A to Z of sport’s movers and shakers to watch out for in 2022

A — Ahmedabad:
One of two Indian Premier League expansion franchises this year, and, after its Six Nations, LaLiga, and FIVB investments, an intriguing first move into team ownership for CVC Capital Partners, as it continues to build its formidable sports portfolio.

B — Birmingham:
Set to host the Commonwealth Games in July. Could be the last Games of its kind, as the Commonwealth Games Federation seeks new relevance. No host yet pinned down for 2026 and some radical, flexible format/sports programming plans in the works under the stewardship of new CEO Katie Sadleir.

C — Creators:
Watch for more sports making footage available for anyone to edit, share, and create memes. Models to follow: MLB Film Room and Twitch/FIBA. Navigating and negotiating official rights in this blurry new era is the challenge of the next decade, never mind the next year.

D — Donata Hopfen:
The Bundesliga’s new CEO takes up her post in January. She’ll need all her media and digital nous as she joins the top table of European football, but in the aftermath of the Super League debacle, her political astuteness will likely be every bit as vital.

E — eSkootr Championship:
One among many start-up leagues/tournaments launching this year — new assets, new franchises, more competition for eyeballs/sponsors/investors, more disruption. See also the likes of: World12s, USFL, UAE T20, and Premier Golf League.

F — Femmes (Tour de France):
At long last, a potentially game-changing moment looms for women’s cycling, as ASO holds an eight-stage race following the men’s version this July. Long overdue and should help spur greater interest and investment in riders and teams.

G — Greg Norman:
With Saudi backing, golf’s great disruptor is launching Premier Golf League with the aim of shaking up the establishment. An initial Asian Tour tie-up may only be the start. The cards of new strategic partners, the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, have been marked.

Greg Norman, file photo

H — Hygiene partners:
A sponsorship category growing fast in a sanitised world. Other categories to keep tabs on: crypto (inevitably), betting (be wary), online delivery, cyber security, streaming services (as sponsors rather than media rights buyers), and music artists/festivals.

I — International Home Markets:
The next step in the NFL’s carefully honed global plan comes to life, with territory marketing rights handed to certain teams (creating plenty of new work for agencies too). Competition in Mexico (9 teams), UK (6), and Germany (4) will be intense.

J — Jacinda Ardern:
It won’t be her primary concern, but decisions made by New Zealand’s PM will directly impact two major rescheduled women’s World Cups. Cricket in March and rugby union in October. Big moments for the International Cricket Council and World Rugby; more disruption would be a nightmare.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

K — Kosmos:
Gerard Pique’s firm has been around for a while but aside from tinkering with the Davis Cup, it’s proving a real innovator: the Balloon World Cup is a start-up for a new age, and its tie-up with Spanish streamer Ibai Llanos is smart. What next?

L — Leadership:
Running a global sports organisation now requires a deep understanding of geopolitics, societal change, and the value of diversity. You need to be a digital transformer and a top communicator. It’s about much more than sport now, as the WTA’s Steve Simon will confirm.

M — Metaverse & Web 3.0
: You’ll hear plenty about them in 2022, although they’ll still be a novelty in 12 months. We’re all learning together as we decentralise. But how does a more open online world chime with the sports industry’s still-rigid, traditional rights structures?

N — Nasser Al-Khelaifi:
Chair of BeIN Sports as it leads the way in the battle against piracy and now, at the European Club Association, a true power player as the future of football is debated. In a year when all eyes are on Doha, he’s probably the most influential person in global sport just now.

O — Overtime (& Buzzer, Aura and Recast):
the new wave of sports media platforms are here to change the game. And keep an eye on the role sports rights play in emerging content strategies at the likes of Salesforce, Fanatics, Zoom, Peleton, US betting firms, and Roblox.

P — Public Investment Fund:
In the UK, Saudi Arabia’s sports(washing) strategy is likely to be viewed through the prism of Newcastle United’s league position and transfer spend. But also watch wider investments in entertainment, plus projects like NEOM and its F1, boxing, and golf plays.

Q — Qatar:
The biggest of years for the smallest nation to ever host the World Cup. The tournament will be unique — compact on the ground and a handy timezone for much of the world. But even after 11 years of prep, the spotlight on Qatar will reach a new level as kick-off looms.

R — Regulation:
in a more complex world, expect more onus on the letter of the laws and new laws entirely. Government intervention, independent regulators, rulings on transgender athletes, equipment (shoes, prosthetics), and modernisation of rulebooks. It won’t be straightforward.

S — Scale:
In their different ways, Disney, Warner Bros Discovery, Comcast, and Amazon are showing that size matters in the modern media world — the great bundling is on and it’s always wise to remember that as important as sport is, it’s only a slither of a much larger media pie.

T — Tokens:
Legitimate way for fans to get more involved or a vehicle for speculators and traders to make a quick buck? Teams are diving in with the likes of Socios, but this ultimate monetisation of fan engagement feels troubling, especially in an unregulated crypto world.

U — USA:
Cricket, rugby, athletics, and F1 all looking to America as a land of hope and dreams (and fans/cash). F1 gets a second annual race, on Miami’s streets in May, Eugene hosts the World Athletics Championships in July, while the US is poised to stage 2031 Rugby World Cup.

Lorcan Tucker in action in a recent cricket international between Ireland and USA. Picture: USA Cricket
Lorcan Tucker in action in a recent cricket international between Ireland and USA. Picture: USA Cricket

V — Variants and vaccines:
There’s no escaping the impact of Covid. League stances on vaccines and testing, the attitudes of high-profile athletes, access to jabs around the world and national policies/exemptions will dominate headlines. The only certainty: some events won’t make it.

W — Wembley:
Hosting another final this year as England stages the Uefa Women’s Euros. A record crowd expected, a new crop of brands including Lego and Pandora, and another sizeable opportunity to build interest and engagement in women’s football. World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand looming too.

X — Xiaohaituo Mountain:
One of the venue clusters somewhere near Beijing for what seems set to be a pretty sterile, broadcast-first Winter Olympics. Protocols and politics to dominate. As for the IOC, “quiet diplomacy” may not be enough when the athletes get noisy.

Y — Yiannis Exarchos:
Again, the onus will be on the terrific OBS team to bring the world the sights and sounds from Beijing’s winter Games. A second Olympics in six months is a tough ask but expect further broadcast innovation — listen out in particular for enhanced audio.

Z — Zhou (Guanyu):
China at last has its first F1 race driver in 2022, but will the commercial impact be as significant as expected? In a big year for the sport — a major new rules package and a shuffling of the pack, Zhou’s Alfa Romeo debut won’t be the biggest story.

The author is a writer and commentator on the global business of sport.

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