China, Governance & Commercial Growth, Sport Business | Jul 12, 2017
Charting the money, the moves and the media across the global sports industry.

The under-the-radar creep of Amazon Prime.

Welcome to another edition of the Leaders Digest, providing a week’s worth of compelling sports industry links to click on or read around.

As ever, feel free to get in touch at [email protected] or @JamesEmmett on Twitter. Scroll down for previous editions of the Digest, and to sign up to receive the Digest in your inbox every Wednesday, click here.

4 questions, answered

  1. Amazon Prime’s complete takeover of anything and everything to do with our purchasing, leisure and entertainment habits – a question of if or when?


  1. What’s the last thing you expect to read about sports industry originator Mark McCormack (1930 – 2003)?

A good Mark McCormack story is the trusty rifle of any self-respecting sports businessman’s conversational arsenal, especially if you’re a sports businessman who works at IMG, the agency McCormack founded. It’s safe to say there isn’t a McCormack story that could surprise me anymore. But on a sun-kissed – and gratefully undertaken! – visit to IMG’s Wimbledon set-up this week, one McCormack story teased my credulity. It seems the great man has penned another book – too good to be true, surely even for him?! And indeed, on closer inspection, Beyond Harvard, the follow-up to What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, is a posthumous collection of further street smarts from McCormack, compiled on his behalf. I’ll be stocking up on my conversational arsenal. Will you?

  1. Are you going to make a habit of exchanging hospitality invitations for book plugs?

I appreciate that it looks that way. Depends on the book, I guess.

  1. What has this Olympic bidding race been good for?

As the IOC, LA and Paris reach fait accompli on the award of the 2024 and 2028 Games – everyone’s a winner – it’s time to reflect on the highlight of this Olympic bid campaign: first there was the LA team’s adoption of the sun as a totem for their effort. The #FollowTheSun hashtag drew a marvellous and ongoing response from wily old sports bid campaigner Mike Lee, whose counter-adoption of the sun with his own #CelebrateTheSun hashtag has proved the inspiration for a stream of positive-energy tweets, no doubt to the irritation of his opposite numbers in LA. If Lee is indeed hanging up his bid boots after this campaign for a new life in academia, he’ll be missed.

Hot Money

Social giants at the Fox’s den

Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are sniffing around the offices of 21st Century Fox having caught the scent of 2018 Fifa World Cup highlights packages. Should one or more of the social giants materialise as digital highlights partners for Fox, it would more or less cement this type of rights holder-broadcaster-social platform model as the establishment move.

Hire and hire

A couple of interesting market moves to report on – yes, I’m going to chalk them down as interesting: firstly Ron Gourlay, erstwhile of Chelsea, has taken on the role of CEO at second tier English soccer side Reading, while John Kristick has waved goodbye to the ESP venture he’s been spearheading for WPP to pick up a new role tapping a ball into an unguarded net on behalf of the joint 2026 Fifa World Cup bid by the US, Canada and Mexico.

The UFC one year on

All you doubters out there, watch out for your asses, Dana White has got a message for you. One year on from the UFC’s sale to WME | IMG, and Darren Rovell delivers his report card on progress, as well as White’s message.

Techno techno techno

Green and purple reign

Alex Willis and Wimbledon get a lot of plaudits for their work in digital content creation and distribution. There’s a reason for that – and it’s neatly encapsulated in this illuminating SportBusiness case study.

Google AMP it up

Seven League get a fair number of pats on the back too. Again, deserved, and here’s a little insight from the world of mobile search and the Newcastle United website that goes a small way to showing why.

Eye on China

Jumble sale

Wanda is selling off $9.3 billion of assets in an effort to cut its debt mountain down to size. Wang Jianlin looks set to double down on his sports and entertainment portfolio at the expense of property development.

eSports corner

Watching over Overwatch

The conception and development of Blizzard’s new Overwatch League has not been without its controversy or critics within the esports world, but the publisher is shooting squarely for the big time with reported franchise fee asks of $20 million. According to the latest reports, agreements for six franchisees – in LA, San Francisco, New York, Boston, Shanghai and Seoul – have been reached. Robert Kraft and Jeff Wilpon are among the high profile names thought to be signed up.

Stateside view

A brisk trip across the three most read stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week:

Longer read

– What does a brand ambassador look like in the 21st Century digi-world we now call home? Mike Long investigates.

5th July, 2017

Illegal streaming statistics; Wanda’s ‘decoy’ investment; Michael Payne’s skiing photographs; Ted Leonsis’s ownership addiction; Chinese football shenanigans and more.

Good morning sports industry folk, and welcome to the day-after-Independence Day edition of the Leaders Digest, slicing through the warm apple pie of the sports business, and leaving a plate by the window to attract you all in.

4 questions, answered

  1. What percentage of people illegally stream at least one Premier League game per month?

65% of people. Well, 65% of people in the much sought after 18-34 demo. Sounds like it might be time to stock up on citrus and grog and get serious on tackling the sports pirates.

  1. Who says the Leaders Digest isn’t an appropriate platform on which to land a key communications message?

Great to catch up with so many new/old/weather-beaten faces at the Leaders anniversary bash in London last night. In one of the few on-the-record conversations I remember having, Scott Bowers reminded me that Paul Fisher had recently been made CEO of Jockey Club Racecourses. Top promotion, duly promoted.

  1. What links former England Rugby Head Coach Stuart Lancaster, current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and General Lori Robinson, aka the most senior figure in the US military?

Ah yes, it’s the Leaders Performance Institute. Have a butchers at what went down at the latest summit in Chicago last week.

  1. Is Ted Leonsis addicted to owning sports teams?

He doesn’t deny it.

Hot money

How many times does Ron Dennis want to sell McLaren?

As many times as possible, presumably. The latest sale is worth £275 million to the Englishman. He’s severed his ties. But will those ties remain severed?

Eye on China

I wa, wa, wa, wa, Wanda

Got the Chinese authorities on your back, making a nuisance of themselves, asking tedious questions about your foreign investments in film and football? Thrown them a curveball: build the largest indoor ski resort in the world and build it in the beleaguered Chinese city of Harbin.

I feel like a billion dollars

Remember when the Chinese Super League suddenly joined the billion-dollar brigade two years ago? Well, the rights aren’t worth that much anymore. With a new vice minister – the seat of pretty much all power in Chinese sport – set to join the footballing fray from track and field in September, it’s interesting times ahoy in Chinese soccer.

World Economic Knowledge

It’s probably ambitious of me to consider the World Economic Forum as a competitor, but hey ho. I like these ‘ten astounding facts to help you understand….’ pieces though. This, on China, does indeed contain a few gobbets of info to make you rub your eyes in double-take.

Moulding Klay

A nice window, here, inside Klay Thompson’s 10-year, $80 million extension with Chinese sportswear brand Anta – a company that appears, unlike some of its domestic competitors, to have its stuff very much together.

Northampton Town in on the action

It’s not just the top tier – or the top two tiers – of European soccer that have had Yuan Renminbi thrown at them of late. Northampton Town – in England’s third tier – appear to have slipped a Chinese acquisition in under the radar.

Stateside view

Independence Day was this week, but that should have no bearing on the hottest stories from SportsBusiness Daily last week. And so it proved:

Longer read

– Former IOC and F1 commercial consigliere Michael Payne was one of the first ‘work contacts’ to add me on Facebook. No offence to Michael, but it was the watershed moment when I realised that I probably wouldn’t use Facebook like I used to. Even so, I enjoy his skiing photographs, as I enjoyed this, another chapter from Callum Murray’s growing book of barnstormers.

21st June, 2017

Breakthrough digital experiences; what George Pyne did next; Intel’s major move; a tale of addiction and corruption in eSports and more.

Welcome, sports industry movers, shakers, and money-makers, to another edition of the Leaders Digest, reading things about the global sports business for a full week, then reporting back.

5 questions, answered

  1. Are you a thrusting young digi-head with a thirst for the big time, an understanding of world class experiences, and a penchant for top-level English soccer?

Then try my three-point plan for success: 1. Download and read the latest Leaders Special Report on digital fan engagement. 2. Apply for this Head of Fan Experience job with Liverpool. 3. Thank me later.

  1. Newspapers being sold to PR firms – an alarming trend or more of the same really?

You decide.

  1. Who else is bored of this Mayweather-McGregor nonsense already?

Just me then. Go on then, here’s how the ‘fight’ will generate $400 million.

  1. Could PyeongChang 2018 slip by without any of us noticing?

Hopefully not, but maybe yes.

  1. If Argentina is the 22nd largest economy in the world, what is the 23rd?

It’s Alibaba of course.

Hot Money

Chips on the table, burgers in the bin at the IOC

Just as McDonald’s and the IOC announced the clown-fronted fast food giant was terminating its 40-year-plus Olympic partnership with immediate effect, leaving a 2012-signed eight-year deal early, comes news that Intel has put pen to paper on a Big Mac of a deal. An announcement is expected today, Wednesday 21st June, and Intel, two years into a broad sport-focused marketing strategy, will join fellow tech companies Samsung, Panasonic, and Alibaba in the IOC TOP portfolio.

What’s George Pyne up to?

The answer to that question these days is, invariably, something interesting to do with the NFL. If it’s not teaming up with Gerry Cardinale to invest in an NFL hospitality and fan experience venture, it’s swooping in on a global in-house content play. While Perform already has a deal to distribute the NFL’s Game Pass product outside the US and Europe, now Pyne’s investment vehicle Bruin, and its own investment partner WPP, will take on a Europe-wide mandate. Bruin-owned Deltratre will manage the technological delivery from here on in, while Two Circles, also a WPP-owned agency, will provide its oh so hot right now data-driven techniques to expand the Game Pass subscriber base across Europe.

Three is the magic number

Providence Equity Partners has sold its 25% stake in Soccer United Marketing back to Major League Soccer, tripling, according to this report, the $150 million it paid for the shareholding in 2012. That’s a hat-trick of mega-deals for Providence, after it made money on the sale of Learfield last year, and World Triathlon Corp in 2015.

Eye on China


Sure, we all go wild for the latest Chinese billionaire on the block, but there are some salutary lessons for would-be tycoons and their business partners here. Easy come, easy go.

Another warning

Strong stuff here from Chinese football expert Rowan Simons. China’s investment in football is going to waste.

eSports Corner

Scare bears

Like many of my compadres operating in that Venn diagram sweetspot between the metropolitan liberal elite and being interested in sport, I’ve enjoyed the Guardian’s Sport 2.0 series this week. I was, ultimately, a bit disappointed with the angle taken in this otherwise excellent ‘future of eSports’ piece, which went from comprehensive and colourful primer, to scare story about addiction in the space of a paragraph. Reading books is sedentary and addictive too; we don’t, as far as I know, get scared about that much anymore.

Stateside view

Westward-ho for a glance at the hottest stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week:

Longer reads

Former UCI President and Olympic executive Hein Verbruggen passed away last week at the age of 75. No stranger to controversy across his career, Verbruggen was nevertheless an administrator of vision. Cycling blog Inrng has a balanced obituary that’s worth a read.

14th June, 2017

The Football League’s bold OTT move; Chinese football investors liquid again; Inside Activision Blizzard; Sir Martin Sorrell on form; and how the NBA became the world’s most tech-savvy sports league.

Good morning to you all, and welcome to another edition of the Leaders Digest, peeling back the onion skin of the sports industry to reveal yet another layer inside.

3 questions, answered

  1. What one recent sports story would prompt the two-pronged response of, Ice Cube Jr’s a chip off the old block, and how is that even possible on LSD?

This one.

  1. Who doesn’t love a bit of bickering between seasoned behind-the-scenes Olympic influencers?

Sure, it’s niche, but you learn to love it.

  1. Is expansion always a dirty word in the NHL?


Hot Money

The green-eyed monster

I remember being envious, once, of a chief executive of a prominent sports broadcaster who revealed that he had a code that got him in to Football League broadcast feeds so he could watch his beloved Championship football team in every game they played. I don’t need to be envious anymore. A bold move from the Football League, and another notch on the old OTT bedpost (or something).

Droning on

Is it just me, or does the Drone Racing League seem to close on a new round of funding pretty much once a month? Some interesting names involved in here.

Eye on China

Why football is courting China

According to the graphic in this here article, China has spent some €2.1 billion on mergers and acquisitions in international football over the last three years. A cool €1.8 billion more than the next biggest-spending nation. And, after a slow down in the market, it looks like China’s football finance wheels have been greased again, as the Southampton sale to Lander Sports edges towards completion and two prominent northern Premier League are subject to significant Chinese bids.

Why Cannes is courting China

It isn’t just the sports industry courting Yuan Renminbi; the global ad industry wants to feel some of the fibre of that Chinese fabric too.

eSports Corner

Bobby Lollipops

This, from Fortune, is one of the most comprehensive pieces explaining the story of Activision Blizzard and its CEO Bobby Kotick that I’ve read. And I’ve read plenty (some).

Stateside view

Three of the most popular stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week, according to the eyeballs measurement:

Longer reads

7th June, 2017

The $100m scheme for eSports sensation League of Legends; the link between British horseracing and Captain Beefheart; one list, one infographic and one whitepaper; Lionel Messi’s theme park; and Lego, the revitalisation of a mega brand.

Ladies and gentleman, good morning to you, and welcome to another edition of the Leaders Digest, occupying the middle ground between fact and premature fact on behalf of the global sports industry.

4 questions, answered

  1. Who likes lists?

You like lists, that’s who, and Forbes, inevitably, have got the precise one that interests you right now. This time it’s the 25 most important creatives of the last 100 years.

  1. Who likes infographics?

You like infographics, that’s who, and Darren Rovell, inevitably, has got the precise one that interests you right now. He’s curated his way through SBJ to bring you this, on the average age of TV viewers for the biggest sports properties across the US. Not pretty reading for anyone other than women’s tennis.

  1. Who has the most unexpected hinterland in the business of sport?

Arguably, it’s Jockey Club CEO Simon Bazalgette, as adept at navigating the arcane traditions and complex stakeholder environment of the horse racing industry as he is musing on the creative wizardry of Mark E Smith and Captain Beefheart. Five minutes in Bazalgette’s company is five minutes well spent.

  1. Do you like stats and have even a passing interest in sponsorship or vice versa?

If yes, this, the first in a new content series developed by Leaders and our old muckers at Nielsen Sports, is for you. If no, each to their own I suppose.

Hot Money

Better late than never

The ‘new’ Juventus stadium is, in some ways, the face that launched a thousand ships. If by ‘face’, I mean ‘stadium naming rights project’, by ‘launched’ I mean ‘sank’, and ‘ships’, I mean ‘sponsorship agencies or consultants’. In any case, almost six years after it opened, the home of the Italian champions has a new naming partner in Allianz.

Three is the magic number

Serving as the gateway drug between the Hot Money section and the Leaders Eye on China is the news that Chinese mobile phone manufacturer Vivo will sponsor Fifa in a deal worth €400 million. The world’s fifth biggest phone manufacturer becomes the third Chinese sponsor of the governing body – joining Hisense and Wanda – in the space of a year.

Behold, the contraflow

Tom Fox, former Arsenal commercial chief at Premier League side Arsenal, then CEO at Aston Villa, has been hired by the San Jose Earthquakes as its new President. Fox is the first Premier League CEO to be appointed to an equivalent position in Major League Soccer. Kudos to our search partners at Nolan Partners who conducted a three-month global search for the position. While we’re on the job watch, have a gander at these, both hot to drop: Head of Sport at Red Bull UK, and NBA Senior Director, eSports.

Eye on China

Messi little real estate play

In a move one might more reasonably expect from an ego the size of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi is set to open a theme park based around himself in Nanjing. In partnership with Spanish media rights specialists Mediapro and China’s Phoenix Group, Messi is set to develop a 20-attraction park that is scheduled to open in early 2019.

Three stripes and you’re out

Sponsor-driven content is, like it or not, the direction of travel for the broadcast industry across the board. You wouldn’t necessarily expect it in China though. But that’s exactly what Adidas seem to have done with a series designed to develop football in the country.

eSports Corner

The $100m League of Legends league (of legends)

League of Legends has long been the hottest ticket in town across the eSports ecosystem, and game publisher Riot now intends to tap off some of that fiscal magma through a new ten-team North American league. Franchise fee: a flat $10 million.

Stateside view

Three of the most popular stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week, according to the eyeballs measurement:

Longer read

30th May, 2017

Mark Cuban’s investment tips; what Ford can teach sport; Yao Ming’s private equity pitch; China’s new transfer tax and more.

Welcome one and all to another edition of the Leaders Digest, throwing sports industry content against a wall, and having absolute faith that some it will stick.

5 questions, answered

  1. What do Andrea Radrizzani and the number 100 have in common?

If you’re willing to throw a percentage sign in there, then quite a lot. The former MP & Silva boss took his shareholding in Leeds United to 100% this week, appointing West Ham United MD Angus Kinnear as Managing Director at Elland Road, a move I 100% approve of. He’s also, of course, 100% confirmed for Leaders Week this October.

  1. Ford’s CEO stepped down last week – so what?

Well, a lot actually. Michael Broughton is getting rather good at these what sport can learn from company x or industry y pieces.

  1. Do football clubs provide players with club-specific email addresses?

Perform’s Simon Farrant poses an interesting question here. And I don’t have the answer.

  1. How do you spell ‘G E N U I N E M E D I A E V E N T’?

Forget eSports; spelling is where it’s really at.

  1. Does anyone else quite like this tech-driven Nike activation?

I’m looking forward to the day that Strava can beam my own hologram ahead of me as pacemaker as I trundle in to work again.

Hot money

Cuban cigar

Mark Cuban is always good value, and this Esquire Q&A, which touches on how and why he missed the chance to invest in Uber, why he believes Amazon is the most under-valued company out there, and what he believes his most innovative move at the Mavs has been, is, as he might put it himself, demonstrable expertise in that space.

Cunning deal

Fox and Telemundo have a pretty sweet Fifa deal. Tariq Panja has the details.

Eye on China


LeSports is taking a new ‘balanced’ approach to rights acquisitions after, well, let’s call them a few operational hiccups of late. Still, a new round of funding – precise injection amount unconfirmed – appears to have valued LeEco’s sports media business unit at a very balanced $3.5 billion.

Yao’s US$250m plan

Yao Ming is raising money. If I had some, I’d give it to him.


There’s a new 100% transfer tax in Chinese soccer. In grassroots development terms, it’s probably very good indeed. In middle-manning terms, not so much. Mark Dreyer has a comprehensive primer on what it’s all about, while Barney Ronay provides the cherry on top of Dreyer’s cake.

Stateside view

A trio of the most popular stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week:

Everyone’s a critic

ESPN is going through a rough patch, and some, it would seem, are revelling in it. However galling it may seem, schadenfreude is alive and well in the sports media industry.

Longer reads

Back in a time before ‘Responsibilities’ long Bank Holiday weekends here in the UK for me used to mean many lazy, happy hours with my nose in a book. Now I spend my Bank Holidays just reading about the books I won’t read, but these two do look good: the unremitting David Conn has drawn up his own study of Sepp Blatter and his executive coterie, a tale, as you might imagine, of ‘corruption and seediness’, while David Papineau has, I’m told, applied his philosopher’s brain to a range of sporting scenarios in Knowing the Score.

24th May, 2017

Amazon’s sports offering takes shape; Manchester United’s social data funnel; learning about Chinese names with Reading; B is for Barry Baum; rugby in China; Leiweke in LA and more.

Greetings to you, yours, and everybody else, and welcome to another edition of the Leaders Digest, erecting a sports industry watchtower on a Wednesday morning and gazing out behind and forwards for answers.

4 questions, answered

  1. B is for?

Barry Baum, clearly. The long-time Brooklyn Nets comms man left the franchise in December and has just been appointed as SVP of communications at Milwaukee’s NBA team. A Wisconsin native, Barry Baum is back in the Badger State after swapping Brooklyn for the Bucks.

  1. I like a game-changing TV executive as much as the next gimlet-eyed media observer, but can ‘game-changing’ be used as a verb?


  1. It’s just excitable European soccer teams and forward-thinking ‘sports and entertainment’ groups in the US buying eSports teams, isn’t it?

Nope. Aussie rules team the Adelaide Crows are in on the action too.

  1. Those replica sports jerseys are such good business, they pay for themselves don’t they?

Well, yes, one day they might.

Hot money

It’s a jungle out there

An Amazon sports offering has arrived in the UK, after deals were struck that will see the TV operation of the retail giant carry ITV, Eurosport and Discovery.

Red data Devils

Manchester United hired Yahoo! exec Phil Lynch to head up its media business earlier in the year, now Ed Woodward, the club’s Executive Vice Chairman, has announced plans to ‘aggressively market’ a key strand of that media business in the in-house MUTV operation. But to what end? Well, perhaps to funnel at least a fraction of those famously numbered 659 million international fans away from social media, and on to United’s own data platforms.

Eye on China

Reading between the lines

If it succeeds in one thing, the acquisition of second tier English soccer side Reading by brother and sister investor duo Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li may well teach naïve Britons that Chinese family names come first.

Try, try again

Rugby’s chances of making it big in China took a giant leap forward when the sport’s international governing body signed a $100 million deal with Alisports last year. Brett Gosper, CEO of World Rugby, takes us inside that deal, but fails to explain why rugby is designated as a ‘small ball sport’ in China.

Another chapter in the saga

AC Milan and its new Chinese owners – it’s not going to be straightforward, is it?

eSports corner

Facebook gets eSerious

For all those cynics out there who thought that Facebook’s decision to link-up last year with Blizzard and its Overwatch franchise was driven, perhaps, by the relationship between Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, and such cynics do exist, here’s a turn up for the books: Facebook are getting serious in eSports, signing a deal with ESL to stream over 5,500 hours of eSports events.

Stateside view

Three of the most read stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week:

  • The richest stadium naming rights deal in college football has been teed up as United Airlines have agreed to pay $70 million to name USC’s LA Memorial Coliseum for the next 15 years, a period that will include the stadium’s turn as one of the centrepiece venues of the LA 2024 or 2028 Olympics. The contract’s on the table, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, a USC alum, just has to sign it.
  • Nascar darling Dale Earnhardt Jr may have announced his retirement, but he’ll be stepping up his work away from the track after signing with the WME agency.
  • An interesting three-way made official last week between the Cleveland Cavaliers and new jersey patch sponsor Goodyear, and Turner Sports, hired by the Cavs to ‘amplify’ the deal.

A pioneer gone

Vic Wakeling, ‘forged in the era of hot metal’, passed away last week. He will be remembered as the man who did more than most to shape the way we, in the UK, watch sport today.

Longer read

  • Another listen in the longer reads section and this time it’s an in-house production. On another sweltering hot day in LA, I went along to Tim Leiweke’s fabulous corner office in Westwood, on the UCLA campus, to chat to the master of the arena business about going head-to-head with AEG with his new Oak View Group venture, a new Kevin Plank-driven arena in Baltimore, the madness of the O2, David Beckham’s Miami dream and more.

16th May 2017

Olympic brand still packs a punch; what post-Millennials really want; Casey Wasserman’s breakfast spread; F1’s global OTT venture and more.

Welcome, one and all, to another ice cold edition of the Leaders Digest, freezing the best sports industry news and views, so they get to you intact, with the goodness locked in.

5 questions, answered

  1. Post-Millennials, Gen-Z, Centennials – whatever – what do they want?

To think small and dream small, apparently.

2. Who doesn’t like nominative determinism?

The humourless individual, that’s who. It’s an especial thrill when irony’s thrown in the mix. Delighted, therefore, to hear of Claude London’s appointment to run Deltatre’s New York, LA and Silicon Valley offices. Congrats Claude.

3. Enjoyed rival Olympic bid teams riffing on each other’s hashtags over the last two weeks of IOC evaluation commission visits?

No – me neither. Perhaps this race for first dibs to 2024 is all just a bit lame.

4. I’m putting together a menu of everyday conversational tidbits for the sporting sphere; should mental health be on it?

Of course it should. A problem shared is always a problem halved. And even the best have their demons and their coping mechanisms.

5. Formula One, a new global OTT service, Robin Jellis, an easily-readable tweet rather than a boring old article – what’s not to like here?

Nothing at all.

Hot money

Timely boost

As the IOC put pen to parchment on an extension to its deal with Omega watches, it’s worth a little tick around the commercial Olympic clock: the new deal with the watchmaker will run to 2032, the same long-term commitment so far shown to brand Olympics as NBC and TV Globo. Just the 11 years remaining on Alibaba’s new Olympic sponsorship, while all other commercial contracts run to 2020 or 2024. My prediction: expect a deals bonanza post-September, when the IOC will decide where the 2024 Games will be hosted. Omega is one of 13 top-tier partners paying top-tier prices for their Olympic association (conservative estimate: $100m). It’s always useful to break down where the money’s coming from occasionally; so here goes: one TOP partner each from Switzerland, France, South Korea and China, three from Japan, and six from the US.

Gambling ahoy

The good ship wagering has set sail and will, one day, arrive at a US port near you. It’s not a matter of if, but when. The welcoming committee is already preparing. Vegas is a new sports town. Daily fantasy is a wild success. And now WinView, a start-up that facilitates ‘free wagers’ on sport in real time, has secured $12 million in funding from some sporting big dogs, notably Ted Leonsis and Discovery Communications.

Eye on China


That man Chadwick’s at it again, this time casting his eye over Bayern Munich’s strategy for China in the South China Morning Post.

eSports corner

Is it a bird, is it a plane?

No, it’s an eSports broadcast, as ESL tournaments have found themselves a broadcast outlet on Emirates flights.

Shave before shutting down

Gillette and eSports – a nifty little case study/timeline on sponsorship in action in the competitive gaming ecosystem.

Stateside view

A selection of the most popular stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week, as popularised by you, the public:


There was a strange megalomaniac at my school in south west England who used to wander the halls, introducing people – invariably smaller boys – to his cricket bat, which he carried with him and called, with equal parts fondness and menace, ‘Discipline’. I’m not sure this job at the RFU would be suitable for him. Not sure any job would be suitable for him. But it made me think of him anyway.

Longer reads

10th May, 2017

Bob Iger for President; dollars rolling for merch and hospitality giants; the Netflix of podcasts; the Chinese Wikipedia; bikes’ disruptive potential and more.

Good morning sports business executives, and welcome to another edition of the Leaders Digest, pre-cutting the industry, then forking it in one manageable piece at a time.

4 questions, answered

  1. Is LinkedIn really an appropriate forum on which to sell a football club?

Spotted by one Digest-reading gimlet-eyed opportunity-hunter on LinkedIn this week: ‘DEBT FREE FRENCH FOOTBALL CLUB FOR SALE – Any interested parties email me direct….’. Seems a bit ‘One Careful Lady Owner’ to me, but who knows, it could just work.

  1. Who will run for president first: Kanye West, Mark Zuckerberg or Bob Iger?]

Disney CEO Iger has told friends he’s up for the 2020 Democratic candidacy apparently. Stranger things have happened. (and quite recently too).

  1. We’re clear on the Netflix of Sport (we’re clear, aren’t we?), but who the heck is the Netflix of Podcasts?

Oh yeah – it’s these guys.

  1. Nike’s Breaking2 initiative – a farcical publicity stunt that makes a mockery of athletics and the rules that govern it, right?

Maybe. But maybe it was also a piece of brand storytelling to rival that of Red Bull’s Stratos, and one that will be brought up every time a conventional top-level marathon fails to yield a sub-two hour time. First link was for the first hour, here’s a second for the second.

Hot money

Suites you, Sir

Sports hospitality and travel is a private equity sweetspot at the moment. Exhibit A: New Mountain Capital has taken a minority stake in Cowboys and Yankees-owned Legends. The deal is for around a third of the company and values it at more than $700 million.

Tech, tech, tech – boom

Hulu bringing major OTT game – with more than 50 streamable live channels at launch – in their quest for ‘living room domination’.


The NFL has joined Major League Baseball in going to second base with Fanatics – moving beyond a straight licensing contract to take an equity stake in the sports merchandise retailer. According to SBJ, the NFL has purchased a 3% stake in the business for $95 million, valuing the whole shebang at $3.17 billion; a fair old multiple on the $277 million Michael Rubin paid for the company in 2011.

Eye on China

Simon says

Prof Simon Chadwick has received props on here for his China-focused Twitter output before. This time, we’ve gone straight to the source. Now sitting on the Advisory Board for the Leaders China Series and Leaders Sport Business Summit in Beijing, the most prolific professor in the game goes inside guanxi to bring you really rather a good guide on how to do (sports) business in China.

Weedier encyclopaedia

The thing about Wikipedia, right, is it’s a crowd-sourced information bank, isn’t it. It’s all the information in the world, compiled by the world, for the world. Or that’s the plan anyway. So what about this ‘Chinese wikipedia’ then? Maybe a bit different.

Stateside view

A selection of the most popular stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week, as popularised by you, the public:

Holding on for a Giro

The Giro d’Italia started last week and it’s the centenary edition. Time to celebrate, of course, but perhaps also time to reflect on one of the strangest, and as yet unsolved, mysteries of the sports industry in recent years: the tale of Giro Director Michele Acquarone’s removal from organising company RCS Sport amid whiffs of scandal.

On your bike

Bikes – old tech, amirite? You’re wrong. According to Horace Dediu, one of the best named analysts of disruptive technologies in the whole disruptive technology analysis space, bikes are on the brink of ushering in a huge technological leap in transportation. It’s a good piece, this.

Longer read

How to make a return on the UFC; Insta pods; thong songs; Mark Cuban’s Chinese PR offensive; the Fertittas cash up; the Marlins cash out and more.

Good morning wide world of sports, and welcome to another edition of the Leaders Digest, peeling back the sports industry onion one layer at a time.

5 questions, answered

How will WME | IMG make money on its reported $4 billion acquisition of the UFC? Is the agency heading for an IPO? What are its plans in China? Would it consider a bid for the Tour de France?

So many questions, just one place for all the answers. Listen to the latest Leaders Podcast with WME | IMG Co-President Ioris Francini here.

You’ve probably seen this, haven’t you?

It’s been doing the rounds, so you may well have done. But it struck a chord with me. There’s so much buzzword gobbledegook out there in marketing content these days. What  happened to good old fashioned crisp, original marketing copy?

Why are there never any poems about Silicon Valley, assembled using only questions about Silicon Valley, in the Digest?

I’ve got no answer to that. But it’s not a question you’ll be able to ask again.

WTF is an Insta pod?

It’s a question I asked myself almost immediately after reading in the headline of this piece. Turns out Instagram influencer-ship bears a passing resemblance to a gangland.

Has there ever been a female CEO of an AFL team?

Nope. Not until 29th May that is. Many congratulations to Tracey Gaudry – who was also the first woman on the International Cycling Union board – and to Hawthorn, who she’ll be leading from that point. A top appointment.

Hot money

Thong song

Run a licensing division within a sports entity somewhere in the world? Don’t yet have an official flip flop licensee? Get with the times, granddad.


The Fertitta brothers, some $4 billion better off than they were this time last year, have launched their $500 million private investment firm. They’re looking to invest in chunks of $20-$75 million and what are they looking at? Well, what they’re all looking at: the technology, media and entertainment sectors.

Paid post

The Drum has a nice little piece on the growing sophistication of Premier League clubs’ attempts to commercialise social media.

A Marlin in the hand, is worth two in the Bush

Details of the Jeb Bush-Derek Jeter deal for the Miami Marlins MLB team were released as the Leaders Digest was sliding into inboxes last week. So here’s the skinny, a week late, but still great.

Eye on China

Ice, ice, baby

Forbes have only gone and attempted to answer the question all us Chinese ice fans have been asking: can the NHL and hockey win in China?

Making a Mark

Mark Cuban, a junior account planner at a local Dallas ad agency, and a solid strategy to crack China with the Mavericks. The ingredients are all there, and the story doesn’t disappoint.

Run, run away

Wanda Sports has taken another step down the road marked ‘mass participation sports’ by agreeing a ten-year partnership with the World Marathon Majors. Stay tuned for major marathon events coming to China soon.

Stateside view

The most popular stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week include:

  • I’ve read more SportsBusiness Daily Saturday round-up emails than you’ve had hot dinners, and never have I seen one topic dominate the most popular stories of the week section. It happened this week, as ESPN’s latest round of layoffs piqued interest, as well as, no doubt, a fair amount of consternation, dismay, and resignation, across the industry. This is a good SBD scoot-around what the media is saying about ESPN, and the cost-cutting vs rights-losing vs talent-shedding bind that the network now finds itself in.

Longer read

Sometimes it feels like I’m on a one-man mission to spread some love for sumo wrestling around the sports industry. I’m a data-driven content guy; I check the stats on these things. And what the stats are telling me is that when I post a sumo story in the Leaders Digest, at least 1% of you read it. So this is for the 1%. It’s by John Gunning, a former amateur sumo wrestler and pundit on NHK’s live sumo broadcasts and contains the following slither of trivia: Kisenosato, Japan’s home-grown sumo darling, is an avid NFL fan.

Netflix’ sporting ambitions; Formula One way, or another; eSports’ Indian frontier; many things about the Chinese sports industry and more.

Happy 19th April to one and all, and welcome to a slimline edition of the Leaders Digest to mark, let’s face it, a slimline edition of the working week. But the business of sport continues, Easter or no Easter, and so do we. Forward, reply, subscribe, enjoy.

5 questions, answered

  1. I’m so excited about all this OTT business, what with Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and the rest jumping into sport; surely it’s only a matter of time before we discover that Netflix is in fact the real Netflix of Sport?

Calm down, breathe, and don’t be too disappointed. But do relish the Netflix stats in here.

  1. Has anyone heard of the architect Richard Rogers?

A suggestive name for sure, and one that Channel 4 employees will be familiar with. Rogers is the architect who designed the British broadcaster’s London HQ. I’m grateful to the Leaders Digest reader who gave me a tour of the building last week, and for the following piece of information: Rogers includes a hidden phallus in every building he designs. Or so many Channel 4 staffers were led to believe. Turns out it’s just a cock-and-bull story.

  1. Is Force India F1 boss – and Kingfisher kingpin – Vijay Mallya a victim of Britain’s Brexit manoeuvrings?


  1. Haven’t you posted the following link before?

Yup. But Brighton & Hove Albion hadn’t been promoted to the Premier League before. Congratulations to CEO Paul Barber and everyone down on the English Riviera. Have a read of this on Brighton owner Tony ‘the low-key lizard’ Bloom.

  1. I love to look at logos, but I get the feeling that everything is simply a rehashing of something else. AM I CRAZY?

No, you’re not. There are no new ideas.

Hot money

Formula One way, or another, I’m going to find you, I’m going to get you, get you, get you (sponsorship deals)

From the outside at least, Formula One’s new owners and leadership structure are beginning to make some changes. Malaysia is dropping off the race calendar – or series of Super Bowls as it’s now known –  and Turkey could be joining it. CAA has also been contracted as a global sponsor hunter.

Eye on China

Mes que un sponsorship machine

FC Barcelona continue their top work in China with another sponsorship deal, or, more pertinently, a ‘strategic cooperation agreement’. No doubt Barca and Shimao will be cooperating strategically until the end of this deal in 2019. Oh, and the Chinese property development company has been given Lionel Messi’s number 10 jersey.

The fun is over

The deal that kept on giving – the ‘is it, isn’t it’ saga over Silvio Berlusconi’s sale of AC Milan to Chinese investor Li Yonghong – is finally over. Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux is the new ownership structure behind the Italian giant, and a new stadium and stock market listing could be on the way.

Time for a tie-up

CAA and CMC: a match made in business interest and acronym heaven.

Remember the $1 billion Wanda acquisition of Dick Clark Productions?

Confirmed: torpedoed by Beijing.

And the Saints deal looks to have gone that way too.

Yes it does. Lander Sports has scrapped plans to buy Premier League side Southampton. And I appear to be having a dialogue with myself in this section.

So you do.

eSports corner

Subcontinental shift

India, the next eFrontier.

On the programme

eSports is set to become an official medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, so it’s surely just a hop, skip and a mouse click away from Olympic inclusion.

Stateside view

The most popular stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week include:

Longer read

Ice Cube’s top hire; start-up sociopaths; the latest industry buzzword; Fifa’s happy hunting ground; the eSports Darren Rovell unearthed; Maria Sharapova and more.

Good morning good people, and welcome to another edition of the Leaders Digest, cutting your working week in twain, and filling the gap with insight. Wake up on Wednesdays, open your eyes with the Leaders Digest.

5 questions, answered

  1. How many of you have had your latest job move announced by a hip hop legend?

Not many of you I’d wager. Unless you’re Amy Trask.

  1. Do you have to be an asshole to found a brilliant start-up?

No. But I guess, weirdly, it helps.

  1. Why don’t I plug the Leaders Podcast more?

Good question. It’s really quite good. The latest episode is Leaders CEO Jimmy Worrall’s co-hosting debut, and features AEG, Wimbledon, Everton, Sina Sports, Uefa, the Eredivisie, Arsenal and ITV. There’s also beer. Subscribe on iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, or pretty much whatever platform you want.

  1. I’m not sure whether these new OTT players in sport can really challenge the established broadcast model; is there a country I should look at to challenge my assumption?

Yes. Look to Germany.

  1. What could Amazon learn about advertising through their one-season NFL rights deal?

A whole heap, that’s what; especially as the deal entitles the retail giant to sell two minutes per hour of advertising during its games.

Hot Money

A volumetric tonne of good stuff

360-degree replays; pretty cool, and coming to an NFL stadium near you after the latest deal between the league and Intel. And a new buzzword to watch for over the next couple of years: volumetric.

Hitting the GlideSlopes

The CSM agency continues to bolster its US presence, this time through the acquisition of Olympic sponsorship specialist agency GlideSlope.

Eye on China

Fifa, fo, fum

China is proving a happy hunting ground for Fifa, with the news this week that consumer electronics firm Hisense has signed on as a sponsor for an unusually short 18-month term. Good news amid the gloom of Fifa’s financial figures. And with the USA, Canada and Mexico launching a joint bid for the 2026 Fifa World Cup, China is set to join the manoeuvrings soon too.


Bayern Munich have a China master plan, and it includes a new academy. You can’t have serious China ambitions without serious ambitions for a China academy.

eSports Corner

The eSports Darren Rovell?

Manny Anekal is quickly becoming the Leaders Digest’s go-to eSports source. He gives good infographic, and perfectly serviceable written ratings piece too.

It’s in the game

Super data from SuperData on the real pot of gold at the end of the eSports rainbow – turns out it’s all for the game producers.

Stateside view

A round-up of the most-read stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week:

Air time

This weekend just gone was pretty much full-bore in my sweetspot for busiest and best sporting weekend of the year. Wonderful to see a female trainer and female owners win the Grand National in England, less wonderful to see Britain cave in to France in the Davis Cup; then we had the Shanghai Grand Prix, the Paris-Roubaix cycling race, and the azalea on top it all that was the Masters. Turns out it was also a sweetspot weekend for the private aviation industry. This is an article you should read for the ‘The Masters is Coachella for CEOs’ line alone.


Sport Industry Contrarian Richard Gillis is developing a trademark line in the debunking of industry trends. Who can forget his skewering of the ‘thought leadership’ piece from a month or so ago? He’s at it again with ‘fan engagement’ and passion this month.

Maria. You’ve got to see her

Everyone and his dog seemed to have an opinion on Maria Sharapova’s handling of her doping case – or at least the PR moves that got her out on top of the story. Ahead of her comeback following a ban, will those moves have helped her credibility remain intact? As per normal, the proof will be in the pudding, and the pudding has already been served (and it’s chocolatey and rich).

Longer read

5th April, 2017

Amazoning in; Aarhus, in the middle of our street; the business of bidding; the Bundesliga’s China gains; and something of an eSports special.

Welcome, sport, to another edition of the Leaders Digest, curating news and views from across the industry and overlaying a sheen of lightweight commentary.

5 questions, answered

  1. Is there any business like Olympic bid presentation business?

Maybe. But it’s still an idiosyncratic bit of sports industry glitz.

  1. What goes on at the Leaders Retreat in Lisbon?

What goes on at the Leaders Retreat in Lisbon stays at the Leaders Retreat in Lisbon.*

  1. Why do some sports politicians get a bad rep?

Who knows? And it’s probably a longer answer than will fit here. Still, at least there’s some self-awareness among them. Overheard at the SportAccord Convention: one federation bigwig’s mobile phone ringtone – the Godfather theme.

  1. Why is Facebook responsible for where VR goes next?

Because it says so here, and I’d class it as ‘authoritative’.

  1. I’ve booked a month-long holiday in Russia next summer; where can I watch the World Cup?

As things stand, not on TV, as Russian broadcasters refuse to play ball with Fifa’s money men. 


Hot Money 

Ama-Red Zone

Just when you thought the NFL’s Thursday Night Football experiment hadn’t necessarily worked out, the package of rights lures Amazon into sport for the first time. If the reports are to be believed, the e-commerce giant will pay $50 million for ten games next season, five times more than Twitter paid.

Taking care of bid-niz

It was supposed to be tanks on the lawn time for Paris and LA here at the SportAccord Convention in Aarhus as the fight to win the right to host the 2024 Olympics enters its final stages. But things haven’t quite panned out that way. With speculation and political manoeuvrings both suggesting a double 2024/2028 award is in the offing, the sting has been taken out of this bidding campaign somewhat. Or, depending on who you talk to, perhaps a fire has been lit underneath it? Things are far from settled, and not everyone in the Paris-LA-IOC triumvirate is ready to strike a deal. As things stand, the 2028 Games feel like a consolation prize for the ‘loser’, a position that neither Paris nor LA would be happy to take. Discussions will continue here, and there may well be a resolution by July. Either way, it’s a PR pickle for the IOC, which must surely see that Olympic bid campaigns are its best foot forward in terms of global marketing for the Olympic movement. And all the talk is of 2024/2028, and not necessarily what an Olympics would look like in either city. On that note, here’s Janet Evans, Vice Chair of the LA bid, talking me through their campaign. Janet’s fantastic, but it’s my most Alan Partridge intro to a podcast yet. My apologies/you’re welcome.

Putting the Games on ice

It’s official, the NHL will not release players for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Thomas Bach might not have been in the loop earlier this week in Aarhus, but I’m fairly sure NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman all but confirmed this at the Leaders Sport Business Summit in New York last month. With the NHL’s business focus now square on China, expect discussions around participation in Beijing 2022 to take a different course.


Eye on China

Bundesliga breakthrough

An interesting stream on the Bundesliga’s new $50m-a-year rights deal with Suning in China. A breakthrough agreement.


eSports Corner

A marriage of convenience?

Imagine an infographic which showed the continent of Europe and highlighted all the top-level soccer clubs with eSports teams. Now, let your imagination become reality.


The NBA’s new eSports league is set to start in January next year. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment will enter a team, which isn’t really news. What is is the fact that the buy-in for the league has been set at $250,000.

Stateside view

A round-up of the most-read stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week:

Longer read

– This, on brands in eSports, could have gone in eSports corner, but, well, it’s a long read.


*Or you could just scroll to the bottom of this email and read about it here: basically, nothing as debauched as that hackneyed old sentence construction implies. Instead, it’s a relaxed gathering of sports industry peers – heavy on the rights holder, brand and broadcaster side – a few drinks, some good food, plenty of sunshine, and some good old fashioned networking, knowledge-sharing and intel gathering away from an office environment.

29 March, 2017

Ted Leonsis’s wallet; Vegas rolls the dice on major league sport; are you that guy in Uruguay? China’s most valuable brands; Starcraft, and Shaq.

Welcome, ladies and gentleman of the global game we call sports business, to another Leaders Digest, your forward-on or print-out and keep guide to the ups, the downs, and the keep-on keeping-ons across the international sports industry.

4 questions, answered

  1. How many people is too many people on a conference call?

I know the USA Hockey boycott situation is, in sporting terms at least, fairly serious, but 70 people on a conference call? Come off it.

  1. Is Twitter really serious about sport?


  1. Just where exactly is the Leaders head office?

It’s in Wimbledon, thanks for asking, just a stone’s throw away from the world-famous home of the Wimbledon tennis championships, and the historic Wimbledon Stadium, the last remaining greyhound racing venue in Londo…. Oh.

  1. How many ‘sports websites’ would you include on a jazzy infographic of the ‘100 websites that rule the internet’?

Just the two.

Weather report

Snow update: there was none last week in New York, but with sub-zero temperatures outside, it was good job we had some red-hot content on stage at the TimesCenter to warm the cockles of the 700 delegates who came along to the Leaders Sport Business Summit. It was a pleasure to catch up with many of you – inside and outside the venue – and if you want to catch up on what went down, may I recommend the following:

A personal highlight was Ted Leonsis’s turn on stage. A man with many fingers in many pies, he proved himself as adept a raconteur as he is an entrepreneur. And he has the businessman’s gift of turning any situation to his advantage. When he came back to the speaker room after his session to find he’d left his wallet there for the last hour, he was happy to proclaim that his fellow speakers and the Leaders team had passed his gold standard ‘integrity test’. And lastly on last week’s summit, if you were there, you’ll know the Leaders bandwagon is rolling on, eastwards to China for a 21st July date at Sina’s brand spanking new facility in Beijing. Join us.

Hot Money

Raiders of the lost ark

The NFL ratified the Oakland Raiders’ proposed relocation to Las Vegas this week. As Vegas rolls the dice with $750 million in taxpayer dollars, Steve Hill, chairman of the Las Vegas Stadium Authority, revealed his punting strategy to Mike Long. And here’s an archive piece from Scott Soshnick on the city’s struggles to attract a major league team back in 2005.

You’re a guy in Uruguay

Do you have a sovereign wealth fund and ownership positions at top-level soccer clubs in Manchester, Melbourne, New York and Yokohama? You’ll probably be wanting to set your sights on a second-tier side from Montevideo next.

Eye on China

Get your skates on

Next to make the move Chinawards: the NHL.

China’s most valuable brands

If you’ve got even a passing interest in China, economics, sport, the media, and the intersection between them all, it goes without saying that you should follow Professor Simon Chadwick on Twitter. You probably already are. He’s sitting square on that nexus.

No sex please; we’re the Chinese video games industry

Warning: Financial Times link ahead. The Chinese video games industry, a $24 billion beast and growing, is a tasty looking pie to take a slice out of. But rigorous censorship regulations – including bans on assassins, blood and short skirts – mean publishers are having to find ingenious ways to break into the country.

eSports Corner

The achieve of; the mastery of the thing

If you’re a fully paid up eSports expert, as many of us presumably are now, then you’ll be aware that Starcraft was pretty much the game that launched an industry. Well, it’s back – if it ever went away – and remastered for a new generation of gamers.

Sal it ain’t so

Not everyone is feeding their dollars into the hype machine. Sports investment bigwig Sal Galatioto is not a fan of eSports.

Stateside view

This week’s most popular stories on SportsBusiness Daily include:

  • All aboard the digital media rights train; next stop: Major League deal.
  • On a recent trip to LA, I sat down for a soon-to-be-released podcast with Oak View Group Founder Tim Leiweke. He told me his business had just signed a breakthrough sponsorship deal for 21 of the big league arenas it represents. He didn’t quite go as far as telling me it was worth $40 million, but he did tell me it was with Wal-Mart. Naturally, I sat on that information and did nothing with it. Almost a month later, it’s breaking news. You know what they say about that journalistic instinct, you never lose it. Hmmm.
  • It wasn’t too long ago that the sports media buzz-acronym du jour was RSN. It’s all about OTT now, of course, but spare a thought for NBC’s RSNs in California, which are about to undergo an identity transition.

Sneakerhead space

Puma has long forged innovative partnerships with ‘notables’ in the celebrity and fashion space to move the needle on its street cred, but it looks like a fresh batch of hook-ups, with the likes of Rihanna and Big Sean, have garnered a fresh batch of cool points.

Longer read

  • Another sneaky nod towards a longer listen in the longer reads section, and this time to the Art of Charm podcast. It’s been going a long time, it seems, but I’ve only just discovered it. The recent Shaquille O’Neal episode is ace. Shaq talks law enforcement (he’s a trained detective and is planning to run for Sheriff in Florida or Georgia in 2020) and why he owns 1,000 pairs of Toms shoes.

8th March, 2017

Liberty Media’s popcorn fart; Formula One’s financial future; disruptors show their hand in Champions League bidding; eSports corner expands; UFC puts down roots.

Good day one and all, and welcome to another edition of the Leaders Digest, your consumable companion to what’s red hot, what’s white hot, and what’s molten magma across the global business of sport.

3 questions, answered

Still got time to make an Oscars joke?

No. Instead, do spend ten minutes watching this excellent short produced by Moonlight writer/director Barry Jenkins on the originator of the high five.

Are any of new Liverpool CEO Peter Moore’s outstanding Leaders keynotes available on audio?

They sure are. Well, the latest one – on EA’s evolving ‘competitive gaming’ offering – sure is.

What in the world is a ‘popcorn fart’?

Well, it’s slang, apparently, meaning something that’s hardly worth the effort. And it’s the expression of choice for Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei when trying to describe NBC’s Formula One rights fee.

Hot money

A new formula

The old Formula One business model is under strain. Fortunately, as we all know, it’s got new ownership and a new management team to guide it into the future. And the FT has produced a remarkably good picture of exactly where things stand as the Liberty Media/Chase Carey era begins.

Thong song

Good news for the beleaguered organisers of the Rio 2016 Olympics: consider the Olympic retail licensing record smashed. $321 million in retail sales is double the previous record of $163 million set by Beijing 2008. Turns out having an iconic national product – in this case Havaianas flip-flops – really helps out.


Turner President David Levy will indeed have something to get his teeth into at the Leaders Sport Business Summit in New York on 21 and 22 March after his organisation beat out US incumbent Fox, and sneaky effort from BAMTech, for the next batch of Uefa Champions League rights. In the UK, BT retained its prized asset with a 32% rights fee uplift to £1.18 billion and link-up with YouTube in the offing. In Japan, Peform’s DAZN platform saw off a bid from Amazon – now up-and-running as a bona fide disruptor in the sports rights space.

Seat of power

The second largest secondary ticketing marketplace is up for sale. Buy now. Or wait for someone else to buy it, realise they can’t make it, and put it out on the secondary market for re-sale.

Eye on China

China Sports Media (CSM) is picking up the slack for the AFC after it withdrew a major broadcast rights package from LeSports last week.

eSports corner

Tweet storm

ESL, the world’s largest eSports company, is on the hunt for broadcast and distribution platforms beyond eSports hothouse Twitch. And it’s found one in Twitter, which, in one fell swoop, has brought in 1,500 hours of live content, and opened it up to people who aren’t logged on to the platform.

Get onboard

There’s one heck of a lot of FOMO going on right now in the eSports space.

Stateside view

A round-up of the most-read stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week:

Out of the frying pan

A glimmer of light in the gloom surrounding British Cycling at the moment. The organisation has moved to appoint the estimable Julie Harrington, currently Group Operations Director at the FA and responsible for running both Wembley Stadium and St George’s Park

Tap in

The UFC has a new home. And it’s in Vegas. The organisation has signed an anchor tenancy agreement with the new AEG/MGM-owned T-Mobile Arena.

Sleeve it out

The Premier League has authorised sponsorship patches on shirt sleeves from the start of next season. Will we see all 20 clubs take up the option? Octagon’s Joel Seymour-Hyde thinks not.

Longer reads

  • In a league chock full of tech-savvy young business brains, Andre Iguadola is going some by positioning himself as the NBA’s ambassador to Silicon Valley.
  • Another plug of Lance Armstrong’s first-rate Forward Podcast. This week, the ignominious Armstrong talks to Jesse Itzler, a part-owner of the Atlanta Hawks, serial entrepreneur, former rapper, and glutton for punishment. Among many conversational gems, the pair discuss one of Itzler’s failed businesses – Sheet. Remember those ‘Take a Sheet’ ads with LeBron James? Yep, that Sheet.

2 March, 2017

Peter Moore onboard at Liverpool; Turner’s Champions League splash; David Stern puts his hand in his pocket; in-house club OTT channels as progress, not revolution; the Chinese investment slowdown; and lowering the tone with the Bodleian Libraries.

Welcome, businesspeople, to another edition of the Leaders Digest, analysing the goings-on across global sport, transferring them to words, then emailing them to you.

5 questions, answered

  1. Is this the first Premier League CEO announcement to run in PC Gamer?

It’s difficult to tell whether Peter Moore’s move from EA to Liverpool FC made more waves in eSports or football. Either way, godspeed, Peter – and welcome home!

  1. What’s the magic number?

It’s 40, isn’t it? As in, SBJ’s latest 40 Under 40. Or the Leaders Under 40. Quit your vacillating, stop your procrastinating, click on this link and get down to some nominating. Who knows, you could end up nominated for the Uefa ExCo like one of last year’s winners, Elkhan Mammadov.

  1. Is ‘dope’ an appropriate word to describe the speaker line-up at the Leaders Sport Business Summit, New York?

Yes and no. The line-up is straight out of the sports industry Debrett’s. Take a look. Latest confirmed speaker: IAAF President Sebastian Coe, who’ll deliver a timely talk on integrity, organisational change, and yes, combatting doping.

  1. Which former senior sportswear exec is a three-time flying disc distance world champion?

It’s former Puma Global Sports Marketing GM Christian Voigt, of course, but you knew that. I’d wager he’s now the only flying disc distance champion (discman?) currently employed by the IOC, having joined the organisation today to work under Timo Lumme at IOC Television & Marketing Services.

  1. Are there lessons to draw for the sports industry from the 2017 Oscars?

Don’t be blinded by the envelope imbroglio. Lessons abound.

Hot money

Rights Levy

Turner, so it would seem, have gone big for the Uefa Champions League. If the reports are accurate, Fox will have been dislodged after nine-year stint as the US broadcaster of the Champions League. If the reports are accurate, it’s a bold move from Turner, and one that should see its President David Levy with plenty to talk about in New York next month.


Michael Broughton is blaming himself again. Cheer up Michael. You’ve written a good piece on Bayern Munich’s new OTT product. In short, it’s not revolutionary; it’s certainly not disruption, but it’s progress.

When hot money turns cold

Why did a fig bar company think a $45 million Nascar sponsorship was a good idea? A good question, and a cautionary tale. Measurement processes before, during and after any sponsorship deal have never been more important.

Stern look

David Stern was never anything other than a shrewd operator in his many, distinguished years as NBA Commissioner. His footsteps are usually a safe bet to follow in. So the news that he’s invested $2.5 million of his own money in Vine-style smartphone app Overtime is worth paying attention to.

Eye on China

Money wall

Chinese registered companies spent $220 billion on foreign acquisitions in 2016 – double the amount that left China the previous year. But, if Wanda’s struggles to move money out of the country for its $1 billion acquisition of Dick Clark Productions are any indication, the Chinese government has now jumped on board the money train and has yanked on the emergency stop cable. The Chinese investment slowdown has begun.

Digests are like London buses

You wait for years for a digest to come along and serve up sports industry news and views for you and then two come along more or less at once. The chaps over at SportBusiness have started a weekly China Digest. Top bits this week include Yao Ming’s appointment as a reformist chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association, Li Na’s new collection for Nike, Anta’s big boost in profit figures and joint venture with the unfortunately named Korean outdoor brand Kolon Sports. Don’t know why they didn’t call it Chinese Takeaways though.

LeSticky Situation

Key figures – including COO Yu Hang and VP Zhang Zhiyong – are leaving LeSports, and rights deals – including contracts with the AFC – are being terminated early. Has LeBubble burst?

Stateside view

A round-up of the most-read stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week:

eSports corner

Broadcast forecast

eSports corner returns with a couple of nuggets of news from sport’s buzziest enclave. Firstly, BT Sport will broadcast Fifa 17 tournaments this year; secondly Turner and IMG’s ELeague will include a Street Fighter tournament this year, a move that may well bring a few of the ‘older’ generation into the eSports fold.

Longer read

Lowering the tone

Attention anyone with anything to do with communication via digital channels: turns out using an authentic human voice is crucial. Here are some fantastic lessons on lowering the tone without dumbing down from the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries.

Campbell Claret

Alastair Campbell has a formula for winning and that formula is an acronym: OST. Here’s another one: GGOOB. Find out what he’s on about – and delve into the warped world of political leadership and what it means in 2017 – here.

22nd February, 2017

BAMTech’s Amazon raid; ranking rainmakers in soccer; Branson and Virgin jump on the OTT train; Emilio Collins and Tim Brosnan make their moves; liberal politics in sports writing and the crisis of declining attention spans in…. I’ve lost my train of thought.

Welcome, sports industrialists, to the Leaders Digest, your print-out and keep guide to what’s going on across the global sports businesphere.

5 questions, answered

Who is Michael Paull?

He’s only the new CEO of BAMTech, that’s who. Having done the digital rounds at Time Warner, Fox, Sony Music and Sony Entertainment, Paull joined Amazon in 2012, building out its OTT Amazon Prime offering. There’s been a lot of speculation about Amazon’s plans in sport this year. Whatever they are, Paull will now not be part of them. As a side note, the board he’s reporting in to at BAMTech has got to be the heftiest in the sports industry: Rob Manfred, Bob Bowman, Larry Baer, David Glass, Gary Bettman, Kevin Mayer, and John Skipper.

Events. Are they more trouble than they’re worth?

If you’re one of the many Ukrainian Eurovision song contest organisers who’s just quit, you’d have to say yes. If, however, you’re one of the crack team putting together the most international sports business summit in New York next month, then the answer, I can assure you, is a big fat no. See why here.

How will Nascar address the slump?

In truth, they already have with a set of comprehensive new format tweaks. But this, which details the extent of the series’ decline ahead of another new season, makes grim reading.

Who’s the wettest rainmaker in soccer?

Executive comings and goings in the Premier League have forced me to ponder that (awkwardly phrased) question. Manchester United have appointed former Yahoo and Sony exec Phil Lynch as CEO of Media. He’ll have some serious rainmaking to do to get close to Christian Purslow, who this week announced his departure from the role of MD at Chelsea. In just three years at the club, Purslow racked up reported sponsorship revenues of at least £800 million through landmark deals with Nike, Carabao and Yokohama.

Is news more dramatic than sport?

It just well might be at the moment. That’s what we’re telling ourselves at least.

Hot money

Virgin territory

All aboard the bitesize content bandwagon; latest passenger: Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Group, which has made a strategic investment in digital media production and distribution platform Sportsrocket. “I like kitesurfing,” Branson said by way of justifying the investment, no doubt envisioning sharing more great user-generated kite-surfing content on Sportsrocket in the future.

Crossing the Rubicon

Philadelphia-based VC firm SeventySix Capital has made an undisclosed investment in start-up representation agency Rubicon Talent. The firm has previously made plays in the health and wellness space.

Where have all the sponsors gone?

Andrew Georgiou is an agency head with significant gravitas. His is a voice to be heard. And at present, he’s saying Fifa has a sponsorship issue on its hands.

Eye on China


The French Football Federation have joined the party and opened a new office in China.

Stateside view

A round-up of the most-read stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week:

Budapest removal

With Budapest heading towards the exit in the race to host the 2024 Olympic Games, the narrative that sees a joint award – of the 2024 and 2028 Games – to Paris and Los Angeles is gathering pace. Not so fast, narrative. Even if IOC President Thomas Bach does want to do it, he’s got a heck of a lot of political ground to make up.

Ironing out the kinks

NBA trade deals are ferociously complex things. Fortunately, Sports Illustrated has got right inside one of the little devils to smooth out the kinks for us dullards.

Dear Sport, here’s what you need to learn from us, love Amazon

Is it time for sports businesses to stop thinking of themselves as sport businesses, but data or technology or lifestyle businesses instead? It needs a bold vision, argues Ben Wells, and it needs balls. But if sport is to heed any lessons from Amazon’s success, then it has to happen.

Longer reads

  • ‘Today, sports writing is basically a liberal profession, practiced by liberals who enforce an unapologetically liberal code,’ writes Bryan Curtis in The Ringer. ‘He’s right,’ responds self-styled ‘conservative who does a lot of sports writing’ Michael Brendan Dougherty in this excellent piece which mentions fake news a grand total of zero times.
  • This, on the unfolding crisis of attention spans in sport, is excellent. At least the first couple of paragraphs I stuck with were. (it’s actually not that long)

15th February, 2017

A new metric for the OTT age; NBA gets busy (and rich); a shake-up at the Dodgers; why we should vote ‘no’ to having more referenda; gambling; fashion; death by thought leadership; and the sports industry handshake explained.

Good morning sports industry and associated industries, and welcome to another edition of the Leaders Digest, the sports business guide that grabs your hand and jerks it around like a madman.

3 questions, answered

  1. If I told you this was the world-record 29th edition of the Leaders Digest, would you be more interested in it?

Yes, you probably would. We’re still all suckers for a world record. And Super Bowl advertisers know it.

  1. When will we see modern metrics that take digital viewership into account used in broadcaster-advertiser negotiations?

NBCU’s Total Audience Delivery measurement suggests the time is very much now.

  1. Does the Olympic Movement have a problem with referenda?

To be honest, I think we all do. The latest Olympic vote of no confidence has come from Graubuenden in Switzerland. If you’re going to put Olympic hosting to a public vote, the framing for the referendum has to be spot on. Why not focus directly on the vast infrastructural upgrades you’ll be making and position the Games as the cherry-on-top celebration of those?

Hot Money

Artful Dodgers

It seems like only yesterday that Peter Guber, Magic Johnson et al were buying the LA Dodgers from Frank McCourt for $2.15 billion. Now, it seems, they want some money back out, and they’ve retained Galatioto Sports Partners to help them get it.

Silva lining

Bored at work? Pass the time by playing a little game I like to play called ‘follow the money’. I’ve been doing it recently with the $1 billion that Baofeng and Everbright paid last year for a majority stake in the MP & Silva agency. A little lump of that money has ended up in West Yorkshire with Andrea Radrizzani’s investment in Leeds United, and, just this week, an even littler lump washed up in Miami as Riccardo Silva made his first steps into the local real estate market.

Nuthin but a G League

Bit of a basketball money round-up: the Nets have set a new high water mark for NBA jersey sponsorship, selling an $8m-a-year patch to Koch Industries’ Infor software company; defending champions the Cavs are close to a deal with Goodyear, and the NBA has proved its commercial chops (again) by selling naming rights, of a kind, to its development league to Gatorade. Say hello to the G-League. On that note, I noticed a lot of US mainstream, straight news outlets reported this news with a line to the effect of, ‘yes, this is for real’. Is that good journalistic practice? Oh, and the league is also launching its own eSports competition in tandem with video game partner 2K.

On the ball

I’ve used Twitter since 2008 and have written extensively about OTT and the shifting broadcast landscape and have only just noticed the live video box on my Twitter home page. It’s good isn’t it? On that note, interesting tidbits from Twitter’s Q4 results. In more concrete social streaming news, Facebook have done a deal with Univision to stream top-level Mexican soccer this season. Circling back to Twitter, why not come along to the TimesCenter in New York on 21 and 22 March to hear from the man who’s spearheading the platform’s drive to profitability?

Eye on China

What’s the Mandarin for ‘the Serie A club who cried wolf’?

I’ve definitely heard about this AC Milan acquisition being completed before.

Collision course

Is China set for a face-off with Fifa? And perhaps more pertinently, will Fifa simply roll over and take the money.

The magic formula

Sports clubs and movie businesses. That’s the magic formula for Chinese money.

The magic Formula E

CMC, a stakeholder in City Football Group, has completed a multi-million euro investment in electric racing series Formula E.

Stateside view

A round-up of the most-read stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week:

Pressing flesh

There’s a sports industry handshake, isn’t there. The sideways swoop with the right hand from a raised position, clasp, left hand on the shoulder and draw-in for the half-hug. It’s not quite masonic, but it’s definitely a thing. Donald Trump, with all his sports interests, probably knows it. He should probably try to use it, instead of whatever it is he’s currently doing.

Thought bleeder

If I had a pound for every practical guide to thought leadership I’d read that ends in an exhortation to the reader to commit suicide, I’d have a pound.

Come on, vogue

Remarkable stuff from the world of fashion. Why bother watching a second screen when you can wear one?

Longer reads

‘Ave a bang on this

It’s only a matter of time, we’re told, before sports gaming, up-front and open sports gaming, becomes a reality in the US. A word of caution, here, from Football365’s John Nicholson, who sees the pervasive and growing gambling advertising around British football as a dangerous dance with the devil.

Snow joke

I’ve been enjoying skiing from St Moritz of late, and now I’m genuinely looking forward to Pyeongchang 2018. A Games prepared for very much under the radar, did anyone notice them reach $729 million in sponsorship revenue?

8th February, 2017

Streaming pirates; a new way to think about Super Bowl ad spend; hundreds of falcons on a plane; how Snapchat makes money; the business of John Cena and more.

Welcome, ballers, to the Leaders Digest, the sports industry guide that’s so far ahead of the game that it pre-wrote this, the ‘fifth ring’ edition, way back in September*.

4 questions, answered

  1. How many people can I get to watch my shoddy pirate stream of a Premier League game?

139,000, if I’m aiming for the same results as the fan who Periscoped Crystal Palace vs Manchester City recently. Contrary to what this report says, piracy is not a new problem in sport. An adequate clampdown on it may well be.

  1. Is eSports still hot?

Damn straight it is. And we’ll be channelling some of that heat directly into our dedicated eSports afternoon at the TimesCenter, New York in late March. Download the programme here.

  1. But is eSports as hot as the Super Bowl?

Probably not. eSports evangelist Vlad Savov is on fine form on the messy, deeply imperfect, wonderfully human nature of ‘sports in the real world.’

  1. How have paddock insiders responded to Liberty Media’s first moves in F1?

If this cautious welcome for the urbanisation of the sport is anything to go by, they’ve responded well.

Hot Money

Can you smell what Rovell is cooking?

Nothing to do with the Rock, this one, but the man following in his footsteps from the ring to an entertainment business empire: John Cena.

Throw the Perform book out the window

The German TV rights market is an idiosyncratic one. Germany is a populous and prosperous country, but not one that has been inclined to pay for TV content with any great enthusiasm to date. The arrival of Perform’s DAZN platform looks to have shifted the market dynamic.

Here, let me put that money on the fire for you

Super Bowl! Halftime show!! Ads!!! It’s the same script every year – and yes, those ads are phenomenally expensive. Are they worth it? In ROI terms, almost certainly not. But in ‘signalling’ terms, it’s a different story entirely.

Come dine with me

The Madison Square Garden Company brought out the chequebook this week to seal a deal worth $181 million for a 62.5% stake in ‘entertainment dining and nightlife’ firm Tao Group.

Snap, crackle and pop

Notoriously secretive social service Snapchat has a $25 billion valuation and an IPO on the horizon. Here’s how it makes money.

Eye on China

A new cycle

Wang Jianlin mentioned on stage at Davos last month that the top-level cycling race he’s bringing to China is a first for the sport. He’s wrong of course. Who can forget the Tour of Beijing. Slip of the tongue probably. Here’s how the Wanda-UCI deal came to pass.

You’ve lost that loving feeling

Ed Smith on the missing ingredient in China’s march towards global football domination.

Stateside view

A round-up of the most-read stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week:

Trump leads

I was on one of the many marches to protest one of the many, well, shall we call them ‘faux-pas’, committed already by President Donald Trump this weekend. As I walked down Piccadilly in central London, I didn’t expect to bump into erstwhile Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone, but bump into him I did. You may well raise your eyebrows in disbelief and you’d be right to: Ecclestone was on a march of his own – up and down the exclusive Burlington Arcade shopping avenue just off Piccadilly. And it’s not just on the streets where Trump’s executive orders have sparked reaction. The sports world is in flux too.

Put a logo on the big man

Synergy’s Tim Crow on the French Rugby Federation’s decision to embrace le sponsorship on leur jerseys for the first time.

How Falcons get first-class airline treatment

I was suckered in by the headline on this as I was scooting around for pre-Super Bowl content last week. It’s not, after all, about Atlanta. But it’s probably more interesting.


There have been a fair number of Twitter departures – especially in the sports space – over the last few months, so it’s nice to see one of the higher profile ‘Twexiters’ – Lewis Wiltshire – land very much on his feet with a new role at cutting edge digital content shop Seven League. And sticking with the loose theme, why not get in touch with our preferred search firm Nolan Partners to talk about your next move, or hire, today?

Longer read

Books are big business, just not in bricks and mortar shops as in days of yore. Well, not if Waterstone’s chief James Daunt has anything to do with it. An encouraging tale of turnaround in a ‘dying’ retail sector.

*I know you don’t need it, but here’s a primer for the intro


2nd February, 2017

A dark future for sport in pubs; a bad time for a BT scandal; landmark Bundesliga revenues; outlandish Champions League numbers; Japan’s sumo renaissance; Donald Trump’s mess and more.

New Yokozuna Kisenosato Performs Dohyoiri

Welcome, humans, to another edition of the Leaders Digest, cutting through the flesh to get straight to the bone of the sports industry, week-in, week-out.

4 questions, answered

  1. Is there a more impassioned public speaker than Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros?

Arguably not. The driving force behind the Sport Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA) gave it the full tubthumper as he closed SIGA’s first Sport Integrity Forum in London earlier this week, imploring action from all stakeholders across the sporting spectrum. An interesting development in the growing call for good governance across sport, it remains to be seen whether SIGA can gain the sort of foothold from which to affect real change.

  1. Are we entering a dark future for live football in pubs?

Worryingly, we may well be.

  1. Which fictional TV boss does Leaders CEO Jimmy Worrall draw inspiration from?

David Brent. Sort of. Well, Ricky Gervais at least. The creator of the Office expressed his confusion about all things American football a few years ago when he asked on some social media site or another, ‘what’s all this about a Superb Owl?’ Grasping the nettle, Worrall and a few UK sports industry cohorts set up their own version of the Superb Owl – where gridiron meets Great Britain – and the pre-Super Bowl soiree is now in its fourth year. So if you’re in Houston this Friday evening and fancy a pint and some networking – UK-style – get in touch.

  1. Will the IOC really award two Games in one vote come September?

That’s what the rumours are suggesting. And noises from the LA 2024 bid team suggest the American city, at least, would be open to being awarded the 2028 OIympics. But a double award didn’t necessarily turn out that well for Fifa, and internal IOC politics could scupper the idea too. John Coates, an Australian IOC VP and a key ally of president Thomas Bach, is keen on an Australian bid for 2028.

Hot Money

Sticky toffee pudding

The unremitting David Conn has turned his attention to Premier League side Everton, its new part-owner Farhad Moshiri, and his relationship with Uzbek billionaire and Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov. A curious case indeed.


While it’s not likely to be front of mind for the top brass at BT, the uncovering of a $660 million blackhole in the group’s Italian accounts has come at a bad time for Uefa, coming, as it does, in the midst of the UK tender process for the next batch of Champions League rights – rights which BT paid almost £900 million for last time out. Accounting frauds might not be sexy – certainly not as sexy as a Fifa scandal, for example – but the implications could be far-reaching.

Die Bundesliga kommt

The 18 clubs that make up the Bundesliga reached 3 billion euros in revenue for the first time, it was announced last week. The league is on the up and up; hear how they’re doing it from the horse’s mouth in New York this March.

Eye on China

Lander grab

Vague statements abounded this week about Premier League side Southampton and China’s Lander Sports Development Company. An acquisition agreement of sorts, it seems, has been reached.


Champions Leagues rights have, reportedly, been sold to Desports in China for a fee of $400 million, ten times more than the current deal, which surely seems too steep to be accurate.

Stateside view

This week’s most popular stories on SportsBusiness Daily include:

Black ice

Is this the end of the (short) road for the Barclays Center and the New York Islanders?

What a mess

At this stage, I think it’s safe to say we already know enough about Donald Trump’s leadership style to make our own judgements about him. But here’s what his messy desk says about him at a fundamental level. And sticking with Trump, respected Olympic commentator Alan Abrahamson has a message for those fretting about a potential LA 2024: chillax.

Longer reads

  • The near two-decade wait for a Japanese-born sumo wrestler to reach the highest ranks of the sport is over. With his championship win in the first tournament of the year, Kisenosato was elevated to the elite rank of yokozuna. He held up a fish to seal the deal. For a brief spell in 2014, I was the west’s foremost expert on the business of sumo wrestling. This piece, from that glorious spell, should give a good idea of why this is such big news for a sport that is at once one of the most traditional in the world and an outlier in the interconnected, global community that is sport.

25th January 2017

F1’s Supremo bows out; Alibaba ushers in new Olympic era; Wang Jianlin on the mic; LeEco’s new liquidity; binge watching and more.

F1 Grand Prix of Austria - Qualifying

Like a searching blast of ice-cold, recycled airline air, the Leaders Digest is back, neither bigger, nor better than last year, but just right for 2017 and the sports industry year ahead.

5 questions, answered

  1. Nine months out from the IOC vote, who will win the right to host the 2024 Olympic Games?

It’s too close to call, but that’s not going to stop me calling it. It’ll be Paris. Or Los Angeles. (Or Budapest). Nick Butler has a typically measured piece from inside the Olympic corridors of power.

  1. Is there something going on in New York City on 21 and 22 March this year for those of us who like our sports industry summits large but exclusive, globally-focused but locally relevant, and packed to the rafters with ideas, innovations and opportunities?

Silly question.

  1. Golf is booming in China, so have the authorities embraced the game like they’re embracing soccer?

If by embracing you mean closing at least 111 courses in a ‘crackdown’, then sure.

  1. Are we all in the gutter?

Yes, but some of us are eligible for the Leaders Under 40 Awards.

  1. What’s going on with those bamboozling Japanese toilet symbols?

Glad you asked. In one of the more esoteric moves ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, they’re being standardised. Rest easy, weary travellers.

Hot Money


Liberty Media has completed its $8 billion takeover of Formula One, and its first move has been to release 86-year-old Bernie Ecclestone from his CEO duties, replacing him with Chase Carey, the media bigwig who has been acting as chairman of the Formula One Group since the takeover process got underway. There’s something about ‘Charles’ as a middle name that seems to compel people to say the whole name when expressing a mixture of admiration and ruefulness. Long-time collaborators of the Englishman routinely refer to him as ‘Bernard Charles Ecclestone’ in the same way as opponents and acolytes alike will refer to ‘Brian Charles Lara’. But while the cricketer might otherwise be referred to by his surname, Bernie has always been Bernie. Such was the reach of Ecclestone’s tentacles of power that it will take Carey and two sidekicks, former ESPN VP Sean Bratches and former team boss Ross Brawn, to cover the scope of his responsibilities. While Liberty have made a statement of intent acting so ruthlessly so early, there will never be another ‘F1 Supremo’.

Open Sesame

The IOC stole a march on many an international organisation looking to use the Davos World Economic Forum to trumpet something new by pitching up with little notice to announce the largest sponsorship in Olympic history. The Chinese retail group has committed to a contract that will run until 2028 and will become the biggest of the IOC’s TOP partners. Official merchandise sales through an online retail platform, cloud computing technology, invaluable assistance with the nascent Olympic Channel, oh, and a reported rights fee of $800 million – it’s all-in on this one.

Deal breakers

A couple of cases of cold money to alert you to. Firstly, Unicredit is, not unexpectedly, drawing a line under its Uefa Champions League sponsorship. Secondly, AB InBev has ended Budweiser’s 33-year association with the US Olympic Committee. Tony Ponturo, the man that did more than most to build Budweiser’s market position through blanket sports deals, has been an outspoken critic of the new direction.

VC moves

The Boston Celtics ownership group are a speculative bunch. The latest VC moves emanating from Massachusetts indicate that Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousebeck is aiming to raise $175 million of capital for his sports tech-focused Causeway Media Partners fund.

German deals for German wheels

Maybe I’ve been swept up in the jingoistic tide of our times, but it always strikes me as odd when major German sports entities – who share a nation with the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes and VW – strike sponsorship deals with foreign car manufacturers. Anyone else with me?

Eye on China

Sing when you’re winning

The Chinese descended on Switzerland in their numbers this month. From President Xi Jinping and Alibaba’s Jack Ma hobnobbing with Thomas Bach and the IOC, to Wanda boss Wang Jianlin, who outlined, amongst other things, his thoughts on football club ownership (clubs burn money) and an expanded Fifa World Cup (it’s about making money) on stage at the World Economic Forum. But if you’ve only got time for one video today, I’d recommend the next one. I’m indebted to Sportcal’s own karaoke king Martin Ross for pointing out that China’s second-richest man is a sucker for a sing-song.

The taps are on

LeEco, parent company of LeSports, is bathing in a fresh shower of liquidity following a much needed $2.42 billion strategic investment, chiefly from property developer Sunac China Holdings.

Puck job

The NHL is the latest major league to sign a long-term deal with Chinese digital giant Tencent.

Stateside view

This week’s most popular stories on SportsBusiness Daily include:

Tell me alternative truths, tell me sweet little alternative truths

Sport, it seems, is embracing the post-truth era. Hat tip to the Dallas Stars.

Binging on binge-watching

You’d have to be a particularly recalcitrant type of troglodyte not to have noticed, but media consumption habits are changing. It was pithily put in one of the sessions at the excellent Leaders Meet: Innovation event with the NBA at BAFTA this month: viewing habits are moving away from the 30 to 90-minute middle ground, downscaling to seconds-long snippets, and upscaling to binge watching. It’s not just Netflix that’s on to this.

Age of Discovery

Sticking with viewing habits, and Peter Hutton, quite possibly the nicest man in sports TV, is the guest on the latest edition of the Leaders Podcast. The Eurosport CEO talks Discovery, game-changing rights deals, and the shift to OTT.

Round and round

Nothing beats a crash-induced restart a few laps from the end for guaranteeing an exciting finale to a Nascar race, but as Formula One contemplates a new future, Nascar has already arrived there, and the latest bold set of format tweaks should stoke things up this season.

Longer read

  • You might have noticed, you might have not, but the Leaders Digest has been on something of a winter sabbatical. I’ve been in Sri Lanka, with a new wife and a his-n-hers strain of tonsillitis in tow, and the country has catapulted itself straight into the number one spot in my definitive rankings of the world’s best nations. If you’ve not been, you must. And I’d recommend this book, about an alcoholic sports journalist on the trail of a mysterious ambidextrous Sri Lankan cricketer, as a rip-roarer of a read.

22nd December 2016

The Chinese year of the strategic investment; Nike spends big; possibly the most innovative sponsorship of 2016; looking back; looking forward; and cruising with Lindsay Davenport.

Sun Jihai

Good morning one and all and welcome to the Leaders Digest, giving the sports industry the once over before packing its trunk and waving goodbye to the circus (for a couple of weeks).

Eye on China

The Sun shines in

CMC Capital, a significant shareholder in Premier League side Manchester City, is one of the investors in former City player Sun Jihai’s new venture: Haiqiu Technology, a ten-month old content platform for sports personalities. The Chinese Dugout?

Reading between the lines

Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li, the sibling duo who were in the running to buy Premier League side Hull City earlier in the year, are now believed to be close to a takeover at second-tier side Reading.

The perfect ten

Dalian Wanda, Citic Private Equity Funds Management Company, and Alisports are the three Chinese entities among the ten organisations believed to have made bids for Spain’s largest sports broadcast rights group Mediapro.

WME | IMG beefs up China team

Taking on rival mega-agency Wanda on its own turf, WME | IMG has announced a quartet of new hires, among them Bruce Li (not that one).

Hot Money

Three lions on my swoosh

Fresh from a multi-year extension with the French Football Federation, Nike’s top deal-making brass hopped on the Eurostar at Gare du Nord and didn’t get off again until Wembley Park. The FA’s £400 million deal with the sportswear company – an agreement that runs from 2018 to 2030 – is, it’s safe to say, impressive.

Inside Disney land

As the ‘will they, won’t they jettison ESPN’ talk rumbles on, Bloomberg’s analysis into what Disney does next is worth a read.


The Cronulla Sharks were the unfancied winners of this year’s NRL Premiership in Australia. The rugby league side took their first title on the field against the odds, and they may well have repeated the trick off it. The title? Most innovative sports sponsorship of 2016. The club signed a deal with Japanese tea producer Ito En. There’s no branding, no player commitments, only a ‘professional services’ fee for a growth strategy, and assistance in getting their products into places they wouldn’t otherwise have access to, shortening the sales cycle in the process.

Buzz cut

A thoughtful annual end-of-year memo from BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti; the past and the future of news media are tackled with not a cat nor a list in sight. Joe Puglisi, BuzzFeed’s Director of Creative Strategy, will be on hand to fill in the gaps at the Leaders Sport Business Summit in New York in March.

Stateside view

The hottest stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week include:


Sticking with stargazing, Havas Sports & Entertainment have put together their 17 trends for ’17. Spoiler: eSports is definitely at least one of them.


For those of you wetting the bed about cord-cutters, take some solace: sport is still hot on TV.

Time for tech

Hearty congratulations to technologists GameOn, runners-up in the Deltatre-backed Tech Start-Up competition at this year’s Leaders Sport Business Summit in London, for sealing a deal with Sky Sports that, rather ominously, promises to bring something called the ‘Jeff Bot’ to life.

Still time for tech

Get a load of SportTechie’s top 25 SportTechiest teams in sport.


The NBA has a tentative new seven-year CBA in place with its players’ association. Kudos to all parties. In the small print, it seems, a ‘wearables committee’ to manage and regulate the use of biometric data. A prediction of my own for 2017: we will very soon be having very serious discussions about who, precisely, owns athlete data.


Peter Sorckoff is the only Chief Creative Officer in sport (I think). He’s brought about deep-set cultural change at the Atlanta Hawks, and, what’s more, he gives great interview.


A few years ago, I remember being intrigued by an organisation that was planning to put on a sports business conference on a cruise ship. Not so intrigued to look into whether or not it ever happened, mind you. I’m equally intrigued by the prospect of the Women’s Tennis Association’s latest wheeze: the WTA Legends Cruise, taking in Miami, Nassau, CocoCay and Key West with the likes of Lindsay Davenport and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.

Longer reads

14th December 2016

Bob Bowman steps down; the swoosh steps up; Frank McCourt in Marseille; LeSport’s shifting strategy and more.

Leaders Deal

Welcome, working brethren, to another edition of the Leaders Digest, the sports industry forecast that knows the ‘Winterval’ is around the corner, but isn’t entirely sure when.

Hot money

Another string to his Bowman

Bob Bowman has decided to step down from his role running BAMTech, the digital arm of Major League Baseball that has forged a new direction not just for the league, which spun it off as a separate $3.5 billion entity last year, but for the sports industry as a whole. Bowman has been President and CEO of the unit since its creation seven years ago and his departure is more or less akin to Santa stepping down from gift-giving duties. He’ll remain at MLB and on the board of BAMTech, but what he and the digital pioneer do next will be keenly observed.

Le swoosh

I seem to remember there being a good deal of kerfuffle when Nike signed a deal to replace Adidas as the kit manufacturer for the French national soccer team in 2011. The FFR and Nike announced an extension to 2026 this month with minimal fuss. Perhaps national team kit deals have been so eclipsed by their club counterparts’ in monetary terms that industry observers now barely raise an eyebrow.

Sport and music merge, part 378

Manchester United have done a deal with Deezer. So if you want to find out what’s on Paul Pogba’s playlist beyond the latest joint from Stormzy, you can.

Auntie’s favourite

Wimbledon has long been tagged as the one sporting jewel the BBC would fight tooth and nail to keep in a rights environment that sees major events slip away from the British public service broadcaster on an annual basis. And the corporation has put its licence fee where its mouth is, moving early to renew its media rights deal with the grass court major for a further four years. The deal is believed to be worth a 7% bump on the previous agreement, and extends a term that would have expired in 2020.

Discover this

Eurosport signed its first Olympic rights deal with a non-EBU free-to-air broadcaster this week, a landmark to add to the one it chalked up the week before with the announcement that it would be retaining the Olympic rights in Germany, freezing out public broadcasters ARD and ZDF in the process. No wonder Martin Ross has turned his expert eye to what lies ahead for the Discovery-owned broadcaster.

Where’s Frank McCourt?

Well, he’s in Marseille for now, and having a whale of a time, but the former LA Dodgers owner will be in New York come 21 March. Will you?

Stateside view

The hottest stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week include:

Eye on China

Le strategy shift

LeSports has exercised its prerogative to call itself whatever it likes over its whirlwind few years of existence, but the Chinese digital phenomenon is now exercising a new prerogative: it’s shifting strategy after missing payment deadlines.

Guessing game

I Wanda what the new Atletico Madrid stadium will be called. And while we’re at it, why not find out just how easy it is to download the latest Leaders Report on the Chinese sports industry?

 A calculated gamble

Leaders will have boots on the ground at the CES event in Vegas this coming January, searching for innovation and inspiration amid the hype and, hopefully, a fool-proof way of regaining money lost at the craps table. We’re looking to pull together a sports industry gathering while we’re there, so if you’re going, get in touch.

Pocket rocket

The Houston Rockets have followed where a smattering of European soccer clubs have trodden first in appointing a dedicated eSports executive. Sebastian Park has joined the franchise and you’d have to imagine a new or acquired team will be just around the corner.

Seeds of change

David Fowler has gone early on a trends piece, but a very solid job he’s done too. I particularly like the OTT for OTT section.

A note for you, reader

You’re rubbish at giving feedback. You need to learn when and how to give it. I’d suggest you listen to this Leaders Performance Podcast on the topic.

Longer reads

In the lab with pen and a pad

The white-coats at the Nieman Lab have brought out the conical flasks and the Bunsen burners again to bubble up a set of interesting new media theories. Here’s what to look out for in journalism in 2017.


A well-shared piece, at this point, and certainly some interesting points. But comparing football to big tobacco is perhaps the teensiest bit too provocative. But perhaps it wouldn’t have been quite as well shared if the comparison wasn’t there.

7th December 2016

Inside Nascar’s Monster deal; Schleimer given the keys to the safe at the UFC; Bidarian to run Fertitta fund; MLB gets busy; chess rears its head; and yet more Chinese investments.

Monster Energy Nascar

Welcome, citizens of the world, to another edition of the Leaders Digest, talking to people about what’s going on in the sports industry, then reflecting that information in 800 words or so each week.

Hot Money

Look out there’s a Monster coming

Just in the nick of time, Nascar has closed a new title sponsorship deal for its top-tier series. The deal is unquestionably good news for the preeminent stock car racing series, but if ESPN’s Darren Rovell is to be believed, Nascar’s Monster deal is not quite as monster as the deal with Sprint it replaced; two and a half times less monster, in fact. The market has moved. An interesting moment, therefore, for Brett Yormark, the man who put together the $50 million-a-year Sprint deal for Nascar before moving on to the CEO job at the then-New Jersey Nets, to be launching a sideline business with Lonnie Cooper in naming rights sponsorship acquisition.

Nakisa I need you so

Another senior management transfer at the UFC, which continues to undergo a process of executive metamorphosis under new WME | IMG ownership. Andrew Schleimer has been appointed as the new CFO of the organisation. Schleimer, formerly EVP & CFO of Digital Turbine Inc, will replace Nakisa Bidarian in the role. Bidarian, a Leaders Under 40 Class of 2016 alumnus, is joining former UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and will be responsible for building and leading a new direct investment platform for them – rather an exciting prospect given the reported sale price of the UFC is around the $4 billion mark. According to WME | IMG co-CEO Ari Emanuel, no doubt revelling in his new position as the joint-fourth most influential person in sports business this year, Schleimer played a pivotal role in the acquisition deal.

Baseball gets busy

It’s off-season for Major League Baseball, but the executives at MLB headquarters in New York are, it seems, working overtime. The league has announced a spanking new uniform deal with Under Armour, and thrashed out a CBA with minimal fuss. With the bases loaded, here’s the homer: record revenues for 2016. Even more reason for World Series-winning Chicago Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney to come along to Leaders in March in a good mood. Batter up.


Dashing Norwegian chessman Magnus Carlsen, already a familiar face in high-end consumer goods brand campaigns around the world, won the World Chess Championship in ‘thrilling’ fashion last week, prompting a spate of articles about how chess, as a spectator proposition, might be about to rise to prominence once again. I like chess. I like watching chess. And I like reading these pieces when they come around every three years or so.

Stateside view

The hottest stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week include:

Eye on China

The beat goes on

Manchester City, part-owned by the Chinese Media Capital (CMC) consortium, have signed a sponsorship deal with low-end Chinese mobile phone manufacturer Tecno.

The wheels of Wanda

Another busy week for Wanda, and another line-up of executives in front of a huge, colourful corporate backdrop – the norm, it seems, for the announcement of a sport-focused partnership in China. This time the Chinese group, spearheaded by Wang Jianlin, has joined forces with international cycling federation the UCI to grow the sport in the country. The partnership includes the creation of a new top-level cycling event, the Tour of Guangxi.


We’re all acquainted with the Japanese model for continuous improvement (for those at the back, not paying attention, it’s Kaizen), but how about guanxi, the Chinese philosophy that underpins how business is done in the country? (Not to be confused with the Tour of Guangxi).

Seb Coe has a go

Bringing an adult dose of Kaizen to the Olympic politics beat, the ever-excellent Alan Abrahamson has the low-down on a busy few weeks in Olympo-world, including his hot takes on a bold step towards a new, transparent era of governance for the IAAF. And sticking with the world athletics body, its commercial partner Dentsu has dipped into its Japanese market once again to sign a deal with Asics, replacing outgoing sportswear sponsor Adidas and rescuing what could have been a hot potato issue for the IAAF after the ‘have they or haven’t they pulled out’ dance that the world media played in the midst of the athletics doping scandal in January.

Poacher turns gamekeeper

It’s very much a case of new balls please for Steve Wilson, another eminent figure in Olympic journalism, as he swaps the pen for the press release, leaving his position as European Sports Editor for the AP and joining the International Tennis Federation as Director of Communications and International Relations. Best of luck to you, Steve.

Longer reads

30th November 2016

The Premier League unlocks Chinese riches; the UFC wants more; chasing Ari Emanuel; outlandish Maputo construction projects; klaxons of doom, quivers of anticipation, and Dugout dreams of domination.

Premier League camera

Good morning one and all and welcome to the comeback edition of the Leaders Digest, relaxed, refreshed and ready to go again. Thank you to all who got in touch in my brief leave of absence. I hope I’ve managed to reply to you all, but if I haven’t, I will, and that’s a solemn vow.

Hot Money

Yuan some more?

The Premier League has only gone and struck the richest international media rights deal in its history, signing a three-year deal worth $700 million with PPTV in China. The deal runs from the 2019-20 season and sees the Suning Holdings-owned entity take over from incumbent rights holder Super Sport Media Group. PPTV is one of a raft of digital broadcasters transforming the media rights and consumption landscapes in China. The Leaders Report on the Chinese sports industry reads the topography of those landscapes and has the skinny on the other emergent players in the market. Released in the hours before the Premier League’s announcement, it was produced in a state of blissful ignorance concerning this latest mega-deal. Nonetheless, it’s a good read.

Tap out

The UFC wants to make $450 million a year in media rights money. Wouldn’t we all? Well, probably not the Premier League. The thing is, with a brand new ownership structure behind it, and a much more consolidated MMA market than when it last went rights fee hunting and hooked Fox Sports into a $1 billion ten-year deal, it may well get near that ambition.

Chasing Ari Emanuel

Sticking with the new ownership structure behind the UFC and Fast Company have put together a forensically researched piece on WME | IMG co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell. It was published this month and when I was out in New York meeting WME-ers in May the Fast Company research was well underway. Here’s a complementary piece – a bit of journalistic shoulder programming, if you will – on what it’s like to chase after Ari Emanuel.

Tudo Bem

A potted edition of the Leaders Digest today as sports industry tittle tattle doesn’t filter through to Mozambique, where I’ve been for the last two weeks, quite as easily as you might imagine. The east African country is beautiful, wild and troubled, and I’d thoroughly recommend a visit – if only to check out the Maputo hotel that Eusebio – the greatest footballer to come from the country – spent many an evening carousing in. If you need directions, it’s just around the corner from the recently-completed gigantic headquarters of the Mozambique Olympic Committee.

Noto Bene

Life has progressed, in my absence, at breakneck pace here at Leaders HQ in south west London. We have a new coffee machine – Nespresso, if you must know – and a bulging line-up of speakers for the Leaders Sport Business Summit in New York in March. There’s a speaker announcement going out later today, but for a sneak preview click on through to this here link. Here, in precisely 140 characters, is just how excited I am at the prospect of a keynote session from Twitter COO Anthony Noto. V v excited.

Dig it out

Cruising through Twitter on my return to the UK this week, I couldn’t help but notice the co-ordinated launch of Dugout – the behind-the-scenes social content company that has foundation deals with a collection of the biggest clubs on the planet. I couldn’t move for videos of Angel di Maria thwacking a ball as hard as he could or Alexis Sanchez insouciantly controlling a high ball. The most sophisticated clubs have long since twigged that they are media and content production entities as well as sports teams, but this is an intriguing attempt to take control of the distribution platform too. An attempt to replicate the success of Facebook or to to replace it? Elsewhere in digital content provision, the Omnigon app factory keeps churning out the goods, this time rolling out a smart new suite of apps for world swimming body FINA.

Out with the old, in with the new?

Compare and contrast: another klaxon of doom for the traditional sports broadcast model sounded by a Bloomberg interpretation of declining viewing figures; versus another quiver of anticipation for the new-look model Amazon may well be ushering in. As my go-to LinkedIn content provider Michael Broughton put it recently, Beware – the Netflix of Sport.

Longer read

  • This, by Richard Gillis, is arguably not that long. But it’s about the good old piston-thrusting days of Formula One and it’s appropriate in a week when Nico Rosberg’s title win means that Sir Stirling Moss is now once again the most successful Formula One driver never to win a championship.

10 November, 2016

The Netflix of Leaders Digests; the Wanda of Wang Jianlin; $1 billion in VC money for sports start-ups; wearables worn out and losing your mind with Outbrain.

Wang Jianlin

Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the sports industry and its connected sectors, and welcome to a frosty cool November edition of the Leaders Digest, blowing over the latest news, views and industry moves from across the world of sport like an icy northern wind of knowledge.

Hot Money

There’s no business like show business

There’s no hotter money than Wang Jianlin money. The richest man in China is driven, it seems, to make even more of the stuff. In this great get by the Hollywood Reporter, the Dalian Wanda boss reveals his strategy for acquiring one of the big Hollywood production houses. Hint: he’s just going to buy stock in all of them.

Jobs for the boys

Oiling the wheels of the sports industry carousel, Wang Jianlin himself has been signing some senior executive contracts of late, bringing in BP exec Hengming Yang to be the new CEO of Wanda Sports. Philippe Blatter has occupied the role to this point, but the Swiss will be ‘moving upstairs’ to the vice-chairmanship and retaining his position as CEO of Infront. Over at WME | IMG,  co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell have been scratching their itchy promotion fingers too. They’ve elevated New York-based Mark Shapiro and London-based Ioris Francini to newly created co-President roles. Meanwhile, Michael Bollingbroke has resigned from the CEO position at Serie A side Inter, with Jun Liu, a VP of Suning, the Chinese group that owns the club, taking over on interim basis. UK Sport comms man Paul Cox is taking on a big role at West Ham, while Craig Oliver, who oversaw the losing Remain campaign in the UK’s Brexit farrago, has joined comms agency Teneo, currently contracted by Fifa. Need a job/a new senior exec? Try Nolan Partners.

Make money money, go shopping

Over $1 billion in VC money was ploughed into sports industry start-ups across 2015. The space between sports, tech and media truly is the Bermuda Triangle for funding being sunk into the sports industry of late. Here’s a nice summary of some of the VC firms to look out for, and what they’re looking for.

Intel makes another acquisition

Go ahead and add Intel to that list. The tech giant is building a tidy little portfolio of its own in the opportunity area marked ‘digitisation of sport’.


Stateside view

The hottest stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week include:

The Netflix of Digests

With a host of broadcast giants lining up to declare themselves the ‘Netflix of sport’, a compression clothing company now calling itself the ‘Netflix of sportswear’, I’d like to announce that this very email is the first, all-new Netflix of Digests.

The Netflix of Podcasts

Oh – and the Leaders Podcast is the new Netflix of Podcasts. Listen to the latest one – with SBJ Executive Editor Abe Madkour on the NFL’s ratings ‘slump’ and KPMG Global Head of Sport Andrea Sartori on football finance – at your leisure.

The Netflix of Sports Industry Publishers

I don’t know if SportBusiness is the new Netflix of Sports Industry Publishers, but they’d be well advised to steer their strategic surfboard straight into that swelling zeitgeist asap. Here’s a nice bit of on-demand content I’ve demanded which says that the NBA will generate just under $2.9 billion in media rights fees this year, and another on basketball’s $1 billion-plus sponsorship market.


Omnigon has big old digital toolbox and they’ve just crafted another big old shelf of tools for it: ProSuite, an integrated set of fan engagement tools that the PGA Tour and the ATP have already hired for their very own toolsheds.

Wearables: worn out?

Here’s why you might not be getting a Fitbit this Christmas.

Longer read

– One for the content production family: why Outbrain is, as they say, mental.

3rd November, 2016

Anticipating the final fantasy; is there nothing BAMTech can’t do? Nike, Qatar Airways and the gratitude of Barcelona; CSM and Alibaba invest; why the NFL model is no good; Kevin Plank in a pickle and more.

Welcome to another midweek edition of the Leaders Digest, cutting an analytical groove straight down the centre of the sports industry.

Draftkings screengrab

Hot Money

Final fantasy

There’s only room in this town for one daily fantasy gunslinger and it’s going to be, well, both of us. DraftKings and FanDuel have burnt bright and burnt fast and now they’re going to be burning together. Respective CEOs Jason Robins and Nigel Eccles have, it seems, buried the hatchet on their previous disagreements and a merger is around the corner.

The BAMTech bandwagon rolls on

In case you were in any doubt, BAMTech is one of the hottest names in the sports industry this year. Fresh from a $1 billion investment from Disney, Major League Baseball’s digital arm has signed a deal with Discovery that will see the pair launch a JV in Europe – BAMTech Europe – with Eurosport Digital signed up as the JV’s first, and most obvious client. Eurosport is already flogging Olympic licensing deals to free-to-air broadcasters across the continent. Will they now be flogging OTT capabilities as well?

Mes que un swoosh

FC Barcelona have ratified their world-record kit manufacturer deal with Nike. The 155 million euro annual fee is almost double what Manchester United’s previous world-record deal with Adidas is believed to be paying. Meanwhile, at the same club members meeting, Barca’s VP of marketing, Manel Arroyo, conceded that the Qatar Airways extension was simply a way of buying (or selling?) more time to seek a more desirable front-of-shirt sponsorship deal. Honesty is the best policy, or so they say.

Who let the dogs out?

UK-based agency CSM, recently led into US rugby via its new Group MD Sophie Goldschmidt, has extended its US footprint through the acquisition of experiential marketing specialists LeadDog. Woof.

Alibaba tries again

Alibaba’s sports division is liquid as you like, and its latest move has been to commit $100 million to the development of rugby in China over the next ten years. A professional league, university programmes and grassroots initiatives are all on the menu. Needless to say, World Rugby chief Brett Gosper is delighted.

Intel inside sport

Intel is putting its money where its Pentium Processor is when it comes to betting on the evolving digitisation of sport. Announced last week: $38 million in funding for 12 start-ups, many of them working in or around the sports space.

Stateside view

The hottest stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week include:

Laces out

Why the NFL is not a good model for the Uefa Champions League to follow.

Plank in a pickle

Kevin Plank is a great entrepreneur, a superb story-teller, and an accomplished operator. His business, Under Armour, has been used to adoring articles more or less since it broke the billion-dollar revenue mark a handful of years ago. A proper bit of strife will only make it stronger.

Lobster thinking

Second screens. Surely not too long before they’re thought of as first screens?

Job listing of the week

Nolan Partners are on the look out for the San Jose Earthquakes’ next General Manager. I’d apply myself but the Leaders Digest doesn’t write itself. And I’m totally unqualified. And I wouldn’t get the visa.

Longer reads

27th October

AT&T’s Time Warner deal a sign of the times; football ratings on the slide; the other football ratings on the slide; Jochen Losch onboard at MP & Silva; bellicose Belichick; the IOC’s Tokyo communications conundrum and more.

AT&T logo

Hot Money

Hello distribution platform; meet my friend, content producer

AT&T’s $85.4 billion deal to buy Time Warner is an eye-catching media move, and more proof, if proof were needed, of the trend for distribution platforms tooling up with their own ‘in-house’ content production capabilities.

 Enervating rating

I admit it: I’m hooked on the pantomime drama that is the US presidential election this year. It’s ridiculous. It’s terrifying. It’s compelling. I like to follow along on the Ringer’s Keepin’ it 1600 podcast, which is excellent and likes to talk about the ‘bed-wetters’ nervous about a Trump victory. It looks like I’m not alone. The hype around the election is one of the explanations put forward in this fantastic piece in The Atlantic on why the NFL’s ratings ‘just fell off a cliff’. Cord-cutters, Twitter and Peyton Manning are other potential culprits. Perhaps a dip is just a dip and there’s no need for us to become bed-wetters ourselves.

Trans-Atlantic issue

A cruel cocktail of Peyton Manning and Donald Trump can’t be to blame for a downshift in Premier League soccer ratings too, could it?

Don’t fret, rights are still valuable

England’s FA has broken the $1 billion barrier for its international media rights for the first time. The deal, which covers media rights to the FA Cup competition outside the UK, will run for six years from the 2018/19 season. Instead of selling on the rights themselves on a market-by-market basis, the FA has opted for the agency approach, with Pitch and IMG teaming up to offer the governing body the $1 billion. Pitch will market the rights in Western Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and IMG will take care of the rest.

Interesting move

The good times are back for MP & Silva with the appointment of Jochen Losch as CEO. The gregarious Losch has 20 years’ experience with the likes of Sportfive and Traffic Sports Marketing. He’s also one of the industry’s finest raconteurs, so here’s to many more stories in the new role. Congratulations Jochen.

Other interesting moves

British Cycling is in a spot of bother at the moment and its CEO Ian Drake has announced that he will leave the role in April, making it clear that his decision is not linked to the current turmoil at the organisation. With Philippe Le Floc’h installed as the new Chief Commercial Officer at Fifa, Thierry Weil already out of his role as Marketing Director, Niclas Ericson, the world soccer governing body’s chief dealmaker, is also set to leave. And Garry Cook, acknowledged as one of the smartest operators in the sports industry, has been let go from his role as Chief Global Brand Officer at the UFC. Will we see Cook back in a Premier League CEO role soon? Quite possibly. Under new WME | IMG-ownership, the UFC has also parted ways with Chief Content Officer Marshall Zelaznik, Asia Managing Director Ken Berger, Latin America Director Jaime Pollack, Social Media Director Shanda Maloney, Senior Vice President of Technology Ed Muncey and Controller Brad Smuckler.

Worth knowing

Jimmy Worrall, quite literally the leaders’ leader, has been thinking again. This time about the ups and downs of Leaders Week in early October. For those of you that were there, and for those of you that weren’t, he transferred his thoughts into words.

Inside the Institute

A good piece this week over on the Leaders Performance Institute on maintaining steely focus through the peaks and troughs of intensity that come with professional motorsport.

Stateside view

The hottest stories on SportsBusiness Daily this week include:

When in Doha, do as the Dutch

I spent an instructive few days in Doha last week, just missing the final stages of the UCI World Championships. It’s fair to say that the cycling event didn’t quite capture the imagination of the locals as it might have done, but word on the street had it that public communication of the event could have positioned it better. Most of what local people heard about the cycling was the traffic disruption it was going to cause on news bulletins. Joining me on the trip were a convivial band of industry folk including Eredivisie CEO Alex Tielbeke, who wowed the rest of us with his use of swanky business card-address book app CamCard, and Fulham COO Darren Preston, who is the inaugural winner of the Leaders Digest award for the Most Sarcastic Man in the Sports Industry (which is, I hasten to add, a positive thing).

It’s all in the numbers

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic organisers are attempting to downscale their plans over fears of budget overruns. Clearly the IOC needs to tread carefully here. There is a difference between operational costs and infrastructural work, much of which is not obligatory. There’s a $30 billion figure floating around in Tokyo and the Olympic body will be keen to avoid the communications misstep that led to most people believing the cost of the Sochi Games of 2014 was $51 billion.

Longer read

18th October, 2016

It’s big: the size of the North American sports market revealed; Chelsea seal £900m deal; cord-cutting hits sports networks; the Ennis question, the news content question, the Bogarelli question, and some answers from Hillary Clinton’s digital team.

Dollar bills

Hot Money

 75 billion, it’s the magic number

The numbers have been crunched and the results are in: $75 billion. That’s what professional services giant PwC, a member of the Big Four no less, calculate the North American sports market will be worth in 2020. That’s $8 billion more than PwC calculate the market is worth this year. North America is the richest, most established professional sports market in the world. So the figure puts the Chinese government’s target to grow its own domestic sports market to almost $800 billion by 2025 into some stark perspective.


The deal was done a while ago, but now it’s official. Premier League side Chelsea will wear the Nike swoosh for 15 years from next season. The deal is believed to be worth £60 million a season to the London club, double the £30 million-a-year deal with Adidas they have paid some £40 million to extricate themselves from early. It’s a big number, but not quite as big as the £75 million (minimum) per year Adidas are paying Manchester United, nor the whopping £106 million-a-season the German brand pays Real Madrid.

Una domanda

Is Marco Bogarelli, the controversial but skilled president of Infront Italy, about to jump ship now the agency has become ‘Wanda Sports’? And, if so, as astute industry observer Frank Dunne asks, where does that lead long-time Infront rights holder client Serie A?

Keep up your bright cords for the dew will rust them

The cord-cutters cometh and The Weather Channel, Spike TV and ESPN are, according to this alarming little piece, ‘getting crushed’.


Twitch is not just a streaming platform for eSports. Music and other entertainment products are also on the menu. But its dedication to the eSports community took another step forward this week when it live-streamed the funeral of former pro-gamer Phillip “Phizzurp” Klemenov.

The Ennis question

Unofficial Partner, the self-styled greatest archive in the sports business, is back in action and firing on all cylinders. Or at least its author, Richard Gillis, has recovered the ability to search back through his own annuls, uncovering this little number on Jess Ennis to mark the heptathlete’s retirement.

Content categories

I categorise this piece of content, a blog by Seven League’s Charlie Beall on rights holders wasting their time with ‘news’ pieces, as ‘marketing content but with something to say and compelling, even enlightening nonetheless’. It’s clear I haven’t quite got the hack of these content categories yet. but it’s enlightening nonetheless.

Olympic things

The fat lady has sung

Rome’s bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games is finally, definitively over. Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago did indicate that the decision could be undone, but that, at this stage, seems like wishful thinking. It’s on you now Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest.

(Ice-)Sk8r Boi

Insidethegames senior reporter Nick Butler is fast developing the savvy of an Olympic sage more than twice his age. His opinion pieces are becoming must-read. His youth plays to his advantage here, though, as he channels Avril Lavigne in a hopeful piece about PyeongChang’s preparations for the 2018 Winter Games. A glimmer of light in the greyness that has hung over the Olympic movement of late. Interesting, too, to note Butler’s criticism of Nawal El Moutawakel, once considered a strong shout to be IOC president one day.

Longer reads

12th October, 2016

Atairos scuppers TPG’s move for Learfield Sports; Leaders Week gratuitously remembered; NFL clamps down; Oculus scales up; and not that much more.

<> at Stamford Bridge on October 8, 2015 in London, England.

Hot Money

TPG not moving in on WME | IMG’s college space anytime soon

Providence Equity Partners-owned Learfield Sports, the college sports marketing firm which markets the rights of 120 college programmes across the US and has been actively up for sale of late, was expected to fetch around $1 billion. Investment firm the Atairos Group sealed an acquisition this week, beating out a bid believed to be in the region of $1.2 billion from CAA owner TPG.

Let’s talk about last week

I know we’re all Leaders-d out – us more so than anyone – so I’ll be brief. Last week – Leaders Week – was a real blast. The buzz on the floor was palpable, the speakers on the stage were passionate, original and thoughtful, and the energy about the place was wholly positive. Thank you to all who came, who spoke, who networked like the best of them. I think Brandon Gayle from Instagram wins the busiest overflow room award – a high achievement – and Rory Sutherland’s words, and in fact his image, remain imprinted on my mind today. There’s an Aladdin’s Cave of content to come from the four days, so stay tuned to the Leaders Digest, to the Leaders Podcast, and to leadersinsport.com itself for more. In the meantime, relive the week with a live-blog down memory lane with our friends at SportBusiness: You can catch up on the Leader stream here, the brand stream here, the digital stream here, and the eSports stream here. Carlo de Marchis from Deltatre wrote a nice review here, and this struck me as a particularly talented piece of food photography.

Stateside view

The hottest stories on SportsBusiness Daily include:

 Content was king

The shift to rights holders as content producers, teams as publishers, has been happening for some time, but news this week from inside the NFL indicates that the league is taking back some control on behalf, one would imagine, of its broadcasters. Teams will now be fined for publishing all manner of in-house video content from within their own stadiums on social media channels. Restrictions breed creativity and all that.

Oculus Gift

‘Is this significant? No idea.’ That was the note I received from Nielsen Sport’s David Cushnan, who, in between handing out copies of his organisation’s new report on the Chinese sports business, took some time at the Nielsen networking café at Leaders to compile a few suggestions for this week’s edition of the Digest for me. Opinion was split on the exhibition floor at Leaders as to whether VR is the Next Big Thing or the next 3D. Certainly, Oculus working on cheaper headsets is a helping hand towards the former. But in truth, like David, I’ve got no idea.

Longer reads

  • I’ve got a sonic brand, a distinctive signature sound, and if I had to describe it in words it would be as a sort of annoying but incredibly penetrative high-pitched whine. You should have one soon too.
  • A 21st Century communal fireplace – that’s what they’re calling the new Sacramento Kings arena. Pull up a pew by the hearth here.

4th October, 2016

Hollywood dollars for WME’s UFC; Sixers pull the joystick trigger on eSports investment; Kasper Rorsted’s Adidas to-do list; bungs as grist to the media mill, and more.

UFC President Dana White

Hot Money

UFC hits tinseltown

WME | IMG bought the UFC for $4 billion in July. We know they didn’t do it alone – there were a number of VC firms involved – but now we know a host of celebs on the agency’s books also lent a helping hand. According to the sports industry’s most active Tweeter, Darren Rovell, the likes of Ben Affleck, Calvin Harris, Serena Williams, Tom Brady, Maria Sharapova and LL Cool J have all bought stakes for a minimum investment of $250,000.

Ryders on the storm

The Ryder Cup is done and dusted for another two years. For the sake of the strength of the proposition, it was probably for the best that the US won for the first time in eight years. The players can go back to their day jobs, and for the Europeans, that mainly means a return to the European Tour – a European Tour that seems to be on the cusp of significant change. I sat down with new tour CEO Keith Pelley at a sun-kissed Wentworth last month to talk bringing the glitz to tournament golf, the Olympics, content production and delivery, and, crucially, where he gets his glasses from.

Birds of a feather Le Floc’h together

It’s fair to say that Philippe Le Floc’h’s is one of those sports industry names that pops up in interesting positions every couple of years. The former Uefa marketing director, working under one Gianni Infantino, was one of a tranche of execs involved in a short-lived foray by CAA into the rights arbitrage world earlier this decade. Le Floc’h has just been announced as Fifa’s new chief commercial officer – a newly created position he will join from his Dubai-based Customized Solution FZ next week.

Walter moves on

Former Fifa comms chief – he of the infamous taxi joke – has opened his own Zurich-based consultancy. The agency, Greg and Gary, will operate in the ‘areas where sport, business and politics meet’.

Sixers delve into eSports

The Philadelphia 76ers have bought their ticket and jumped onboard the eSports bandwagon with the purchase of professional gaming outfit Team Dignitas. Both organisations will be represented at Leaders Week at Stamford Bridge, so I’m sure we’ll be hearing plenty more about this in the coming days.

Stateside view

The hottest stories on SportBusiness Daily this week include:

Expand and deliver

In case you’d missed it, ratings and intelligence firm Repucom is no more. Well, it is, it’s just it’s now called Nielsen Sports following its acquisition by the US ratings giant. How’s the transition going, I hear you ask. Well, let Glenn Lovett and Danny Townsend explain. The Nielsen Sports crew will be on the ground at Leaders this week – with a fresh batch of business cards I’m sure – so make sure to say hello, and pick up a copy of their latest research on the Chinese football business.

London loss leader

Sure, the NFL appears to be thriving in London. Sure, the British capital is now recognised by the league as one of its top five markets. Sure, the increasing number of NFL games in London sell out, and sell out at high ticket prices. But, sure, the NFL is still losing money on its London bet.

Ciao Marco

MP & Silva CEO Marco Auletta has resigned his role at the agency following the successful integration of MP & Silva’s new Chinese ownership group – Baofeng and Everbright. Auletta will retain a small stake in the firm, while there a rumours of further departures to come.

Longer reads

  • ‘So people are taking bungs in football,’ writes Matt Scott. ‘So what?
  • Taken the temperature of the sports media industry, pulled the thermometer out and seen it reading, loud and clear, ‘OTT broadcast platforms’? Why not set up your own OTT channel?

28th September, 2016

Apple investment rumours; Sportradar NBA deal facts; Tim Leiweke returns; Bill Murray; Elkhan Mammadov; Linsanity 2.0 and more.

2016 NBA Finals - Game Seven

Hot Money

Data bounce

Rumours of a $250 million, six-year data deal between Sportradar and the NBA were doing the rounds in August. A month later, and those rumours have crystallised into stone, hard fact. The deal is a big win for Sportradar, which is diversifying away from its gambling data and integrity core, but the agreement certainly gives an insight into where the NBA sees gambling legislation going in the United States.

Where there’s smoke, there’s Apple?

A red hot week when it comes to tech takeover rumours. First, Apple, which has been fiddling around with driverless cars for what feels like decades, is sniffing around the McLaren motorsport outfit. Second, Google and Salesforce are believed to be weighing up a joint bid for Twitter. The CRM-ification of digital media platforms continues apace.

A mighty oak

Tim Leiweke is back in the game. His Oak View Group has brought on another equity partner in Florida Panthers Executive Chairman Peter Luuko and has now unveiled a list of 22 arenas across North America that have joined the alliance. The arenas each pay $250,000 annually in return for more events and sponsorship revenues than they’re currently generating.

The new, new Netflix of sport

First, Perform launched the Netflix of sport. Now, Discovery is planning to launch the Netflix of sport. It’s almost as if this ‘Netflix of sport’ thing is becoming media shorthand for any kind of OTT sport subscription service.

Bill Murray launches golf line; does shift as barman; remains the coolest

With Nike and Adidas quitting the golf game, there’s room for a new player in town, and that player is Bill Murray. Yep, that Bill Murray.

Linsanity 2.0

Jeremy Lin signed for the Brooklyn Nets this summer. The point guard, you may remember, caused an international stir with a stellar string of performances for the New York Knicks in 2012. ‘Linsanity’, as the global phenomenon was known, burned bright, but it burned out. With the news that Lin has now put his name to an eSports team, a few parallels spring to a cynical old mind.

Stateside view

The hottest stories on SportBusiness Daily this week include:

Mamma never told me

Elkhan Mammadov took the reins of the Azeri Football Association at the tender age of 28. Almost ten years later, he’s transformed the federation into a rising power in European soccer. A key ally of new Uefa President Aleksander Ceferin, Mammadov is the latest guest on the Leaders Podcast.  He’s committed to the AFFA until 2021, a year after Azerbaijan hosts four Euro 2020 matches, but I wouldn’t bet against him being asked to lead a Baku bid for the 2028 Olympic Games.

China rising

China’s ten most valuable soccer teams are worth an average of $130 million; as Forbes points out, that’s not far off the $197 million average value of the top ten MLS clubs. My takeaway: is there a piece on the burgeoning Chinese soccer market without the wisdom of Prof Simon Chadwick in it? The expert’s expert. In other China news, the French Football League and the French Football Federation have joined forces to open their first overseas office in Beijing.

Imminent departure that signals an imminent arrival

Those of us that know Zak Brown know there’s very little about the motorsport industry he doesn’t know like the back of his hand. If, as is being suggested, he’s about to leave his role at the CSM agency for a potential senior role at a new-look F1, I’m willing to state for the record, right here, right now, that he’d make a damned good job of it.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Very much a tale of two cities in the race – is it still appropriate to call it a race? – to host the 2024 Olympic Games. LA has got its ducks in a row early doors, sorting out what is always a niggling issue of a joint marketing programme deal between host city and host Olympic committee, with a year to go before the vote itself. Rome, meanwhile, is set to sucker punch itself out of the competition. Its new Mayor, Virginia Raggi, went on the attack last week, labelling a potential Roman Games as “irresponsible, unsustainable, and unaffordable.”

Longer reads

21st September, 2016

Broadcast rights alert: Twitter is hot; VC firms beef up; Mark Lazarus rises; Sky and ESPN follow in Matt Bellamy’s footsteps; Cuba, Uefanalia and more.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 07: The Twitter logo is displayed on a banner outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on November 7, 2013 in New York City. Twitter goes public on the NYSE today and is expected to open at USD 26 per share, making the company worth an estimated USD 18 billion. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Hot Money

Sports bump for Twitter

As Jake Cohen points out on the platform in question, Twitter’s $573 million market cap rise in the wake of a successful first Thursday Night Football streaming experience is one for premium rights holders across the world to file away in a folder marked ‘opportunity’. The Jets vs Bills game reached 2.3 million globally on Twitter, compared to 15.4 million watching the traditional broadcast.

VC properties staff up

As predicted by SBJ back in March, Bruin-owned On Location, run by former NHL COO John Collins, has hired another former NHL-er in Don Renzulli. While billionaire Ron Burkle’s agency-cum-investment vehicle Independent Sports & Entertainment has hired Chris Grancio from Adidas as its Chief Marketing Officer.

Appointment to view

Less hot money, more on the money as our very own Jimmy Worrall delivers a primer on what to expect from the upcoming Leaders Week in London. In summary, there’s a hell of a lot going on so order extra business cards and break in some comfy shoes. Check out the bumper speaker line-up here.

The drones club

A red letter week for the RSE-backed Drone Racing League, with Sky and ESPN signing broadcast deals for the upcoming season. Somehow it escaped me when the funding round was announced in January, but Muse lead singer Matt Bellamy is an investor.

The money formula

Williams is the only publicly traded Formula One team, and its published financial results provide a handy bellwether for the rest of the industry. The latest figures are in, and revenues and profits are up, but there’s a warning to heed about the future.

Lighting up a Cuban (market)

Keen followers of sports industry factotum Nigel Rushman will know that the Englishman has been making inroads into the emerging Cuban market for some time. He takes a nifty made-for-social photo too. The groundwork is paying off, as Rushmans begins to market Cuban sports content globally.

Are United done?

Michael Broughton tips his hat to the Manchester United commercial team; after the Premier League side announced it had passed the £500 million revenue mark for the first time, I think we all do. But, Broughton asks, are United a busted flush?

Stateside view

The hottest stories on SportBusiness Daily this week include:

Lazarus rises

The figures were in before the Games themselves, but confirmation (again) that NBC made $250 million on its Rio 2016 broadcasts. A raise of the glass to NBC Sports chair Mark Lazarus for that, then a refill and another raise of the glass for his promotion to the role of Chairman of NBC Broadcasting and Sports. Cheers.

From mowing to mascots

A lovely piece of Uefanalia in the New York Times this week. Rory Smith has read the 155-page Champions League club manual so that you don’t have to. Toilets, logos, ‘beauty cameras’ and grass patterns, it’s all in there. The regulations are tight, and often pernickety, sure, but Uefa can point to one of the strongest brands in global sport as vindication.


We’ve all got a few names we muddle up, stumble upon and transpose from time to time. That’s right, I’m talking spoonerisms. Fortunately, I’ve always been fine with Hank Williams, but Chase Carey is one I rarely get right – more often than not referring to the moustachioed 21st Century Fox Vice Chairman as ‘Case Cherry’. Well, it looks like the new Formula One Chairman has a few name issues of his own.

The world in union
The world of rugby union is edging closer to a new global club championship. Details are expected to emerge in November.

Longer reads

13th September, 2016

Amazon targets sports rights; more VC vehicles set up for sport; eSports corner; Champions League reforms; the Gibraltar Straits; and Lance Armstrong and Bob Arum play ‘rate the scumbag’.

BRIESELANG, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 04: A package moves on a conveyor belt at an Amazon warehouse on September 4, 2014 in Brieselang, Germany. Germany is online retailer Amazon's second largest market after the USA. Amazon is currently in a standoff with several book publishers over sales conditions and prices for e-books, and hundreds of authors in the US and Europe have written letters in support of the publishers. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Hot Money

Amazoning in

French Open tennis and top-tier rugby rights are believed to be on the radar for Amazon as the online retail giant looks set to enter the increasingly fragmented sports broadcast world.

Yuan some more?

In a move that mirrors Alibaba’s creation of Alisports last year, Chinese property giant Kaisa Group, in tandem with private equity firm Kaixin Capital, are spinning off a $1.5 billion sports fund. The money is being earmarked for the development of ‘intelligent’ stadiums and other sports infrastructure projects.

Once a red, always a red

Former Liverpool hotshot Michael Owen has jumped onboard the Chinese Sports Industry Express and will launch a coaching company in the country next year.

Silva lining

MP & Silva sale done and dusted, Riccardo Silva is right back on the horse; and the horse, in this instance, is a spanking new investment vehicle with rather smart website.

Intel inside

Auto-video highlights tech firm WSC Sports Technologies, which has a multi-year deal with the NBA, closed on a $12 million round of series B funding this week from the likes of tech giant Intel through its investment arm Intel Capital.

Sponsorship works?

Chad, the fourth poorest country in the world, has signed a major sponsorship deal with French soccer club FC Metz.

The rain in Spain falls mainly on the Champions League

Javier Tebas has become the highest profile executive yet to challenge the wisdom of Uefa’s plans to reform the Champions League. The Spaniard, president of La Liga, will be at Leaders in October to explain more. The European Professional Football Leagues have also come out in opposition to the planned changes. Expect this one to simmer for some time.

Chinese investments under scrutiny

Money money money, could be funny, so the Premier League are investigating.

eSports corner

Another formal organisation has bubbled up from the broth of potential that is the eSports industry. And here’s another plug for the comprehensive Leaders special report on a fascinating, and fascinatingly complex new field.

Listen up

It’s important to understand your fans, to learn their habits, their likes and dislikes, and to engage with them how they want to be engaged with; in short, as in any human relationship, it’s important to listen. The Golden State Warriors are masters of fan engagement, but a lawsuit now alleges that they may have gone too far.

Strait up

A Leaders Digest shout out to new Volvo Ocean Race CEO Mark Turner, celebrating his first few months in the job by swimming from Spain to Africa, and, apparently, live Tweeting the endeavour.

Longer reads

Armstrong in the big ring

Another listen in the longer reads, and this time it’s another nod to ‘loveable rogue’ Lance Armstrong, whose podcast is, in my opinion, excellent. He talked to boxing royalty Bob Arum for one of the latest recordings, and there’s a lovely vignette in there about doing business with Donald Trump. Needless to say there’s a clear moral: don’t do it unless you want to get ripped off. Arum then plays Lance’s ‘rate the scumbag’ game, which features Trump, Dana White, and Al Haymon, and he does it with charm and grace.

No single formula

There’s plenty about on the Formula One sale from CVC to Liberty Media, much of it written by Formula Money’s fabulously connected Christian Sylt. But does Formula One have limited potential for further growth, or a structure that should yield profits for years to come?

Bad writing is destroying your organisation

We can all read and write good, isn’t it? But sometimes we don’t. It’s helpful to be reminded of the importance of proper written communication from time to time.

6th September, 2016

Formula going, going, gone? Frank McCourt heads to the south of France; DraftKings raises more millions; podcasts; eSports; energy drinks and prophylactics.

Formula One Management CEO Bernie Ecclestone and CVC Co-Founder Donald Mackenzie

Hot Money

Home Malone

Is F1 about to change? So asks BBC motorsportman Andrew Benson, or at least the BBC subs on behalf of motorsportman Andrew Benson, and the answer, quite incredibly, could well be yes. After years of speculation, proposed deals quashed, snuffed out or stretched until they fell apart, Liberty Media looks set to purchase Formula One from CVC Capital Partners. Paddock insider Joe Saward has this lovely little tidbit of evidence from a snatched conversation between McLaren chief Ron Dennis and CVC’s Donald McKenzie. An announcement is expected on Wednesday.

In the pink

In other motorsport acquisitions tittle tattle, the owners of Brands Hatch are in for F1’s current British Grand Prix host Silverstone.

In the red

The honeymoon may well be drawing to a close for the laudable, but still flawed Formula E electric racing series. According to Formula Money, the series incurred losses of $68.4 million in its first full year of operation, and made just $3.1 million in sponsorship. There’s a handy F1 comparison here.

Take me out to the ball game

Former LA Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has taken the $2 billion he made from the sale of the MLB team in 2012 and pottered off to the south of France. In an unlikely move, the real estate mogul has lined up a 40 million euro deal to take top-tier French soccer side Olympique Marseille off Margarita Louis-Dreyfus’ hands.

Picking up the pieces

Victor Montagliani is not unaware of the scale of the task that lies ahead of him. The new CONCACAF president has been talking about the repairs needed on the shattered federation he now helms. Hear exactly how he plans to enact those reforms at the Leaders Sport Business Summit next month.


Sophie Goldschmidt helped to set up Rugby International Marketing (RIM), USA Rugby’s new SUM-style commercial entity, while she was running the commercial department at the RFU. Now, as Group MD at CSM, she’s investing in it.

Drafting in more funds

New York hiccup behind it, and DraftKings has closed on a $153 million round of VC financing from a group that includes Ted Leonsis’ Revolution Growth. Precise details are sketchy, but it is believed that DraftKings is still not quite the $2 billion entity it was pegged to be last year.

Crazy prophylactics

Condom endorsement deals are always funny. They just are. And this one, featuring renowned cricket playa Chris Gayle and his West Indies teammate Dwayne Bravo and new Indian brand Skore, doesn’t disappoint.

Taking up the Mandel

“This was way too much fun,” said Hillary Mandel, politely, as the recording of this Leaders Podcast drew to a close. And she was right. IMG Media’s Head of North America is one of the most engaging agency figures in the game, and we touched on everything from the new WME ownership, scandal and malpractice, gender equality and balanced working cultures, and the nuts and bolts of deal-making. Listen here, and subscribe to the Leaders Podcast on your chosen podcast platform today.

Energy lapse

Five years ago, energy drinks were very much the thing. They were on course to become mainstream, widespread sports sponsors, but that hasn’t really materialised, with the motorsports and action sports remaining the strongholds of the sector. Sports Sponsorship Insider investigates.

How to solve a problem like Maria

What has Maria Sharapova been doing on her doping suspension? She’s been working as an intern in the NBA’s New York offices of course.

Back to school

College football is back, and so is the fascination with how much colleges are making from their uniform suppliers. The Nike, Adidas and Under Armour deals in the Big Ten and SEC are handily compiled here.

Grand opening

FC Barcelona are the latest European soccer giant to open an office on foreign shores. The Catalans will be trooping into work this morning in New York for the first time, having already opened an office in Hong Kong.

Flame grilled

A Twitter spat between top-tier Russian soccer team Zenit St Petersburg and fast food royalty Burger King. All very droll. But the incredulousness with which the news that the restaurateur had offered over $7 million to insert ‘Burger King’ into the team’s name was met in the sports industry was surprising. What kind of organisation could take such an old fashioned approach to sponsorship? They cried. Well, one that does this, and this.

Longer reads

Your handy eSports hack

The acquisition of the Renegades eSports team by Boston Celtics player Jonas Jerebko came too late to make it into the first Leaders Special Report – eSports: how we got here and what comes next. Nevertheless, it’s definitely the most comprehensive business guide to the ever-morphing eSports landscape I’ve put together in the last couple of months. Props to Intel, Blizzard, ESL, Seven League, EA, Fnatic, FACEIT, Matt Cutler, and Newzoo and many more besides for valuable insight and graft in getting it together. Download to your heart’s content.

Auntie’s back from Rio

The BBC, it’s safe to say, were very satisfied with the Rio Olympics. A record GB medal haul will have helped no end, but the figures, as pieced together by BBC Sport’s Head of Digital and Radio Ben Gallop, are impressive.

J-League to Perform

I love Japan. I love the J-League. And I love this piece by SportBusiness International.


Unlimited annual leave – an innovative and exciting new corporate practice in 2008, but, it turns out, actually pretty insidious.


31st August, 2016

Liberty in for Formula One; Chinese finance hits cycling; Nike and Adidas’ decision to quit golf explained; blockbuster US stadium deals; tennis data podcasts; and beer-fuelled Olympic speculation.

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium

Hot Money

An oldie but a goodie

We’ve heard this one before but we’ll happily hear it again: Liberty Global are getting ready to splash the cash – $8. 5 billion of the stuff – on Formula One. Liberty boss John Malone was rumoured to be preparing a takeover in 2014, and now the rumours are back and the figures are higher; but is this just ‘the latest move in a multi-decade power play between two international media moguls?’

Crouching Tigers, Hidden Dragon

Hull City are the latest glamorous European soccer team to get out on the dance floor with a Chinese suitor. The Premier League side are firmly in the sights of shopping mall retail bigwig Dai Yongge.

Chinese money – European soccer recap

Not for nothing is the Financial Times called the Financial Times, and this is a comprehensive summary from that very paper of the influx of Chinese finance to European soccer of late.

Deals on wheels

I’m waiting for the FT recap on Chinese investment in top-level cycling, which kicked off this week with the Lampre-Merida team securing investment from TJ Sport Consultation.

LAFC breaks ground again. And again.

Following the breakthrough financing agreement that allowed work to begin, MLS expansion team LAFC have broken ground on a new 22,000-capacity, $350 million soccer-specific stadium. They’ve also nailed a 15-year, $100 million naming rights deal with Banc of California.

Guaranteed to cause a fuss

The Chicago White Sox have signed a 13-year naming rights deal with mortgage provider Guaranteed Rate.

Speculate to accumulate

It’s not the first sports sponsorship deal Uber have done, but the fact that the announcement that the ride sharing firm had signed with Monumental’s various Washington franchises happened as I was sharing an ice cold London Lager with SBJ Executive Editor Abe Madkour got me thinking: surely a deal with the LA 2024 Olympic bid is around the corner for Uber, already a lynchpin piece of transport infrastructure in the city. Abe, unimpressed by my speculation but happy to be chatting Olympic bids over beer, put his cards on the table for 2024: he thinks LA will nab it, not least because of the fact that US broadcaster NBC will be desperate for a home-Games opportunity. My money’s on Paris at this stage, I have to say. Sticking with the TV theme, it’s unlikely that NBC will find much balm to soothe its Rio sores in the next three Games in Asia. An LA Games would be a welcome tonic at that point, but not an imperative one as the Peacock is signed up to sip the IOC’s medicine until 2032. European rights-holder Discovery, however, with its Paris-based Eurosport might still be in the Olympic honeymoon period by 2024, after which, crucially, its deal is set to expire. Needless to say, Abe was already in an Uber halfway back to his hotel once I’d reached my painstaking conclusion. Oh, and, not entirely unexpectedly, Rome is on the verge of pulling out.

Stateside view

The hottest stories on SportBusiness Daily this week include:

 Making a racket

The WTA, it’s safe to say, is a fairly game organisation, open-minded to change. It has pioneered large-scale calendar development in China and has embraced technology with open arms. SAP, its tech sponsor, has reaped the benefits, exploiting the WTA’s on-court coaching rule to usher in a new era for performance data in tennis. I served up some pretty tasty data questions for the Leaders Performance Podcast recently, only for SAP tech lead Jenni Lewis and Tennis Australia’s Nicole Pratt to volley them away.

Choppy waters

There are a few things holding sailing back from making it as a powerhouse of modern day, commercial sport: the financial and logistical challenges involved in broadcasting it, and the fact that its most prestigious event, the America’s Cup, has had a tendency to nosedive into legal murk since around 1851. Here’s hoping that commercial commissioner Harvey Schiller’s recent resignation doesn’t precede another such dip.

Brief bits

 Bigger bits

24th August, 2016

Chinese money in for Liverpool; Emirates money in for the NBA; and Shinzo Abe’s Super Mario costume explained.

Liverpool owner John W Henry reacts as his wife Linda Pizzuti

Hot Money

Liverpool in on the action

John W Henry, the American owner of Premier League soccer club Liverpool, is prepared to listen to what potential investors have to say. Riding the sports industry zeitgeist, those reported investors include financial conglomerate Everbright. Any guesses as to where they’re based?

Lyon stake sold

IDG Capital Partners – any guesses where they’re based – have taken a 20% stake in top-tier French soccer side Lyon.

Agents of change

It’s not just soccer clubs attracting investment from China, established agencies are also courting the Yuan.

A sign?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s appearance at the Rio Olympic closing ceremony in a Super Mario costume may well point to an impending deal between Nintendo and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee. It could also have been a coded celebration of the $661 million windfall the Japanese games giant has just banked following MLB’s approval of the sale of the Seattle Mariners.

Perform in the spotlight

Fresh from launching ‘the Netflix of sport’, sports digital powerhouse Perform has been the subject of equity investment enquiries from big guns like Amazon, Facebook and YouTube. So far, current owner Access is opting to finance Perform’s expansion plans itself.

Alley-oop for Emirates

Emirates airline marketing chief Boutros Boutros last year expressed his pride at the fact that his company was one of the first to nudge the NBA down the route of jersey sponsorship. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Emirates is now reported to be negotiating with several of the league’s top teams.

Shout out

A heartfelt virtual handshake to executive representatives from Delta, Ferrari, Juventus, the Philadelphia 76ers and Ajax, all of which this week confirmed their spots at the Leaders Sport Business Summit in London in October. Look forward to seeing you there.

The flame goes out, but the glow remains

ROI for RIO?

There were as many as 30,000 accredited journalists in Rio for the Games. Suddenly, an unprecedented number of global eyeballs were on Brazil. But did the world’s media short-change the country and its Marvellous City?

Setting out your stall

Doing business in Brazil was, predictably perhaps, not particularly easy, as the USOC found out with its on-the-ground retail venture.

Yen we can

Toyota and Bridgestone have become the first two IOC TOP sponsors to sign on as founding partners of the new Olympic channel. My money is on Panasonic becoming the third, as the Japanese companies in the top-tier Olympic commercial programme show willing ahead of their home Games in 2020.

A word from their advertisers

Ratings were down for much of NBC’s Olympic coverage this year, although NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus was careful to give the Rio Games an A to London’s A+. The drop-off, it seems, is not a huge concern. As this Stratechery piece contests, could the Peacock’s advertisers have nowhere else to go?

Pat on the back foot

Olympic Council of Ireland chief Pat Hickey found himself in a spot of bother in Rio. He’s been billed as the Teflon man of sport.

Longer reads

Transfer enquiry

Transfer sagas can be tedious. Legal detail is often tedious. Nevertheless, this is a genuinely fun depiction of the legal to-ings and fro-ings in a soccer transfer deal. Plus, this Reevaldo chap sounds like a player.

Character building

Tom Vernon headed a group of investors to buy top-tier Danish soccer club FC Nordsjælland last year. The former Manchester United scout has now hired what he believes to be sport’s first Head of Character Development.

The champions

The Uefa Champions League is being tweaked, but not, perhaps, as much as Dalian Wanda would like.


Hackathons. I’m not entirely sure what they are, but I know for sure that they’re happening in sport. Manchester City’s was billed a roaring success, and I’m sure the NBA’s will be too.

16th August, 2016

NBA courts data money; the new Netflix of sport; the other new Netflix of sport; technology trends; Millenial myth-busting; and an odd-looking Princess Leia.

Adam Silver, the Commissioner of the NBA, talks to Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors

Hot Money

NBA on Sportradar’s, well, radar

Data specialists Sportradar are closing in on a $250 million deal to become the stats provider to the NBA, taking over the gig from Perform, which signed a long-term deal with world basketball governing body FIBA earlier this year. The six-year agreement will see Sportradar become the official data partner of three of the four major leagues, the NBA joining the NHL and the NFL in Sportradar’s portfolio.

Bills usher in New Era

In what’s being billed as surprise stadium naming rights deal, the Buffalo Bills NFL team are set to link up with locally-headquartered milliner New Era.

It’s in the game

The Premier League has eschewed its title sponsor model for the first time this year, but that hasn’t stopped it upgrading video games publisher EA Sports to the new rarefied category of ‘lead partner’. Barclays was believed to be paying around £40m-a-year for its last batch of title rights. According to SBJ, EA’s upgrade will see them pay £21.6m-a-year for the next three years. Peter Moore, EA’s Chief Competition Officer, is shipping his wisdom to London for Leaders this October.

LA loan catapults MLS into the big leagues

Los Angeles Football Club will join Major League Soccer as an expansion team in 2018. They may be doing it in a new, 22,000-capacity soccer-specific stadium next to the LA Coliseum. Ownership has secured a loan for half the $350m projected cost of the project. And for the first time in MLS history, the loan will be collateralised solely with revenue from the facility.

Chinese money down under

The Great Chinese Soccer Takeover continues. Next stop: Australia.

 Games trump election

Grab your headphones, fire up the thinking cap, and get a load of the latest Leaders podcast. In a session from the Leaders Sport Business Summit in New York earlier this year, Bridgestone, P&G, BMW and the USOC talk Olympic marketing: the myths, the magic and the future. Find out how the Summer Games, which fall slap bang in the middle of the US presidential election fandango each quadrennium, are the balm that soothes the nastiness of political rhetoric. Subscribe on iTunes by searching for ‘The Leaders Podcast’.

eSports trump Games

The most-searched event on secondary ticketing platform Stubhub over the last week was eSports’ League of Legends championship. Plus, eSports is taking up more US bandwidth than the Olympics. eSports takes place digitally, is performed by digital natives for an audience of digital natives. They’re almost certainly really good at integrating data into the fabric of the games and the infrastructure around them, right? Wrong.

School’s out for summer

Bill Hancock runs the College Football Playoffs. He also spends his off-season volunteering for the Olympics.

Digital Corner

From the news lab

If the Olympics provide a platform for athletes of lesser-watched sports to showcase their talents on a world stage every four years, they also provide an opportunity for media organisations to showcase some of their latest digital tricks and wizardry. The audience is large, but the stakes are relatively low and the planning time allows for a more than normal level of innovation. This excellent Nieman Lab piece tracks ‘some of the coolest experiments in digital news coverage’ from the Games, including some stellar work from the New York Times graphics department.

The Netflix of sport

Hat tip to the Perform PR team who have successfully positioned the newly-launched DAZN streaming service almost universally as the ‘Netflix of sport’, even as industry speculation suggested that Netflix itself might become the Netflix of sport. So far, the service is available in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, with a Japanese version in the pipeline. Over to the rights team, the lawyers and the technical bods to make it work.

Another Netflix of sport

But wait, what’s this? With Disney’s $1 billion acquisition of a stake in MLB’s BAMTech streaming division confirmed, subsidiary ESPN is now planning to launch its own multi-sport streaming service by the end of the year.

Longer reads (and pictures)

Everyone loves a list

The SportBusiness International thermometer has been dipped into the centre of the sports industry this month, and the readings are in: the 11 hottest technology trends in the business of sport are charted here.

Millenial Bug

Richard Gillis has spoken to Millenials to understand who they are and what they’re doing so that you don’t have to.

Does baseball need Tim Tebow?

I’d love to say no, but this indicates that actually the answer might be yes.

 Princess Leia has changed

Erick Thohir is the President of Serie A giants Inter Milan. He’s also, it seems, a committed Star Wars fan.


8th August, 2016

Berlusconi cashes in; Prokhorov cashes out; Barack Obama’s sporting destiny and the White House as sports venue; plus, the must-read pieces from Rio.

Silvio Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi

Hot Money

Bunga Bunga

The tedious AC Milan sale saga drew to a conclusion this week as former Italian premier and current Italian tycoon Silvio Berlusconi sealed the deal with the Sino-Europe Sports Investment Management Changxing. That mouthful includes Haixia Capital and Yonghong Li. The agreement values the club at 740 million euros and means that both Milanese soccer giants are now Chinese owned.

Peace out

Chinese investors have fixed their sights well and truly on the centre of the English soccer scene. Well, the centre of England at least, as West Bromwich Albion became the fourth Midlands club – alongside Aston Villa, Birmingham City and Wolverhampton Wanderers – with Chinese ownership this week. Long-time chairman Jeremy Peace finalised a £150 million deal with landscaping impresario Guochuan Lai.

Brooklyn bound

Bloomberg ran a good update on Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s Russian assets this week. The billionaire is bedding down in Brooklyn.

Skills to pay the bills

DraftKings and FanDuel are back in the Big Apple after a piece of legislation passed that ruled that fantasy sports are games of skill, and not gambling. The pair were banned from New York in March, but the new law opens the market up again, and is set to generate $4 million for the state.

Logo - Golden State Warrios

Dub nation

The Golden State Warriors might have lost out to the Cleveland Cavaliers in this year’s NBA Finals, but the Bay Area team are winning hearts left, right and centre with their innovative approach to digital engagement. Here’s a fan’s eye view of the Warriors’ digital customer experience, and here’s an invitation to come to hear the franchise’s VP of Marketing and Digital, Kenny Lauer, reveal some secrets at Leaders Week this October.

Calling the shots

In five short months’ time, President Barack Obama will be out of a job. A fully-paid up sports fan, is it outrageous to suggest that Obama might quite enjoy a new career in a new town (a town called top-level sports administration). Richard Deitsch runs the rule over the president’s sports commentator credentials here, and if that doesn’t work, I suppose he could always run President Trump’s golf business for him.

Hoop dreams to golf greens

Sticking with Obama, and The Undefeated has a terrific piece this week on the president’s retreat from the physical intensity of basketball to the serenity of golf. Obama, of course, had a full court installed in the White House grounds, but who knew that it was George H.W. Bush who had the first White House hoop put up? Or that Richard Nixon had a one-lane bowling alley built under the White House’s North Portico? Or that Gerald Ford had an outdoor pool dug in? Talk about public funds for sporting infrastructure projects….

Golf greens to… somewhere else

Nike are pulling out of the golf equipment business, and Tim Crow is good at Twitter. Is golf the problem, or did Nike have a problem with golf?

A roof with a view

12 years in the planning, hundreds of workers, four design studies, three giant cranes, and $150 million and the retractable roof on the Arthur Ashe Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is ready.

Virtual learning

British broadcaster Sky set up a dedicated ten-person virtual reality team in February this year. Sky VR Studio has been tinkering in Formula One, among other places, and Digiday reports on the four lessons the broadcaster has learned from VR so far.

Faster, higher, stronger reads

Dear Diary

A couple of business-focused diaries to keep track of from Rio: Ben Fischer is on the ground in Rio for the SportsBusiness Journal, while Eoin Connolly is on prolific and comprehensive form too.

Gin and juice

With so much drama in the I-O-C, it’s kinda hard being Craig R-double E-D-I-E, as Snoop Dogg no doubt would have rapped were he interested in the machinations of the Olympic movement. The Olympics are underway in Rio, and the Russian doping scandal rumbles on. On the eve of the Games, former World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Jack Robertson launched a blistering public critique of the organisation and its president, Sir Craig Reedie.

Floating another idea (about floating)

It costs a lot of money to host an Olympic Games. So what about constructing a reusable, floating Olympic city that could be towed on waterways from host to host to ease the financial burden? The idea is far-fetched, but not new. The Harvard Business Review this week carries a less far-fetched, but equally paradigm-shifting idea for a ‘new way’ for the Olympic movement.

Olympic gold

A thought-provoking look at the ‘movement’ and where the cash it generates ends up from the Washington Post.

1st August, 2016

College sports luring private equity big boys; China invests (again, and again); Twitter’s sporting love affair explained; Olympic ambush alert; transfer myth-busting; Peter Carlisle and more.

The Wisconsin Badgers take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Hot Money

College fund

Bloomberg sources suggest Texas-based college sports marketing player Learfield is on the verge of a takeover, with the usual private equity suspects, including Formula One owner CVC Capital, and Blackstone, mulling bids. Providence Equity Partners bought a controlling stake in the company three years ago.

Yuan who’s army?

A third English Championship soccer side is believed to be in the sights of Chinese investors. Following Chinese acquisitions of Aston Villa and Wolves, sleeping giant Leeds United is now fluttering its eyelashes and showing some ankle.

Alibaba goes big on boxing and eSports

Do you run a large-scale Chinese digital empire without a dedicated sports arm? Get with the programme. This week, it’s been the turn of retail giant Alibaba, through its Alisports division, to invest major money across the sports industry, signing a $500 million joint venture with the International Boxing Association (AIBA), then an ‘exclusive strategic partnership’ (read: $149 million in investment) with the International eSports Federation (IeSF).

CSL Sky high

The Chinese Super League, meanwhile, is reaping the benefits of its $1.24 billion five-year rights deal with CSM. IMG bought the international rights from CSM in March and this week sold a three-year package of UK rights on to Sky Sports.

Twitter’s sporting love affair explained

Twitter has had a busy few months in the media rights market. Its latest deal saw it take on Twitch and YouTube in the eSports space this past weekend. Michael Long has the skinny on how Twitter fell head over heels for sport.

Insta-jam hot

It’s not just Twitter making moves in the social space. Facebook-owned Instagram reckons that 165 million of its 500 million monthly users are sports fans, and the platform is quickly gaining traction in sport. Brandon Gayle, Instagram’s Head of Sports Partnerships, will be at the Leaders Fan Marketing Summit in London this October. Will you?

Sportswear giants; financial tidbits

Nike has $9.4 billion in endorsement contracts on the books this year, a sizeable leap on last year’s figure. Adidas, meanwhile, has adjusted its 2016 profit forecast upwards for a fourth time this year – largely though having one of its largest endorsement contracts terminated.

Kenya calling

Online bookmaker SportPesa became the first Kenyan company to sign a front-of-shirt sponsorship with a Premier League soccer club this week, as Hull City announced the most lucrative agreement in the club’s history. The deal is believed to be worth around £3 million a year.


Olympic Digest

It’s all in the wording

If you can’t change the scheduling, change the language. That was the logic behind NBC’s failed attempt to shift the running order of the Olympic opening ceremony to ensure that US audiences had a reason to watch until the end.


It’s not the biggest issue affecting the upcoming Rio Olympics, but the athletes have already spoken out about the outrageous lack of Pokémon Go in Brazil. Fear not, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes sent an urgent missive to Nintendo, pleading with them to release the game in his country.

Ambush alert

Look out for these Apple watch straps at the Rio Games, then watch as official clamp down on them.

Longer reads

Under Armour over there

Sports teams using city dollars for infrastructure projects is a tried and tested model. But how about sportswear companies? Under Armour, led by charismatic founder Kevin Plank, has a $5.5 billion development plan for the Port Covington area in south Baltimore, with a $1.1 billion request for public funding pending. Plank and Under Armour have enormous amounts of goodwill in Baltimore, but it’s divided the city.

Pain in the ass to top of the class

Octagon’s Peter Carlisle is one of the Olympic athlete agents. SBJ executive editor Abe Madkour travelled to Maine earlier this year to hear how Carlisle transformed himself from ‘pain in the ass’ to one of the most creative marketers working in the Olympic space.

Who you gonna call? Myth-busters

Jersey sales paying back transfer fees, fax machines holding up deals, net spend, war chests, and image rights; nonsense well and truly debunked by The Set Pieces here.

Reptile corner

Tony ‘the Lizard’ Bloom is the owner of English second-tier soccer side Brighton. The club has grand ambitions, and Bloom has a reputation as Britain’s most successful gambler.

Analyse this

Chief executives, are your analytics programmes a waste of time? That’s a problem. Here’s how to fix it.

25th July, 2016

Russia, doping, and the great Olympic let-off; Chinese money in Europe; European money in Japan; and why the NBA’s Charlotte decision matters.

IOC President Thomas Bach and Russian President Vladimir Putin

IOC President Thomas Bach and Russian President Vladimir Putin

From Russia, with narrative

Much has been written about the IOC’s ‘buck-passing’ decision not to blanket-ban Russia from competing at the upcoming Rio Games, despite the publication of a WADA report that showed 312 falsified results over five years across the majority of Olympic disciplines after the Russian sports ministry intervened in 577 positive tests. This week’s ‘longer reads’ – further down the page – are dominated by the issue. But here’s a thought, albeit a cynical one: the IOC’s decision – or lack of one – could well lead to sky high audience figures for Rio, especially for narrative-focused US broadcaster NBC: nothing beats a good guys vs bad guys narrative.

Hot Money

Keep the Wolves from the door

Chinese conglomerate Fosun International have purchased second-tier English soccer club Wolverhampton Wanderers for £45 million.

Eastern promise

The list of European soccer clubs with Chinese ownership now reads Wolves, Man City, WBA, Aston Villa, Nice, Sochaux, Den Haag, Espanyol, Granada, Slavia Prague, Inter, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid. Why are Chinese investors and entrepreneurs buying European soccer clubs? Here’s why.

John Jiang, who bought Granada for 37 million euros and became the first Chinese owner in the NBA this year, will be explaining his acquisition strategy at the Leaders Sport Business Summit this year.

Perform goes big

Japanese domestic soccer competition the J-League has sold a ten-year batch of digital broadcast rights to Perform. At $2 billion, it is the largest commercial deal in the history of Japanese sports – not bad going considering the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are around the corner – and a signal that the Chinese won’t be allowed a clear run at Asian soccer dominance in the coming years.

Sauber saved

Peter Sauber has retired, saving his eponymous Formula One outfit in the process by selling it to Longbow Finance.

Banking on it

La Liga has swapped one bank for another, signing Santander to a three-year title sponsorship deal worth around 60 million euros – less than the 100 million euros-plus it was hoping for – and replacing BBVA in the role.

Sport and politics don’t mix

Nonsense. Of course they do. The NBA pulled the 2017 All-Star game from its scheduled Charlotte host this week as a reaction to a controversial local law. Here’s why it matters, and here’s how the decision will impact the Charlotte Hornets.

Scouts who hack go to jail

Former St Louis Cardinals Scouting Director Christopher Correa has been sentenced to 46 months behind bars for a rather extreme case of high-tech cheating.

RSN bubble set to burst

Moody’s Investor Services has warned of ‘cord-cutting’ to come across US regional TV subscription services. The regional rights bonanza in American sport may soon be over.

Bring the Payne

One of the Rio Olympic organisers’ reactions to fears over the Zika virus was to sign the first ever official Olympic mosquito repellent supplier. Michael Payne, former head of the IOC marketing division, was not impressed.

Longer reads

Make no mistake about it, there is turmoil at the top-level of world sport, and anti-doping agencies are queuing up to criticise the IOC, not least among them WADA, and USADA.

University of Houston cross-country coach Steve Magness on why no one really wants a whistle blower.

The Guardian’s Owen Gibson on the IOC’s decision to choose obfuscation and chaos.

Nick Harris’s hard-hitting story behind the story of Russia, doping and the IOC.

An alternative take – on why the IOC got it ‘mostly right’ – from the doyen of Olympic journalism, former LA Times and NBC columnist Alan Abrahamson. And for good measure, here’s a piece he wrote earlier in the week about the IAAF’s decision to ban the entire Russian track and field team from Rio.

18th July, 2016

Another round of Qatari funding; the Premier League’s $4.12 billion rights haul explained; sport jumps onboard the Pokemon Go bandwagon; F1 falling behind; Lance Armstrong; Thomas Dimitroff; Eddie Jones; and the termination of emails.


FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi

FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi

Hot Money

Really hot money

This week’s hot money is Qatari, with the news, first of all, that Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) has committed another one-year lump to FC Barcelona. It’s 40 million euros, but not quite what Barca were hoping for.

Elsewhere, Qatar National Bank (QNB) has signed a three-year, multi-million euro jersey sponsorship with top-tier Turkish club Trabzonspor, and Aspire Academy-owned Eupen have been granted promotion to Belgium’s top flight.

4.12 billion reasons the Premier League is the best in the world

The number-crunchers over at TV Sports Markets have been eating figures for breakfast again, and the results are in: Premier League media revenues will hit $4.12 billion this season, with at least $1.73 billion garnered from the latest round of international sales. Go here for the skinny on another glut of fat deals.

The end of F1?

Probably not. But the end of Formula One involvement in Forbes’ annual 50 Most Valuable Sports Teams rankings for the time being, as Ferrari drop out of the list this year – a valuation of $1.35 billion not enough to prevent it being swamped by franchises whose average value has now reached $2.2 billion, $450 million more than last year’s rankings.

eSports Nook

Top soccer clubs across Europe have already started to recruit gamers to represent them in eSports tournaments, and now the NFL, with an eye on the popular EA Madden franchise, could be about to follow suit.

Peekaboo Pikachu

The Sacramento Kings have built themselves a reputation as technology embracers since Vivek Ranadive bought the franchise in 2013. They’ll try just about anything, and that now includes Pokemon Go. They take the Leaders Digest gold medal for first sports franchise on this particular bandwagon.

The bloom of youth

Gold medals all round for the Leaders Under 40 class of 2016, announced this week. A gala bash at London’s Natural History Museum awaits in October where the finest young talents in the industry will be honoured against a backdrop of, well, dinosaurs.

Twitter hits the rights game hard

Twitter is committing far more than just 140 characters to the live rights media market, as this latest move for Pac-12 rights, and this tie-up with Bloomberg illustrate. Moves for NBA and MLS content are on the cards.

Continental shift

Nolan Partners, the Leaders Digest’s executive search partner of choice, has expanded its operation to North America, bringing in new MD Chad Biagini in the process. With offices in LA and New York, Nolan Partners are ready to recruit. Hit them up.

Roll up, roll up

Over here at Leaders Towers, we’ve had a wealth of sports industry talent sign up to speak at Leaders Week in London this October. The latest blockbuster acts on the bill include NBA EVP and CMO Pam EL, new Aston Villa owner Tony Xia, Arsenal’s head of marketing Charles Allen, and boohoo.com marketing director Richard Clark. I’ll be there too. Will you?

Longer reads

How To Build Your Productivity In One Fail-safe Step: Eliminate Email

Not a new piece, but one tweeted by @BlakeWooster of 21st Club this week, there is an irony in a weekly email newsletter highlighting a piece calling for the elimination of email. But it’s a good piece. And irony is in, even if email might be out.

A longer read for your ears

Lance Armstrong has a podcast, and it’s excellent, even if, at well over an hour, he doesn’t really know when to stop (just like his career, heh!). The latest episode, with Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff, is a good ‘un.

A searing Sunday morning in Roppongi

England rugby coach Eddie Jones, the man who masterminded the greatest upset in the sport’s history last year, talks man-management, Brexit, and much more over lunch with the FT’s Leo Lewis.

Echo chamber

This, by Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner, is not strictly about the sports business, but it’s a powerful piece about ‘post-truth’ politics, and how social media is swallowing the news. The algorithms employed by the likes of Facebook and Twitter are now so strong that, if social media is your primary contact with world events, it’s almost impossible to reach outside of your own narrow perspective. In other words, once you’ve got them, they’re hooked.

11th July, 2016

WME | IMG’s Emanuel skips Wimbledon to pen $4bn UFC deal; NextVR valued at $800m; La Liga targets India and new title sponsor; Wanda targets Champions League; Kevin Durant; Euro 2016; and Roger Federer as silken graphical analysis.

UFC President Dana White

UFC President Dana White

Hot Money

Boxing clever

Ari Emanuel, the co-CEO at WME | IMG, is no shrinking violet. It’s not like him, for example, to miss out on a Royal Box allocation for the Wimbledon final. So when he pulled out of a scheduled trip to the UK at the last minute last week, insiders knew something was up. Turns out that something was a $4 billion monster-deal for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).  Long-time Emanuel collaborator Silver Lake is backing the deal, along with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Michael Dell. In brief: the Fertitta brothers, who bought the UFC for $2 million in 2000, will retain small stakes, but relinquish control, and Dana White looks set to continue as CEO.

 Virtual reality; genuine cash

Two of the trendiest things in the sports industry – digital investment and Chinese money – came together last week as CITC Gouan bought a $20 million slice of NextVR, valuing the virtual reality company, which has made strides in boxing and golf, at $800 million.

I wa wa wa wa Wanda

I wonder if Wanda, the Chinese group that bought Infront Sports & Media last year, will go ahead with their plans to create a new rival to the Uefa Champions League. Sport has been good to the group so far, with revenues up over ten per cent year-on-year to a shade under $18 billion.

The Pyne Warchest
Former Nascar and IMG executive-turned-pro sports industry investor George Pyne opened his wallet last week to acquire Deltatre. This week he’s opened his mouth to talk about it.

Taxing times for KD

In case you slept through last week, Kevin Durant swapped the Thunder for the Warriors, Oklahoma and its 5.5 per cent income tax rate for California and its 13.3 per cent rate. Forbes recommends he saves himself $5.5 million a year by declaring himself a Texas resident.

 Grabyo is hot

Unfortunately another Wimbledon fortnight has slipped past without someone more famous than David Beckham catching a ball in the stands. Which means that Wimbledon and its social video partner Grabyo will continue to talk about this catch – and its phenomenal performance as a piece of digital content – for another year. Grabyo, barely three years old, is clearly making plenty of catches of its own.

La Liga – here, there and everywhere

First they decided they would go ‘Premier League clean brand’ after the BBVA title deal expired, then they were mulling over two 35 million euro title sponsorship offers, then they were announcing the opening of an office in India by September, cementing probably the strongest national link between emerging soccer nation India and established European power (La Liga stalwarts Atletico Madrid co-own a team in the Indian Super League). La Liga president Javier Tebas and his team have been busy, and they’ve got stories to tell at Leaders in October.

Gossip Corner

Over here in gossip corner, rumours have it that recently stepped-down Eurosport UK MD David Kerr is planning to try his hand at screenwriting – period drama, so the whispers have it – before returning to the sports broadcast world. His erstwhile colleague, Discovery Networks International President JB Perrette, will no doubt confirm or deny this, plus tackle the altogether meatier topic of Discovery and Eurosport’s global sports strategy and ambitions, at the Leaders Sports Business Summit this year.

 eSports Nook

Over here in the eSports nook, eSports continues its rapid rise. This week saw the launch of the eSports Integrity Coalition, or ESIC, an umbrella organisation set up to provide a set of standards and protections for the developing industry from the threats of match-fixing and doping. ESIC partners include ESL, Dreamhack, Intel and Sportradar.

Huge hire

Digital consulting firm Omnigon has hired Andrew Silver to the newly created role of Chief Operating Officer. Silver joins from his role as VP of operations at business strategy and design agency Huge.

Longer reads


Uefa and the French authorities can, by and large, be pleased with the security efforts around the now-complete European Championships, a huge achievement in a nation, and a city in Paris, still raw from the terrorist attacks of November. In this haunting piece by Sam Borden of the New York Times, French striker Antoine Griezmann’s sister relays her extraordinary story of how she survived the Bataclan.

Broadcast corker

Portugal’s march to the title in the newly expanded European Championships in France may have been dull as ditchwater, but even if you wanted to produce 3,000 to 4,000 hours of ditchwater for broadcast, then you’d need a pretty high calibre operation putting it all together. Eoin Connolly watched one of the tournament’s corkers in Italy vs Spain, and went behind the scenes at Uefa’s International Broadcast Centre in Paris to produce a corker of his own.


Roger Federer didn’t win Wimbledon this year, and perhaps he never will again. It’s worth reaching for the encomiums. The late, great novelist David Foster Wallace once penned a famous piece on the religiosity of watching Federer, the writing as silken and liquid as the Swiss champion’s own playing style. This week, tennis journalist Mark Hodgkinson has produced his own work of beauty. His Fedegraphica is a graphic biography that uses data both to analyse the evolution of Federer’s game and to make the pages sing.

4th July, 2016

Sign up today to get the Leaders Digest direct to your inbox every week.

Bruin buys Deltratre; Disney lines up MLBAM; Wimbledon; Tour de France; and the Chinese money keeps on coming

Jon Bon Jovi rocks out at the 2015 Formula One Grand Prix in Singapore. The musician has been joined by Deltratre in the Bruin Sports Capital stable.

Jon Bon Jovi rocks out at the 2015 Formula One Grand Prix in Singapore. The musician has been joined by Deltratre in the Bruin Sports Capital stable.

Hot Money

Another week, another digital agency acquisition: this time Deltatre, the 30-year-old digital, live streaming and broadcast services company, was snapped up by Bruin Sports Capital, the investment fund headed by former IMG-er George Pyne. Deltatre joins the likes of hospitality company On Location Experiences and ‘disruptor’ fund Courtside Ventures in the Bruin stable, and Deltratre CEO Giampiero Rinaudo joins Jon Bon Jovi (pictured) on the growing list of people who have been on the receiving end of Pyne cash in the last 12 months.

Companies operating in the sweetspot marked ‘digital sports’ have found themselves in hot demand of late. The Deltratre deal follows Nielsen’s acquisition of Repucom, confirmed last month, Infront Sports & Media’s move for Omnigon, and stretching a little further back, WPP’s move for Two Circles.

Looming large on the horizon is a multi-billion dollar deal that will see significant chunks of MLB Advanced Media’s video streaming service bought by the Walt Disney Company – owner, of course, of Mickey Mouse, but more pertinently ESPN.

Timberwolf in a China shop

Even more fashionable than a digital agency acquisition these days is Chinese investment in an established sports property either side of the Atlantic.

Shanghai-based Lizhang Jiang, a former NBA executive, became the first minority Chinese owner in the league last week (perhaps a little surprising given how long the NBA has been building its business in China), picking up a five per cent stake in the Minnesota Timberwolves to go with the full ownership of La Liga club Granada CF his sports marketing agency acquired in May.

The Milan derby could soon resonate louder in Beijing than in the Italian capital itself, as Chinese investors edged closer to a deal with Silvio Berlusconi for AC Milan. Suning Holdings took a €270 million, 70 per cent slice of Inter in early June.

But the flow of money isn’t all one way; Adidas is going in with Wanda in what’s been described as a ‘monumental tie-up’.

Staying east, iRena, quickly building a reputation for itself as the Chinese sports marketing factotum, announced a deal with Pitch International this week. Pitch is hitching its cart to the iRena engine and the pair will collaborate to host international soccer matches in China.

Job listing that indicates impending broader industry play

This week’s entry comes from Amazon, which appears to be looking for its first ‘Principal Content Acquisition Manager – Sports’. The job is in Seattle. The implications are global.

Longer reads

Disingenuous subheading

The first longer read isn’t a read at all, but a listen. The first Leaders Podcast is a topical one. Richard Lewis is CEO of the All England Lawn Tennis Club and runs the Wimbledon tennis championships. He sat down with me to talk global marketing campaigns, and more importantly, why Rod Laver still owes him money. It’s available on iTunes and more or less anything that goes in your ears. Not covered is the real show-down the industry has been waiting for at Wimbledon this year, as the IMG summer party went head-to-head with Perform. Results due in next week.


Wimbledon Spring Press Conference 2015


Groundhog Day

Jason Day became the umpteenth golfer to withdraw from the Olympics citing fears over the Zika virus. As Matt Cleary points out in the Guardian, it’s hard to escape the feeling that golf has far from collectively embraced its Olympic debut. Fellow debutant rugby, illustrated by federation CEO Brett Gosper’s Twitter feed, positively littered with Rio references, provides a stark contrast.

Join the Caravan of Love

It’s Tour de France time again, and that means a host of sponsorship announcements at the top level of world cycling. BikeExchange are new at Australian team Orica, Drapac have signed on for US side Cannondale, while Germany continues the process of falling back in love with ‘post-doping’ cycling, as Hansgrohe lines itself up to join the Bora team.

The Inrng, probably the best business-focused blog anywhere in global sport, resurfaced a typically brilliant piece about the Tour’s unique publicity caravan.

Testing times

Former cricketer Ed Smith is on a mission: a mission to save Test cricket. Smith’s been busy. He must have a book and intriguing new university course out.

Is Apple about to throw a bone to nervous rights holders?

This piece, on video blocking technology, suggest it might be.

Cleaning up

Fresh from the success of a Copa America Centenario that might never have happened, new CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani, a keynoter at the Leaders Sport Business Summit in October, talks ice cream, guile, and corruption with Ricardo Zuniga from the AP.

See you back here – same time, same place – for another Leaders Digest next week.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Choose from a selection of tailored emails to stay in the loop with the people, ideas, technologies and projects driving the sport industry forwad.

Sign up

Join us at Leaders New York

18 – 21 May 2020 will see 1000 of the brightest minds in the industry descend on New York. Register your interest to explore the innovation, disruption and consumer preferences impacting the future of sport.

Register your interest