When it comes to sustainability, few clubs around the globe can compare with little Forest Green Rovers from Nailsworth, England. As the first vegan club worldwide, the only carbon neutral one and – according to the FIFA – the greenest club in the world, they really set the tone in terms of a club structure, which is environmentally sustainable. And surely the whole ecosystem could learn from the old yet so progressive club.
Sustainability concerns everyone
The Forest Green Rovers are certainly not the only football club that is trying to do more for the environment. Leicester City for example have just announced their partnership with Bakers Waste. Together they want to work on the Pass on Plastic campaign to reduce single-use plastic. Leicester City’s Operations Direcor Kevin Barclay commented:
We are thrilled to announce Bakers Waste as our new Official Waste Partner. It’s one of a number of steps the Club is taking to improve its waste processes in order to help protect the environment. Leicester City Football Club is committed to recycling and reducing the amount of plastic it uses – aims which this partnership will only enhance.
German cult club FC St. Pauli on the other side are engaging with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) for their merchandising products. This means they will use biologically made natural fiber for their scarves or shirts in the shop. Over time, every product with the famed skull on it shall live up to those standards.
Speaking of skulls, Forest Green Rovers have their very own on their kits, thanks to a partnership with the international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organisation Sea Shepherd.
Both parties, FGR and Sea Shepherd, try to make the world a better plae. In fact, there’s no club quite like Forest Green Rovers. They are the greenest football club in the world, as the FIFA have confirmed.
Vegan, true to green energy and in line with nature
The Forest Green Rovers stay true to their name. Founded in 1889, they’ve only recently reached the heights of professional football in Englands League Two, the fourth tier. Yet they’re known to a wider audience for their engagement off the pitch. Winning awards like the Green Heart Hero Sustainability in Sport Award in 2018 and the Green Transport Project of the Year in 2013, for installing electric vehicles at the club, they have become a pioneer in the football ecosystem when it comes to holistic sustainable operations.
FGR chairman Dale Vince said in a UN-produced video:
We’ve become the first club in the world to become climate neutral according to the UN […] Sport looks to be a great vehicle to carry the sustainability message.
Their majority owner and principle partner ist Ecotricity, a company that provides green energy with their modern windmill park (they don’t call them turbines). Another partner is Grundon, a waste company trying to help FGR recycling 100 per cent of their waste. Add Quorn to those partners: they were the architects behind FGR’s rise to become the very first full-vegan club around. Players, staff and even fans can only enjoy vegan food and drinks at the club’s venues. But that makes for a healthier experience, does help the planet in the Long term and can even optimise performances.
In order to keep the environment around the club areas clean, Forest Green Rovers also provide charging points for electric vehicles; as they try to get more visitors travelling in a sustainable way.
Even their own lawn-mower, GPS-directed, is powered by energy harnessed from the sun. And it’s only mowing pitches that are fully organic, free from pesticides and herbicides. Adidionally, rain water is saved beneath the main pitch to re-use it for further irrigation. An example of FGR’s success in strengthening sustainability at the club is the emission value. Total emissions were at about 5 tonnes in 2015/16, but only at 2,49 tonnes in 2017/18.
In their Environmental Policy the club states:
Our aim is to make FGR a place where we can demonstrate eco thinking and technology to a new audience – football fans. Indeed, we believe that we have the opportunity to introduce sustainability to the wider world of sport, not just football. We know that a football club has an impact on the environment, so we’ve implemented an Environmental Management System to measure those impacts and target them for reduction. Within our Environmental Management System, we’ve set ourselves ambitious targets to continually improve performance, significantly reduce pollution made by all areas of the club, and ensure we’re compliant with environmental regulations.
A brand-new stadium by Zaha Hadid shall show the world their aims
In 2016 Forest Green Rovers announced plans for a new stadium with 5.000 seats. Eco Park is planned in a parkland where 500 trees and 1.8 km of new hedgerows would be planted. Even more stunningly, the stadium should largely consist of wood – and was designed by world-famous Zaha Hadid, who is known for the Innovation Tower in Hongkong, the Guangzhou Opera House or the London Aquatics Centre.
The permission for the stadium is yet to follow, though. Should it be built, it could show the whole world of football and everyone else a way to make make sports clubs ambassadors for a greener, better world.
An important outcome of this policy is, we hope, long term behavioural change, not only at our club, but amongst supporters and the rest of the sporting world too,
reads FGR’s policy.
Another way for more awareness: Bringing the intentions to the world and youth
Forest Green Rovers, who currently sit 7th in League Two, are not content just working in a sustainable way. They want to share their ambitions with everyone – and would therefore surely like to climb the leagues. But mainly they strive for being a club, a company, that brings environmental conciousness to people by showing them the way. That’s why they offer the Fit2Last programme for schools, teaching the benefits of sports, recreation, healthy living and sustainability. Furthermore, their Ambassadors Scheme sees young people share their message in schools.
But what it also does is promote the club. FGR give away 400 replica shirts for children in Year 3 each year. Around that age children tend to choose teams they follow. So that might be a clever move in terms of gaining even more awareness amongst the youngest.
A small club in the fourth tier of England without any major trophies or star players they might be, but Forest Green Rovers are really the best club in the world as far as nature is concerned. And they do know how to gain attention for their club and hopefully mindfulness for their message.
In football, fortune favours the bold and who knows, if FGR go up and generate some more fans due to their unique approach, they could become something of a bigger club in the future. For now, they already are great for what they are doing and with such commitment, too. Rumour has it other big clubs have asked for advice now. A spokesperson from Forest Green Rovers has confirmed that they collaborate with the Bundesliga, the FIFA, the UEFA, World Rugby, Roland Garros and various others and that they’ve hosted Wembley Stadium, the EFL, Sky Sports and many more in order to tell those organisations what they do to keep their place as the world’s greenest football club. Now any association or company should take a look to the special club from Nailsworth, England.
How to Gain Attention and Monetise in Sports Media with Betting
Winning the battle for attention in the competitive sports media environment is hard – monetising it efficiently is even harder. Is betting the answer? [Sponsored]
Sports media primarily exists digitally these days and faces two pivotal questions in what’s now a very crowded landscape. How can outlets optimise content to get bigger audiences and how will they monetise that reach and engagement? These questions were at the heart of discussions at the Spielmacher Konferenz 2019 in Hamburg recently, where there were clear indicators of what users are going for – primarily interactive, relevant and up-to-date features on platforms. That’s why betting and its advertising revenue potential is increasingly becoming a major avenue that outlets are exploring.
Dicussing the challenges of a fast-changing digital landscape
Right in the packed speakers’ hall at the conference, a panel consisting of moderator Jonathan Earle from Sportradar, Britta Sölter from Athletia Sports and Maurice Eisterhues from TorAlarm entered the stage to talk about “The Battle & Monetisation of Attention”. At the centre of the debate were some of the difficulties publishers are facing when it comes to capturing attention in an increasingly splintered digital audience. Consequently, Athletia’s Managing Director stated:
Users that are not necessarily into a special kind of sports are the audience that’s hard to engage and the real challenge.
While consistently growing reach and engagement seems a relatively straightforward concept, as Eisterhues knows, its actually anything but. TorAlarm’s Managing Director, understands better than most the challenges of getting people to use apps consistently, noting:“Organic growth is decreasing from year to year, so what we‘ve started to invest in is marketing efficiency and targeted promotion.”
Marketing is specifically crucial to TorAlarm’s strategy because user behaviour regarding the journey to apps has changed. With live scores and results apps readily available for football, they need to find other features to enable a unique user experience as well as innovating when it come to monetisation. Starting with marketing opportunities is a shrewd move, as is the use of data and algorithms to match user behaviour with appropriate advertising content. “We’ve got premium ads, programmatic ads and sports betting advertising and we’re working with different bookmakers,” said Eisterhues in response to Earle’s assertion that “betting could be a major driver for media going forward”.
Sportradar’s Customer Director for Sports Media also noted that betting solutions and ads are proving increasingly popular options for publishers and rights holders when it comes to monetising and engaging with users, as it offers the interactive, real-time element increasingly being sought after in a second-screen-focused landscape.
The younger generation is a FIFA first, players second and clubs far behind-generation.
Go for platforms, go for betting
Using platforms to drive growth is something the agency and publisher 433 place a big focus on. Their CCO Floris Weisz was on stage prior to the aforementioned panel and, like Lee Walker from fellow media outlet Bleacher Report, he emphasised the possibilities that still remain on social media even in the era of fake news and reduced organic growth.
433 have 35 million followers in total, only invest on Facebook and don’t own media rights.
“Let’s go where the users are,” that’s Weisz’ motto, not too different from Walker’s “need vs feed” approach.
So you need to get onto the platforms that matter to your organisation – be they Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Twitch or YouTube. According to Sölter, you need to have a content strategy that “makes people enjoy interacting with your content”.
Interaction is key for those football fans who like the thrill of betting and, if sports media outlets use betting data themselves, they can make informed decisions and rely on user data to create new targeting options or build storylines, just as Jason Sukhraj, SVP of Business Development at Sportradar US, recently suggested at FanVest.
Sports betting in media is definitely on the rise
Betting is also more than just an option for audience-tailored advertising solutions and is increasingly being used for content creation in the digital media landscape. As Variety reports, both ESPN and Turner’s Bleacher Report will launch production studios to create betting-related content while NBC has a betting program for its mobile app, with David Preschlack, president of NBC Sports Regional Networks, quoted as saying:
The market is going to be made up of more casual bettors. We feel the big opportunity here is to use sports betting to raise the entertainment value of sports programming.
Using betting as a factor to enable not just monetisation but engagement with sports and content is clearly becoming a trend in 2019 and that looks set to continue in the years to come. That’s one key strand to emerge from this year’s Spielmacher Konferenz as well as other similar industry-leading events.
According to Zion, the global sports betting market will reach a value of 155,49 billion US dollars by 2024, meaning financial growth is set to continue hand-in-hand with this landscape shift.
As a publisher or rights holder, the option to integrate betting ads in a user-centric way or even create betting-related content, which can be shared on various platforms, could be the cure for many of the sport media landscape’s current predicaments.
Rules of Engagement: How Sportradar is Using Data to Drive Monetisation for Sports Media Outlets
Sports media are getting more diverse due to digitisation, but offer more opportunities to monetise. Data driven betting, especially in-play, could multiply revenue for media. [Sponsored]
When we consume sports, we’re no longer tied to a few television broadcasting times. Due to OTT services, livestreaming and more and more social media content we can watch our favourite team or the most interesting competitions like the Champions League or the Premier League in various ways – and on different devices, too.
"Now you can watch pretty much any game from any sport anywhere in the world through a variety of different means suited to how you want to watch it. The world has changed – it is now sports but on my terms."#WorldSoccerCongress pic.twitter.com/HoZwULELRE— Sportradar (@Sportradar) 12. April 2019
And, as sports fans increasingly turn away from watching alone, media houses and publishers need to offer additional content for users to engage with. Betting is one key engagement and revenue driver that many outlets have focused on, with its opportunities only growing in a digitised world.
A second screen-centred landscape is perfectly suited for match-related interactions like in-play betting. Sportradar is a market-leading supplier of live sports data and betting services, meaning they can help both publishers and bookmakers stand out in a crowded landscape, providing new monetisation routes for media outlets and operators while offering bettors a more personalised experience.
On the Radar
The online betting space has grown and become increasingly technological in recent years, with in-play and personalised odds revolutionising the industry. The global sports betting market is expected to grow to 155 billion US dollars by 2024 although at the same time, the modern sports media landscape has grown increasingly difficult for many of the traditional publishers.
Via its betting arm Betradar, Sportradar powers some of the biggest bookmakers around the world with products such as Managed Trading Services – its holistic turnkey solution that allows operators to boost operations and drive higher margins, turnover and profits.
Furthermore, alongside live data and trading products, Sportradar provides live streaming channels to drive user engagement as well as its marketing solution ad:s, which helps streamline advertising spend by targeting sponsorship more efficiently for bookmakers.
To understand more about why football, betting and digital media are such a good fit, we interviewed Sportradar’s Customer Director for Sports Media, Jonathan Earle, and learned that betting enjoys a key position in the sports media monetisation strategy and also that cross-device marketing and live betting are growth drivers.
Spielmacher: What’s the outlook for sports media publishers in the current landscape?
Jonathan Earle: To put it simply, life is tough. Traditional publishers don’t have the monopoly on readers’ attention spans in the way they used to and while newspapers, television and radio could put their feet up back in the day, now they have competition from all sides.
Whether it’s big media titans like Amazon or Facebook, or it’s an amateur publisher churning out clips and GIFs – publishers in the middle are struggling to attract audiences and therefore not making the money they used to. That said, there are still viable avenues to monetise sports content and betting is an option many publishers are turning to.
Spielmacher: Betting and sports like football have always been closely tied. But do modern reception habits like second screening boost additional opportunities for generating revenue from digital gambling providers?
Jonathan Earle: Second-screen habits provide great opportunities for betting operators to drive engagement with audiences and bettors. However, it’s always a case of quality rather than quantity and making sure the second-screen content is relevant, timely and engaging. We believe in the use of sports data to help drive personalised content and therefore fan engagement, while market data and expertise is the key to ensuring advertising and marketing efforts are targeted at the right audiences.
Also, you have the continued growth of AI and as that continues to develop and become more mainstream, what we’ll see is a consistent move towards automated, personalised content that allows publishers to monetise their content and bookmakers to target their advertising more effectively.
Spielmacher: Are services like digital livestreaming and OTT major engagement drivers for bettors as they’re often received on devices you can directly place a bet from?
Jonathan Earle: Livestreaming, OTT and other additional content components can help operators and publishers satisfy their audience’s needs for more information, entertainment and match visualisation. In a betting context, it also helps provide more of an incentive for punters to follow the match action live – thereby staying on a site or app for longer and, most likely, being more engaged and betting more. It can also help enhance punter loyalty in what’s an increasingly crowded marketplace.
Spielmacher: Have betting and gambling become more of a widespread activity with a bigger digital variety of media offering?
Jonathan Earle: What we have seen as a result of the proliferation of digital and Social Media is a more varied and developed approach to betting offerings as well as a greater focus on personalisation and engagement in terms of marketing and advertising. The age of online and digital has not only increased competition in terms of the battle for attention – both with regards to publishers and betting operators – it’s also given both industries the scope to be increasingly creative with their marketing.
Whether you’re talking about media providers using gamified tools like InHabit or operators coming up with quirky ‘request a bet’ style offers, the opening up of the digital space has really forced both operators and outlets to adapt or suffer the consequences.
Spielmacher: How important is it to give users a personalised experience in the gambling context?
Jonathan Earle: Personalisation is a common theme across most industries and the gambling sector is no different. Not only do bettors want to see advertising that’s relevant to their interests or passions, bookmakers want their marketing spend to work for them. It’s why we created ad:s – the concept of not just using sports data to engage with fans but also knowledge of the market to bring relevant and timely advertising to audiences.
Spielmacher: What are the most important preconditions to enable a seamless betting experience for the user? Is cross-device marketing a proven asset in order to provide them with the right offer?
Jonathan Earle: There are three key aspects when it comes to ensuring a seamless and professional betting experience. Firstly, you need to ensure there is a clear and straightforward registration process so you’re not asking people to jump through hoops to sign up. Tied into that is the need for attractive sign-up benefits and bonuses – especially in what is an increasingly crowded marketplace. Finally, an attractive user interface is obviously really key, so that you ensure the betting experience is as slick and efficient as possible.
Cross-device marketing is the most effective avenue for engaging with bettors, as you have the ability to reach bettors at the most relevant touchpoints to them.
Spielmacher: Are live data the main ingredients for the creation of betting opportunities? What are the best ways to transfer these to users, so that they stay engaged?
Jonathan Earle: Live, in-play betting is proven to provide more engagement opportunities for operators as well as increased markets for games, teams and individual players – something that’s proven incredibly popular in the more established markets. It’s also beginning to prove popular in some of the legalised states in the US already, with New Jersey recording a high percentage of in-play.
Thanks so much for the interview, Jonathan.
Taking betting and its different opportunities for engagement into consideration for sports media revenue growth is certainly worth considering. In fact, it’s not really a gamble at all, is it?
The Curious Case of the Newcastle United Takeover – Transformation of a Football Club?
Newcastle United are in talks for a possible takeover by Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a relative of Man City’s owner Sheikh Mansour. Would that change the club completely?
It’s been 64 years, since Newcastle United last won a major trophy. But the traditional club from the northeast of England could be about to fight for honours again in the near future. That’s if they are indeed, as reports suggest, taken over by the super-rich Bin Zayed Group from the UAE. Some fans imagine a golden future, some react with amusement. But if the sale of the club by Mike Ashley is completed, the Bin Zayed Group will almost certainly not be content with a mid-table finish or relegation fights in the future – and therefore they will invest. That could change the whole Premier League landscape yet again.
Man City and PSG are examples of takeover power from the Middle East
The riches of Manchester City and PSG, both back-to-back champions in their respective countries and having some of the planet’s best players in their ranks, seem to be nearly immeasurable at times. Yet, before these clubs were taken over by the Abu Dhabi United Group Investment & Development Limited or Qatar Sports Investments, with Mansour and Al-Khelaifi behind those groups, they were barely top-class. In 2007, City failed to score a goal at home for five months, nearly ending up being relegated. PSG on the other hand were extremely close to relegation as well in 2008, only confirming their ongoing Ligue 1 status on the final day of that season.
All that is so very different now. And Newcastle United, only back in the top flight since 2017, could experience something similiar, who knows. Owner Mike Ashley, who is widely disliked, could finally be selling the club. According to a statement from the Bin Zayed Group, attained by the Newcastle Chronicle, the deal is as good as done as an agreement over a 350 million pound transaction is apprently in place.
Terms have been agreed between us and Mike Ashley; these terms have been reflected in a document, signed by both parties, which has been forwarded to the Premier League. The proof of funds statement was forwarded to Mike Ashley’s lawyers on 17 April 2019. The so called fit-and-proper Premier League process is a standard procedure which will take time, and we are doing all we can to assist the Premier League during this process. We feel the need to clarify this point in order for the fans and the general public to understand the timelines.
Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is behind the Bin Zayed Group, is a member of the Al Nahyan ruling family of the emirate of Abu Dhabi. He also is a billionaire, obviously, and a cousin of the Man City owner Sheik Mansour. Talksport estimates his net worth to be around 118 billion pounds. As of now, Newcastle United haven’t commented on the possible takeover, but it looks very likely at the moment. But what would it mean for the football ecosystem in the UK?
No more top 6?
The Premier League has had an established top six for years now: Tottenham Hotspur, FC Liverpool, FC Chelsea, Arsenal London, Manchester United and Manchester City. Unless miraculous things happen, just like in 2016, when Leicester won the league, those teams take up the places in the top four and top six. Some argue that Man City and Chelsea have bought their way in, but in thruth all these clubs have big amounts of money to spend, not least due to their owners or merchandising machines. Other clubs have tried to break into that circle and invested heavily, just look at Everton. But that hasn’t worked too well hitherto.
If Newcastle United are bought for 350 million pounds, only the Man United takeover by the Glazer family will have been more expensive in the Premier League. And the Magpies could be set for a major overhaul in the coming years in terms of staff, management and players. The club would probably like to keep hold of experienced manager Rafael Benítez, who also knows how to win trophies. But they’d surely splash some cash on new players, who could be lured by a bigger pay package than at other clubs or in other leagues. Newcastle only broke their transfer fee record in January, when they bought Miguel Almirón for 21 million pounds – nearly a laughable sum for the big spenders these days. And some fans, although rather ironically, are already thinking of entering the transfer market for the biggest talent there is.
What seems like a rather unlikely scenario now might well turn out to be not as unrealistic as it seems. If Sheik Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan is out to transform Newcastle United into a contender in the Premier League, equal to Man City, he would need to splash the cash and drive developments. Who would have thought in 2008, when Chelsea and Man United contested the Champions League final and were an the pinnacle of their power, that only 11 years later City would have won ten major honours in English football? In truth, Newcastle could go the same way, because money does talk in this system.
Al Nahyan had apparently tried to buy the FC Liverpool a few years back, but failed. Maybe Newcastle United will be his springboard for success in the modern football world.
The possible shift: Traditional club to superpower?
Hard to imagine it is, Newcastle United fighting for Champions League glory in a few years – if it’s not on FIFA. But such power shifts can happen. The saying that you cannot buy success is only partly true. Big amounts of money do not guarantee success. Manchester United for example, just like AC Milan recently, haven’t spent their money wisely and paid the price, falling down in the rankings of European top clubs, while other clubs are thriving. If Newcastle were to be put into a transforming era, they need to put the money from their eventual new owners in the right places and start building something with deliberation. Because that will rather yield success on the pitch than a buy-it-all-win-it-all approach. It will also make for a better perception of the club. For Newcastle United with all their history and a big and passionate fanbase, would need to make sure that they don’t scare off their supporters by becoming all too fancy. Sure, those fans would like to be back in the Champions League and be rivals to the big teams again. But there’s no flip switch to make that happen – and there should never be.
Will the takover happen? We don’t know, but probably it will. And will that transform the Magpies, make them a big team and change the preconditions in the Premier League in the years to come, will maybe even more super-rich investors go to take over other clubs from England? Maybe. Thankfully we cannot really predict what will happen in football. As fans, we’re still happy to witness breakthrough stories like Sean Longstaff’s.
But we’re also deeply impressed by new records and beatiful football, like Man City are providing them. The future of Premier League football and football in Europe is determined by a balance of great financial backing and a sense for the essential elements of the game. Passion, honesty, fight, they can be forgotten over money, but never should be. Fans will appreciate both. And maybe the Magpies’ fans will be cheering a successful and passionate team in the near future. But winning constantly is about power and nous, something you cannot buy in the short term. So let’s see who prevails in the long term, getting the balance right. And let’s not forget that exceptional people make success possible, like Guardiola, Messi, Sterling, Salah, Allegri, Löw in his prime, Ranieri, Vardy and Co. Yet, more often than not, money will be a factor for them, too. Interesting times for the Toon Army and anyone else in love with football.
Football’s Richest: Revenue Isn’t Just Tied to Success
Real Madrid have overtaken Manchester United, who announced astonishing earnings, as the world’s most valuable football brand despite both clubs having had disastrous seasons.
Any football club has to be led like a company these days. From an economical point of view, it’s not just about the teams or players, but very much about the brand. And new findings show that success on the pitch is not always neccesary in order to be accounted for the most valuable brands in football, as Man Utd and Real Madrid show. They do of course have the luxury of being able to rely on their titles and star players. But it’s also their branding that makes them flourish financially.
Real Madrid become the most valuable football brand
Brand Finance publishes the Football 50 report annually and lists the most successful brands in the ecosystem. Real Madrid have this year overtaken Manchester United to become 2019’s most valuable brand in football, with an estimated worth of 1,646 billion Euro. Bryn Anderson, director at Brand Finance, explains:
Real Madrid have shown this year who truly reigns supreme in the world of football. They triumph not only as the most valuable and strongest brand but their enterprise value and stadium are also ranked second to none. The most successful club in the history of European football is finally reaping the benefits of decades of spectacular on- and off-pitch performance.
The Spanish giants are actually still the reigning Champions League winners – until 1 June. But their recent season has been quite terrible for their standards, being knocked out of every competition bar the Club World Cup and having had no real chance for the La Liga title. While the Spanish champions FC Barcelona sit third in Brand Finance’s rankings, Manchester United are still second, with an estimated worth of 1,472 billion Euro.
But their recent failings on the pitch have not only made them fall off top spot, but also lose worth. They haven’t gone on to win anything, since Mourinho gave them the Europa League success in 2017 – and their last league title came in 2013 under Sir Alex Ferguson and is a distant memory now. Their latest campaign has been rather miserable, apart from the women’s success.
United also slipped to fourth in the strongest brands ranking behind Bayern Munich. Despite their poor form on the pitch and the costs of sacking José Mourinho in December, the club still announced earnings of nearly 500 million pounds for the financial year ended 31 March. The brand is so poweful that both commercial and broadcasting revenue brought in more than 200 million pounds in that period. The third quarter 2019 alone saw them earn just over 150 million pounds. Such sucess is strengthened by lucrative new partnerships, for instance with Marriott or Maui Jim.
United executive vice chairman, Ed Woodward, says that the club will help the new manager in restoring success on the pitch as well:
After a turbulent season, everyone at Manchester United is focussed on building towards the success that this great club expects and our fans deserve. Preparations for the new season are underway and the underlying strength of our business will allow us to support the Manager and his team as we look to the future.
Premier League dominates brand value rankings
England’s first tier, the Premier League, accounts for 43 per cent of total brand value. The league has 17 entrants in Brand Finance’s top 50. Even the promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers have jumped ahead of Ajax Amsterdam, Celtic Glasgow or the FC Sevilla in terms of brand value. Six of the ten strongest brands and most valuable brands are from England: the Premier League’s traditional top six.
The biggest winners in brand value change in total numbers are Real Madrid (+349 million Euro), FC Liverpool (+199 million Euro), PSG (+161 million Euro) and Manchester City (+158 million Euro). Still, the biggest growth can be attributed to the FC Sevilla, a club that grew brand value by 49,1 per cent. Other clubs in that listing are SSC Napoli (36,3 per cent) or even the FC Southampton (32,4 per cent).
While the report from Brand Finance gives a comprehensive overview regarding the brand value of football clubs, it also shows that England does have the highest value, but second-placed Spain is only slightly ahead of Germany.
Next in line are Italy and France, but the value of all the countries behind that accounts for only a fraction of the leading contenders.
A lot of other factors are presented in the report, explaining that Borussia Dortmund are number one for the Matchday Experience, while Bayern Munich are best in the category broadcaster and partner appeal. Fan perceptions are also quoted, showing that some people like Barcelona for their “cool branding“, whereas others favour PSG for having their favourite player in their ranks. The Brand Finance report elucidates how money talks in football these days – even if you’re not successful on the pitch for some time. However, the enormous amounts of money that the biggest club brands generate will probably give the not so unreasonable impression that there will be an ever growing imbalance in the financial powers of football leagues and clubs. Yet, it’s nice to reckon that clubs like the 1.FC Nuremberg, AS Saint-Étienne or Newcastle United are mentioned in the same breath as Manchester United, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, when it comes to history and heritage.
Values, which shouldn’t be forgotten whilst growing the club revenue. For a brand, success is everything. For a football club, though, there is more.
Global Rights Holders Miss Out on 16 Billion Euro Sponsorship Money
The global sports sponsorhip market will grow to 41 billion Euro in 2019. But due to outdated rights packages, a further 16 billion remain unrealised revenue.
Sponsorships are an undeniable pillar of the sports ecosystem. Football clubs around the world rely on deals with companies that ensure revenue, while those brands expect to gain viewability. These synergy effects simply cannot be underestimated regarding the growth of clubs, leagues or associations. Therefore, sponsorhip opportunities are leveraged more and more emphatically. Be it sleeve sponsors on shirts or branding on training wear. Now, a report shows the ongoing growth of sponsorhip value, but points to missed opportunities as well. While there are threats to sponsorhip income, data could lead the way to more spend eventually.
16 billion Euro: The amount that rights holders are missing
Once, sponsoring used to be rather easy. A company wanted to be connected to a specific sports team, athlete, league etc. and paid an agreed sum in order to be seen, with their logo sported on shirts, shown on perimeter boards or what have you. Actually, in football it’s still extremely important to be seen on a kit or inside the stadium. But the opportunities have become much more differentiated. The viewability is there, if your company features on the shirt twice.
Furthermore, brands are integrated into apps, for example, to present starting line-ups or substitutions. They also need to be seen on Social Media or in the context of the various other outlets of clubs.
In a way, sports clubs and even leagues have to carry a self-image as brands rather than sports consortia and will need to grow revenue every single year to stay competitive. That seems even more important, since super rich investors put some proportions in the football ecosystem off the balance. So, sponsorhip deals are greatly important to clubs like the FC Barcelona – who earn 55 million Euro a season from kit sponsor Rakuten alone – and SC Freiburg as well, who get just over 2,5 million a year from Schwarzwaldmilch. Barcelona will even receive 1,5 million Euro extra from Rakuten for winning La Liga and could pocket another 5 million if they win the Champions League – which doesn’t seem unlikely at the moment. Thus, the Spanish giants contribute a lot to the 41 billion Euro, which Two Circles have anticipated will be gained by global rights holders in 2019 as sponsorhip revenue in the sports universe. This will mean the revenue will grow by four per cent. Yet, Two Circles estimate that a staggering 16 billion Euro more could be gained – if it wasn’t for outdated rights packages.
Modern standards will have to be set for sponsorhip packages
The brand spend for sponsorships in sports has grown steadily over the years and will reach about 58 million Euro in 2024. But the unrealised sponsorship value is growing, too.
Two Circles estimate that the global rights holders’ packages are actually worth 57 billion Euro this year. That means 16 billion of worth are not leveraged. Gareth Balch, Two Circles’ CEO, explains:
Most rights-holders continue to package and sell sponsorship just as they did 20 years ago – offering brand exposure through linear broadcast coverage as the main benefit for brands. Globally we’re spending more time consuming entertainment on digital platforms; we consistently see a disparity between what brands need to reach an audience effectively and quantifiably, and what digital assets rights-holders are able to offer in their sponsorship packages.
Therefore, the company have found that the rights holders have underachieved financially, not leveraging the potential of 14 billion Euro a year on average ever since 2014.
In order to take advantage of that huge financial potential, rights holders like clubs and leagues will need to factor more aspects into their sponsorship plans, such as Social Media or OTT reach. Additionally, it could be worthwile to lure new kinds of brands to the sponsorship table in the long term. For the sponsors pie right now – at least in the UK – is pretty much dominated by proven players such as financial services (19 per cent), automotive (14 per cent), airline (13 per cent), gambling (12 per cent), alcohol (9 per cent) or soft drinks (7 per cent). Other categories account for 26 per cent.
But there might be changes in the sponsorhip landscape sooner rather than later, if you look at the UK. Mind you, some gambling companies plan to restrict their marketing on football kits, during broadcasting and on perimeter boards – and they demand that other companies follow suit.
Gambling operators have a key role to play in protecting people from harm and identifying potentially risky betting behaviour,
said UK’s Gambling Minister Mims Davies MP. If gambling was excluded from main sponsorhips, the UK sports market with its rights holders would suffer straight away, you may reckon. Yet, it would also open up new possibilities to integrate new brands for which it might have become more lucrative to sponsor sports teams these days. To find out which brands are a good fit, clubs and leagues alike turn to up-to-date data measurement. Balch says:
Rights-holders are adapting to this new world and we predict a sports sponsorship correction: by embracing the power of data and digital to create sponsorship assets that better satisfy the objectives of brands, rights-holders will realise the true value of their sponsorship businesses. This will drive greater spend from brands in all sectors, not just the ‘traditional’ sectors for sport such as financial services, automotive, airlines and gambling.
His stance cannot be too surprising, given Two Circles offer sponsorship measurement solutions as well.
Taking advantage of altered circumstances
But brands can indeed leverage the power of data to determine whether sponsoring a certain club would be worth it. Even for Twitch, a coming platform for different sports, mainly eSports, but football as well, there are new measurement solutions these days.
So, sponsorship spend does grow, but it could grow even bigger. And while in sports it shouldn’t be the ultimate goal to just earn as much money as you can, this somehow is the big incentive for competitive brands. That’s why more sponsorhip opportunities will arise. A new kind of reception, a whole new level of sports wear and merch and more and more different international audiences offer the chance to augment sponsorship income in the long term. Data will help assess the approach and findings like the study from Two Circles certainly could be regarded as an incentive for rights holders and brands alike. Will all those sponsorhips bear down the sports experience somehow? Maybe; but we’re all part of it and we as the sports audiences create that space where billions of sponsorship money are spent to keep the sports ecosystem intact.
Will Betting Sponsors be Banned from Shirts in the UK?
A group owning betting powerhouses Ladbrokes and Coral calls for betting sponsorships to stop during broadcasting and on clubs’ shirts in the UK. That would change the sponsorship landscape dramatically.
Betting is a big part of football, especially in the UK. The number of shirts, on which we can see betting companies as main sponsors, is telling. Now the GVC Holdings, that owns reknowned bookmaker Ladbrokes, puts more effort in its initiative Changing for the Bettor in order to tackle the problem of gambling. Therefore, betting sponsorships on shirts or perimeter boards in the British Premier League and Footbal League shall be banned. Is that proposition really realisable, given the stranglehold of the industry on sponsorhips?
So many main sponsors in the Premier League are betting companies
Betting companies are widespread sponsors across the football ecosystem. In the Bundesliga, only Hertha BSC sport such a company on their match kits and in La Liga we see Marathonbet on Málaga’s shirts. On the perimeter boards, betting companies are also ever present. But it’s in the UK, that the connection is particularly salient. The Premier League and the Football League Championship are dominated by betting sponsors shirt-wise. In the Premier League, it’s nine from 20 teams, in the Championship an astonishing 17 from 24 that have a betting partner on their chest: Bet365, 32Red, Betfred, 888 Sport, Dafabet, LeoVegas, Betway and the list goes on. The FC Burnley are one on several clubs sporting a betting company on their kits.
Additionally, Sky Bet is sponsoring England’s second, third and fourth tier. Youth teams are not allowed to wear such logos as those of betting companies. Still, a bad influence is assumed by some. At the start of this season, Gambling Watch UK’s Professor Jim Orford was quoted by FootyHeadlines:
There is evidence that gambling is becoming ever more normalised, particularly among young people, so that increasingly betting is seen as part and parcel of following and supporting one’s favourite sport or team. Many people think gambling is now out of control in Britain which has the most liberal online gambling regulations of any European country.
The correlation of betting and football has become common, even professional football players have placed bets more often than they should have in the past. As the debate about this relation goes on, both GVC, that owns Ladbrokes, Coral and Gala, and William Hill are considering a change, when it comes to marketing for betting in sports. According to the BBC, they will both stop football shirt sponsorhips, while GVC will stop perimeter advertising. Moreover, the company, which in January launched its Changing for the Bettor initiative, wants betting companies to stop advertising in sports altogether. At the time, GVC’s Director of Responsible Gaming, Grainne Hurst, said:
Whilst the vast majority of our customers enjoy playing with us in a safe and fun environment we are aware that for some players, gambling can impact their lives negatively. We are committed to leading the industry in minimising potential harm caused by problem gambling. That is why we are today launching Changing for the Bettor and have partnered with Harvard faculty at the Division on Addiction to help us to better understand and tackle the issues around problem gambling.
The UK’s Gambling Minister Mims Davies MP said:
Gambling operators have a key role to play in protecting people from harm and identifying potentially risky betting behaviour.
The first of them are taking a new route. But will others follow suit to tackle the problem, even if it means missing out on a fair amount of views and potentially losing brand awareness?
The UK’s betting problem is getting worse with young people
In 2016, the British National Health Service (NHS) said that 42 per cent (56 if you included National Lottery participants) of the population in England were into gambling. Numbers cited more recently saw about 430.000 problem gamblers in the UK. A new study by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) found that nearly 55.000 children between eleven and 16 years of age have gambling issues, while about 450.000 are into betting activities. On average 16 pound per week are spent for that, despite betting not being allowed for people under 18.
As a first reaction, the UK will ban any advertisement for betting from child-friendly websites or online games. And now, football as one of the main media events not only in the UK, but worldwide, could be next in line, when it comes to ptrotecting young people – but not only them – from being confronted with more betting brands. Besides such negative effects, though, the gross gambling yield (GGY) of the Great Britain gambling industry was 14,4 billion pounds in the year from April 2017 to March 2018; and those numbers will only have grown. That means that the gambling and betting companies do make a lot of money in England, Scotland etc. And will they follow GVC’s lead, if they’re not forced to? Because that could well mean a decrease in revenue, albeit mingled with the good conscience of being more responsible.
One question remains: who does have the responsibility in terms of protecting people from developing gambling problems? It cannot be argued that it is the betting companies’ fault alone simply for being there. But their stranglehold in British football and sports sponsoring certainly reproduces the overcome idea of a correlation of football and betting for the worse. Thus, ending it smoothly might be the right call from the companies themselves. Because regulation could be around the corner, anyway. If that happens, a lot of clubs in British football would have to look for new main sponsors on their shirts, though. But that could be a lucrative competition for viewability eventually. And some new brands might surface in the Premier League or the Football League more prominently. Therefore, this whole debate unites potential and economical fears. It will be exciting to monitor those developments off the pitch in the months and years to come.
All for the Money? Will Kick Offs and Venues Change as Part of Internationalisation
The Spanish Super Cup could move to Saudi Arabia, while Ligue 1 kick off times will change in order to keep a Chinese audience engaged.
Some fans already fume about the fragmentation of matchdays due to broadcasting demands. Games on a Monday are not really popular and some kick off times just don’t appeal to the supporters. The accusation that this scheduling is merely meant to augment revenue streams is further fueled by various plans to change established frames for the football reception in some countries. La Liga’s plan to play matches in the US might have hit a stumbling block, but the Super Cup could now move to Saudi Arabia – as sponsorship money lures. Meanwhile, the Ligue 1 plans to change kick off times to satisfy Chinese audiences. Those changes would be worthwile; but will such transitions be seamless for every fan out there?
Playing somewhere else: La Liga could earn 30 million Euro a year
The remarkable amount of 30 million Euro annually, for six years, is on the cards for La Liga. It is, according to Marca, offered to the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) by the Saudi government, which would like to see the prestigious games between champions and cup winners from Spain staged on their soil. It would’t be a new experience for teams like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona or FC Sevilla, since the Supercopa de España was played abroad as a single match for the first time this season, with Barcelona beating Sevilla in Tangier in August.
Furthermore, Saudi Arabia already have a deal in place allowing them to host the Supercoppa Italiana for three seasons. In January, Juventus defeated AC Milan in the King Abdullah Sports City stadium in Jeddah.
Nothing has been decided yet as the RFEF would even consider cooperations that last longer – and therefore offer more income. Adding to this opportunity to move games abroad is Luis Rubiales’ – who is the RFEF president – plan to create a final four for the Supercopa. That would see the top two of La Liga and the Copa del Rey finalists compete from a semi-final on somewhere out of Spain. While such plans promise additional income aplenty, it would also create something of an inauthentic experience. Plus, it could confound fixture planning a lot. That is a main reason why La Liga itself is opposing the RFEF plans at the moment, as Reuters report.
La Liga’s general assembly has agreed at today’s meeting to not support the changes to the Copa del Rey and Super Cup which have been proposed by the RFEF. This is due to the fact that these types of changes should be agreed to by La Liga as they affect clubs belonging to the league and they imply an important change to the professional competition calendar,
said a statement from the body. 39 of the 42 clubs in the first and second tier had opposed the changes.
At the start of the season there were reports about a deal that would see one La Liga match a season played on US soil. But the FIFA rejected the approach officially:
Consistent with the opinion expressed by the Football Stakeholders Committee, the Council emphasised the sporting principle that official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association.
The deal was struck without the knowledge of the federation, too. But who knows, such overseas games might still materialise as some La Liga officials told The Washington Post at the time that they would even go to court over the matter:
Should we receive official notification from FIFA that they prohibit the match in the USA, we will take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) with urgency.
The Spanish players’ union is against that and the fans at home won’t like it. From a business perspective it is still a reasonable thing to do. Playing abroad – and not only in a rather uncompetitive friendly mode – could well enhance fan engagement, viewer numbers and eventually popularity and measurable revenue for the federation, the league and the teams.
Ligue 1 draws attention to China
The US is one big market for European clubs or leagues, China is another. That can be seen, if you look at plans that the French Ligue 1 is presenting right now. From the 2020/21 season on, kick off times on a Sunday shall change in order to reach more people in China. French professional football league (LFP) chief executive, Didier Quillot, said:
In terms of marketing, we need to have different content based on storytelling. We need to start to develop content more dedicated to the Ligue 1 region, trying to invent new way of storytelling of Ligue 1. Today we are catching up with Serie A (Italian top flight) in terms of value and attractiveness. We need to catch up with Bundesliga (German top flight), but it is a long journey,
as was reported by SportsPro Media. That’s why one match from the French first tier will start at 1PM CET from 2020 on. Such a kick off time had already been scheduled for the match between OGC Nice and Paris Saint-Germain in march – with Quillot once again commentating:
A year after the opening of the French football office in Beijing, the scheduling of a big Ligue 1 Conforama fixture for prime time across Asia constitutes a new milestone for getting to know the French league. This big step will give Ligue 1 Conforama even higher exposure to an Asian public who are becoming increasingly interested in the spectacle offered up by French clubs.
And the Ligue 1, which has drawn more attention not least due to PSG’s rise to a European superpower having the likes of Neymar, Mbappé or Buffon in their ranks, is presented to Asian audiences more and more. Just like La Liga, the Ligue 1 has staged the French Super Cup abroad this season, but for the tenth consecutive time. It had been played in Canada, the US, China, Austria, even Gabon etc. The press was certainly present then.
So, despite a lot of resistance, the scheduling of games in Europe’s top leagues might change more and more over the course of the next few years as global audiences want to be given better access. For the federations and leagues that means more money. Super Cup games will be more of a marketing exhibition, while kick off times will surely be even more apportioned in order to make broadcasting in other countries more lucrative. Eventually, we might even see La Liga games in the US; and if that happens, other leagues could follow suit. Such a development will only be the natural consequence of a football ecosystem that has a self-image as an agglomeration of global brands. And fans and supporters will not fade away, even though marketing machineries control the preconditions for their beloved sports increasingly. It just won’t be the same experience anymore, once the moneymakers have left the the image of mere football clubs vying for superiority in the shadows.
VAR – The System Gives and Takes Millions
We’ve seen VAR in action quite often now, but rarely in such breathtaking fashion as in the Man City vs Tottenham CL quarter-final. It tipped the scales – with financial consequences.
Ecstatic joy, then intangible disappointment. City fans were left devastated after VAR had overruled what looked like their winner in one of the most thrilling Champions League quarter-finals the competition has seen for a while. Raheem Sterling, in world-class form for weeks and months, had just given Man City a 5:4 lead on aggregate, completing his hattrick on the night and a remarkable comeback after losing at Tottenham’s new ground and going behind in the second leg as well. The game itself, tied on 2:2 after only eleven minutes, was incredible. But the the finish and all the drama related to it was overwhelming and cruel at the same time, yet somehow novel in the way it was build up. For VAR had a hand in both goals that decided this game – only that one wasn’t going to stand. These decisions are worth millions.
A fair way to decide a game?
The decisions of the VAR may not always be of such magnitude or significance. But even in the other Champions League quarter-final of the night, Porto vs Liverpool, the first goal was only awarded – it was initially chalked off for offside – after VAR gave the green light. And it was awarded rightly so. It ended all of Porto’s hopes, though and took their momentum away.
In the Man City vs Tottenham game the system took control twice. In the 73rd minute, Spurs were in desperate need of a goal and, a bit out of the blue, they got it as Fernando Llorente somehow bundled home from a corner. Amid the celebrations, referee Cüneyt Çakır got the information that VAR would make a check – and he even went to the pitchside monitor to analyse the scene himself, because there was a hint that Llorente had touched the ball with his wrist in the slightest of contacts before it hit his hip and went in. After a long check, Çakır eventually gave the goal as he had before. After that, City attacked the Spurs defence again and again without finding a breaktrough. Then came the 93rd minute, in which Sterling “scored“. Without VAR, City would have been awarded that goal and would now face Ajax Amsterdam in the semis. But VAR entered the CL in the knockout stages this season and it intervened to righly disallow the goal as Bernardo Silva had directed a mishit pass from Eriksen into the path of Agüero – who was offside.
The outcome of the game was emotionally challenging, even for fans not connected to either side. Yet, it also has consequences for the clubs. Man City’s dream of achieving an unprecedented quadruple is over, while Tottenham can still dream of winning a first ever Champions League crown. Plus, going through and going out decides over revenue the teams take from the competition.
Fine margins and big differences
Reaching the latter stages of the Champions League means more income for the current campaign. This season, the competition will distribute 2,04 billion Euro. Any team in the group stages pockets 15,25 million Euro, a win is worth another 2,7 million. But the big money is in the knockout stages. You’ll earn 9,5 million for the round of the last 16, another 10,5 for the quarter-final and 12 million for the semis. The final itself adds 15 million to the contestants’ accounts and the winner gets another four million, while playing in the UEFA Super Cup gets you 3,5 million with a further million in sight for the winner of that game.
This means, Man City miss out on quite a few revenue opportunities due to the VAR decisions; not that they couldn’t compensate it. For Tottenham Hotspur, a team and club in the ascendant for years, it means more money to spend or reinvest. These big Premier League clubs might consider those amounts peanuts, but Ajax could think differently – and imagine a small club getting there. And picture it: such fine margins make the difference. Agüero was ruled offside, but only because Silva just about touched the ball from Eriksen. Llorente however might have touched the incoming ball with the hair on his wrists and maybe another ref would have disallowed the goal. Yes, these decisions have been there ever since. But with games in competitions like the Champions League and winning them being so worthwile and with the introduction of VAR, that very system does impose itself as a discerning and decisive feature.
Some say it’s for the better, because it is fair – most of the time. For it still needs people to run it and they can make mistakes, too. It will probably get better with time, but the debate about it will go on. What strikes one as odd, though, is that the Europa League doesn’t have VAR. Eintracht Frankfurt took advantage of that in their quarter-final comeback win over Benfica Lisbon, as their first goal was scored from an offside position. To keep the football ecosystem fair, VAR should be used in every competition.
The money and the feelings
Spurs have pocketed just over 60 million Euro from the Champions League last season, when they went out in the round of the last 16. That amount is going to be bigger this year. Thanks to their great performances and a little bit to the VAR as well. The revenue might be a factor that isn’t always focused when the VAR is discussed, but it’s a pivotal component. Seemingly, the emotional aspect of football outweighs such thinking, that is the main objective for clubs as brands, at times. Interruptions like in the Man City vs Tottenham game can be annoying and they can surely dash emotions – at least for the moment. But the VAR is also able to create a whole new level of emotional roller coasters.
We’ve seen that now, dreams crumble, frustration vanishes within the blink of an eye, when the screen in the stadium tells you about the decision by VAR. It could decide over managers’ futures, over revenue streams and transfer money, over comeback of thes season or another year of pain. In the end, VAR is just a system to aid the referees and it’s only a small part of the game. Is it fair, is it authentic, is it good for football? Jury’s still out, but it’s certainly a game changer – and there to stay.
Are Friendlies the Next Big Revenue Driver for Clubs?
The high-profile friendly tournament is gradually turning into a marketing and revenue machine. So, are friendlies having more economical impact than the odd matchday?
The launch of this year’s International Champions Cup once again brought up the most high-profile clubs in the world: Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Juventus Turin, Arsenal London, Benfica Lissabon, Manchester United and the list goes on. Orchestrated since 2013, the tournament is played in various locations across the world, from New York to Singapore. Now, the lucrative pre-season schedule will be brought to many more fans as the host organisation Relevent Sports Group have brokered a two-year deal with IMG Media to distribute the games even better. So, apart from selling countless tickets, the media coverage of the top games should be more comprehensive. Are friendlies, of all things, turning into an unmissable event of economic significance?
Pre-Season: From spreading the brand to the battle of giants
A decade or so ago, football clubs had got used to an annual pre-season tour, which offered the chance to find new fans in different countries and cultures and play games against local teams. These tours brought them to Asia, Africa, North and South America, to different corners of Europe and have always helped to grow their brand. Nowadays, though, or since the inauguration of the International Champions Cup, the odd games against fellow European clubs that resided in the same area have become more of an obligation. Last season, the tournament that is hosted by the Relevent Sports Group (RSG) staged 27 games across 22 cities and sold over a million tickets for them – a record, as SportsPro Media report.
The very same outlet now refers to a deal between the RSG and IMG Media, which will see the latter sell the rights to watch the games globally. Although the US, Mexico and Central America are excluded for some reason. The ICC managing director, Matthew Kontos, said:
Our global tournament needs an international partner to help reach our distribution goals and satisfy the viewing needs of soccer fans all over the world. IMG brings a unique expertise that makes them the ideal partner to continue to elevate the ICC.
Meanwhile, Michael Mellor, senior vice president of soccer at IMG Media, explained:
We look forward to working with Relevent Sports Group over the next two years and to increasing awareness of the ICC and ensuring the tournament is viewed as widely as possible across all forms of media platforms.
You can already purchase tickets for some mouthwatering clashes.
How much of a media event the ICC has become was clear to see at the launch of this season’s edition. Reknowned actor Jason Sudeikis was the host for the media-effective event.
The ICC even have their own online shop on their website, selling club merch aplenty. Tickets for the match between Atlético Madrid and Juventus at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, maybe a bit of a low-key stadium compared to the other places, start at 74 Euro. That means fans will have to pay quite a sum to see their favourite stars; unless they turn to streaming opportunities or other media, where IMG Media will possibly have helped distribute the games.
Financial picking season for the clubs
For the 2017 tournament, TotalSportek has published a list of payments for the clubs taking part. Real Madrid, Manchester United and the FC Barcelona were paid 20 million pound each for appearance alone, plus add-ons. Two years on, these payments will only be bigger.
With that much at stake, and a much bigger media audience and attention to follow, can clubs even concentrate on their individual demands to prepare for a new season full of challenges, when maybe there’s a lot of new personnel or even a new manager?
It seems as though, with the International Champions Cup and similar obligations, clubs are turning traditional pre-season patterns into a marketing event ever more.
That isn’t reprehensible, for every club has to do that as a brand. And brands, other than a sports club, simply cannot afford something of an off-season. Therefore, they offer fans exclusive media content, special events and of course an entertaining and packed pre-season programme. In that respect, a well-organised and well-paid for pre-season could turn out to be of more importance than a single matchday. It might not be as significant in terms of where the team ends up in the season – but the presentation of the club’s brand in between such seasons is of bigger significance for the development of the club as a company. Eventually, for a lot of clubs pre-season is the time to reap the rewards for proper branding and it could be called picking season in terms of the heavy financial shuffles in the industry. A club cannot afford to miss that and fans get excited; but will they remain as they are, if all that big club super branding continues to overshadow what football once was all about?
Spurs Revel in Opening of Their Stadium for the Ages
The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has been officially opened. While Spurs will play their first game there soon, fans are already fascinated by a place to kick off a new era. One of success, they hope.
Here it is. After so long, Tottenham will finally be home again in their very own stadium. Their U18s kicked off the first competitive match in bright sunlight, scored three and the A team will hope to replicate such a performance next Wednesday, when they play their first ever match, a London derby against Crystal Palace, in the scintillating, formidable arena.
To Dare Is To Do,
that’s the motto emblazoned on the walls of the stadium, which is so much more than just a football ground. While the Totteham fans are full of anticipation, they hope that they’re on the cusp of experiencing another step for their beloved club; with trophies following soon. In terms of marketing, revenue potential and sheer appeal, the Spurs have already got the world looking at them. Something they’d surely like to continue.
Wembley wasn’t so bad, but …
It’s fair to say that Tottenham, a team so strongly associated to their old ground White Hart Lane, have been far from underperforming at the temporarily home Wembley. That very venerable stadium, although rebuilt too, is one of the most impressive ones in the world, let alone England. And it sure has seen some world-class performances from Harry Kane, Dele Alli Christian Eriksen and all those players that have blossomed under the guidance of Mauricio Pochettino. For they’ve defeated Chelsea twice there this season and have recently dispatched a promising Borussia Dortmund with three goals to nil in the Champions League proper.
Additionally, Tottenham have established themselves as a Champions League team and are getting closer to the latter stages of cup competitions as well. A trophy has eluded them for too long, though. Therefore, they hope the new stadium will give them the boost they need to thrive even more, with silverware at the end of the road.
Where are Spurs going with their new stadium?
On one hand, silverware is what great teams are measured by. José Mourinho may be past his best, but his assumption that titles make teams and subsequently managers, and players, for eternity is not a long shot. On the other hand, the club and brand Tottenham Hotspur certainly have more existential goals. For they are longing for additional awareness around the globe, new supporters and in a financial way, too. Revenue is as important as fans’ data and digital affection these days.
Those are reasons, why the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which will host NFL games as well, is a modern money-making machine, made for the football experience that merges 21st century entertainment demands and more traditional sports experiences. Yes, you can still have your pint, only it might be served at the longest bar in the UK with 87 metres. Tottenham fan Chris Cowlin had a look. An own brewery exists as well.
And for sure, you’re invited to check out the club store to get dressed or get your hands to the latest Spurs merch. The club’s financial ambitions show, if you consider it is the biggest fanshop of any Premier League club.
Not only Burger King knows that bigger is better sometimes, so Tottenham have also created the biggest single tier stand at the south end of the stadium. It acommodates roughly 17.599 fans who are very close to the pitch. Spurs are hoping to recreate an atmosphere like at Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park, where the famed Yellow Wall can suck the ball in for their team.
The capacity of 61.559 will also make the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium the biggest club arena in London. Two pitches are interchangeable, one of real grass, one artificial – and it only takes 25 minutes. That’s great news if you plan to rent out your football ground for other lucrative events. While the pricing is indeed demanding, starting at about 800 pounds for the cheapest season ticket, visitors will have so many things to discover. As we had reported last year, there’s a Sky Walk to give attendants the opportunity to climb the outer stadium wall. There are cafés, conference and banquet rooms, the whole venue is open for 365 days a year.
We are creating, what we believe, will be the finest stadium anywhere in the world for spectators, visitors and the wider community, delivering a major new landmark for Tottenham and London.
said Tottenhams website at the time. Even for those who are tied to their smart devices or simply love the most modern technology, there are great features. Together with partner Hewlett Packard, Tottenham have created several highlights. Mobile ticketing for easier access, cashless paymens, WiFi everywhere aren’t that special, yet nice to have. Apart from that, beacons mean the way to the next pie, shop or your seat is easy to find within the app, push notifications offer fans personalised interactions as customised communication becomes more relevant for the experience – which will also mean more matchday income, for sure.
The first test has fans fascinated
Some feared that Tottenham could lose a bit of their identity with this new stadium, and that they could be about to alienate their die hard fans for more celebrity audiences. Yet, the first game in the arena, a victorious match for the Tottenham U18s, saw nearly 30.000 fans arrive. To say they were pleased would be an understatement. Right now, with the first real Premier League encounter beckoning, all is well, one can assume.
Especially youngster J’Neil Lloyd Bennett won’t forget the occasion, since he scored the first ever goal at the stadium.
Spurs’ new home will need some time before it can be mentioned in the same breath as Old Trafford, Anfield or even White Hart Lane. For it will need experiences, wins, defeats, great goals, drama, tears, ecstasy and passion. The stage is certainly set.
Tottenham even have integrated a lot of club folklore in the venue, naming a restaurant the White Hart or acknowledging their 200 official supporters clubs on the walls.
We are nearly crying because our dream became true,
said Pochettino at the test opening, a man who epitomises the promising Spurs course right now so significantly.
Not all fans are quite convinced yet. Pochettino and his team have work to do, as have chairman Daniel Levy and the club. But once the grand opening against Crytal Palace on April 3rd gets underway – which will be a very pricey game incidentally –, Tottenham Hotspur’s journey to a new and forward-looking existence as a club of international standing, with a home every club could be proud of, starts for real.
There are no guarantees, but there seldom are in football and business alike. To dare is to do – and Spurs have entered the land of the brave. It could turn out to be a defining moment in the whole sports industry.
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