Levels.

How have you changed as a manager? As a person?
I guess I have been more reflective, supportive, and understanding. One of the positive aspects of working from home and hosting virtual meetings is that you get to see and appreciate your colleagues’ challenges and home environments much more clearly – whether that be barking dogs, small children needing attention or demanding teenagers. I also focus on my teams’ wellbeing as much as their task list nowadays, to make sure they have the flexibility and support they need to stay positive and productive. I listen more than I did previously to what my team don’t say as much as what they do, to try to gauge how they are coping and again look to provide support where I can. I also try to be more flexible and creative around how we can manage workloads and deadlines in this volatile and uncertain world.

What does your daily routine look like? How do you run your job and your life?
I am a serial planner and organiser which is probably the reason I got this job. Every day is carefully structured – I wake, check emails, review the news, chair the early morning leadership call, then a series of meetings, quick lunch and hopefully a dog walk, where I can catch up on non-confidential calls! I like to exercise every day but in reality, it’s every other – either run, FIT class or Yoga.  Dinner is always a family affair, followed by a good Netflix series (so many to choose from!).

How do you focus? 
I think the question for me is how do I not focus; I’m told I am very intense. I have always had the ability to concentrate and get through lots of tasks efficiently, which I learned at a very early age when I was training five days a week, competing nationally in gymnastics, studying for exams and holding down a part-time job.

How do you cope with stress?
I can honestly say I am very lucky and don’t tend to get stressed. I like pressure and am used to working under it – in fact without pressure, I am probably less productive. I guess the reason for this is because I accept what is within my control and more importantly what is not, I don’t worry about things I can’t change and I give 100%, so I can’t give much more. That said I do practice breathing, yoga and love running with Bobby outdoors, which probably helps too.

What one thing will you take with you into the ‘new normal’?
I will be taking a ton of things…but if forced to only have one it would be ‘a much broader perspective.’

This is an edited extract from the full interview, which is available here.​​​​

Hot money

Barcelona’s financial woes
Perhaps the long-heralded membership model has had its cracks well and truly exposed. FC Barcelona – so often touted as one of the ‘richest’ sports clubs in the world – are close to broke. The old saying rings true here: revenue is vanity; profit is sanity; cash flow is reality.

Burn baby Burnley
As mentioned above, I certainly wouldn’t categorise myself as a full time banker, but this ultra-leveraged Burnley buy-out is crazy business, surely?


Longer read

–    A longer listen from respected sports industry news hounds Rob Harris, Martyn Ziegler and Tariq Panja. It’s always good to listen in on knowledgeable journalists asking each other genuine questions on a level-playing-field platform, which is what Sport Unlocked is shaping up to be.

–    A typically rigorous presentation from tech and media authority Benedict Evans: The Great Unbundling.

–    The business of relationships with Wasserman’s EMEA MD Lenah Ueltzen-Gabell.


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