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ManU owners to receive another big dividend despite club's debts....Incumbent Australian Football League rights holders Seven, Foxtel face competition....Premiership final draws record TV audience

ManU owners net cash dividend despite club's debt

ManU is set to pay a dividend to shareholders of nearly £11M ($13.5M) on Friday, with the majority of that going to owners the Glazer family. Last year, the dividends were worth £10.7M ($13.1M) to shareholders, with the Glazers netting around £8M ($9.8M) of that. The Glazers have regularly taken sums of money out of the club, and last month it was confirmed that United's debts had risen to nearly £500M ($613M) in their latest financial accounts. This week, Gary Neville slammed the Glazer family over their decision to take £11M out of the club in dividends when there was so much investment needed in the playing squad and redeveloping Old Trafford as a venue (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 6/24).

Four networks bidding for AFL TV rights after '24

Four major media companies, including free-to-air and pay-TV competitors to rights holders Seven and Foxtel, "have made pitches or presented their credentials" to the Australian Football League hierarchy in a bid to buy the broadcast rights to the competition. Seven, Foxtel, Ten and Nine have held high-level meetings with AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, AFL Chair Richard Goyder and two other AFL Commission members. Ten parent company Paramount has "already made a forceful case" by inviting the AFL’s senior execs to N.Y. this year. The networks pitched their proposals to "grow interest in the game in a landscape transformed by technology and the rise of streaming services." The current rights run until the end of '24 for both Seven and Foxtel, which are contracted to pay the AFL A$946M ($657M) over '23 and '24. Foxtel pays the larger share and is "increasingly transitioning matches to its growing streaming arm, Kayo" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 6/24).

Premiership final draws record 1.3 million viewers

A record TV audience of 1.3 million viewers tuned in to Saturday’s Premiership Rugby final on U.K. free-TV broadcaster ITV4, which shared the rights to the match with BT Sport. The average audience for the match, which Leicester Tigers won 15-12 against Saracens, was more than double the previous record, set in '09. The figures "reward the decision by Premiership Rugby" to broadcast the final on ITV4 alongside BT Sport as part of a "drive to attract new fans." Premiership CEO Simon Massie-Taylor said, "Achieving this record average audience has exceeded our original expectations. ... The final audience peaked at more than 1 million, which is a big step towards our goal" (LONDON TIMES, 6/24).

Qatar WC CEO reaches out to England manager

Qatar 2022 CEO Nasser Al Khater spoke to the London Telegraph this week, 150 days until the Qatar World Cup kicks off in November, and warned England Manager Gareth Southgate that any England protest "would lack credibility without visiting the country to learn more about their human rights record." There is "frustration in Doha over the prospect of action without hearing another side of the debate," and personal invitations have now been extended to both Southgate and F Harry Kane. Al Khater: "Criticize. Raise concerns. But do it properly. Come here. Speak to us. Let us show you where the progress is. By all means, go and take a look on your own. Give yourself more credibility." An "extraordinary building project remains ongoing" in Qatar, where World Cup infrastructure, including the eight air-conditioned stadiums, have cost around $6.5B (London TELEGRAPH, 6/23).

SBJ Unpacks: Wimbledon boasts 14 official suppliers

By David Broughton

Wimbledon returns next week, and the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club has 14 "official suppliers" for the 2022 event.

Slazenger is the sponsor that receives the most exposure each year, as the U.K.-based company has been the tennis ball supplier since 1902, the longest partnership in sporting goods history.

Similarly, Polo Ralph Lauren's products gain significant TV screen exposure, as the company outfits judges, umpires and ball persons with purple and green-accented apparel. More behind-the-scenes, Jaguar will supply 179 vehicles for event operations ; and Sipsmith, the event's first official gin, is available on-site. New to the Wimbledon roster this year is Vodafone, which took on the connectivity category.

The June 23 edition of SBJ Unpacks is available here.

Meanwhile, Robinsons squash will no longer sponsor Wimbledon, ending a partnership which stretches back to 1935. The soft drink company confirmed on Friday it will not be renewing its deal with the All England Lawn Tennis Club (BBC, 6/24). Wimbledon organizers handed out "hundreds of free tickets to Ukrainian refugees in a bid to welcome them to their new homes." The tickets were presented at an afternoon tea in southwest London (London INDEPENDENT, 6/23).

2022 Wimbledon suppliers/sponsors
BRAND CATEGORY SINCE
Slazenger Ball 1902
Rolex Timekeeper 1978
IBM Information technology 1990
Lanson Champagne 2001
Ralph Lauren Outfitter 2006
HSBC Bank 2008
Evian Water 2008
Lavazza Coffee 2011
Jaguar Land Rover Car 2015
Pimm's Partner 2017
American Express Payments 2019
OPPO Smartphone 2019
Sipsmith Gin 2021
Vodafone Connectivity 2022

Cristiano Ronaldo signs NFT deal with Binance

Cristiano Ronaldo has signed a multi-year NFT deal with Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by daily trading volume. Ronaldo will release multiple NFTs collections per year on Binance with the first dropping later this year.

Ronaldo’s NFTs will be sold exclusively on Binance, which was founded in China but is now legally headquartered in the Cayman Islands, which is a regulatory tax haven for many crypto and blockchain-related companies. Binance also sponsored this year’s Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament.

For Man City’s Ronaldo, his new NFT deal comes during a brutal crypto market that has seen cryptocurrency companies announce more than 1,700 layoffs so far this month, according to Business Insider. Cryptocurrency exchange FTX recently pulled out of its talks to become the jersey patch sponsor of MLB’s Los Angeles Angels, according to the New York Post (Andrew Cohen, SportTechie).

Soccer Notes: FIFA approves of 26-man WC squads

FIFA has approved 26-man squads for the World Cup in Qatar, deciding Thursday to "extend soccer's relaxation of rules" to help coaches and players during the COVID-19 pandemic (AP, 6/23).

Chelsea informed HMRC and the FA of "an issue with the club’s tax affairs" before the recent takeover by Todd Boehly. Sources said that the club's new owners "have identified an area of concern while conducting due diligence," with the problem understood to be linked to withheld money (LONDON TIMES, 6/23).

PSG President Nasser al-Khelaifi was acquitted in Switzerland on Friday for a second time in a retrial of alleged wrongdoing linked to former FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke (AP, 6/24).

Real Madrid is ending its partnership with automotive sponsor Audi after 19 years, with BMW replacing Audi. The terms of Real Madrid's new deal with BMW were not revealed, according to Marca, which reported that Audi "decided not to renew the Real Madrid deal with the objective of diluting its soccer partnerships and focusing on Bayern Munich -- a club in which it holds an 8% stake" (2PLAYBOOK, 6/24).

The NBA and Zebra Valley -- PSG F Kylian Mbappe's newly-created production company -- announced a multiyear content creation partnership that will engage fans around the world (NBA).

UEFA, trying to create buzz around the upcoming Women’s Euro '22, will launch the Metaverse Gaming League this Friday to be streamed weekly on Twitch and YouTube. See more on this story from SportTechie's Tom Friend.

Jeff Luhnow's Blue Crow Sports Group reportedly paid €39M ($41M) for their 99% stake in Spanish second division side Leganes on Thursday. The fee would be the third-highest amount ever paid for a second-tier Spanish club, behind the sums paid for Real Zaragoza and Deportivo de la Coruna (2PLAYBOOK, 6/24).

League Championship side Sheffield United strikers Oli McBurnie and Rhian Brewster have been charged with assault as a result of incidents that took place after the club’s defeat in the Championship playoffs last month. They are scheduled to appear in court on July 28 (LONDON TIMES, 6/23).

LaLiga named Spanish beer brand Mahou San Miguel a global partner for the next five seasons. Mahou San Miguel already sponsors 15 soccer clubs in various Spanish leagues (LaLiga).

What They're Saying

"I can assure you that before the 2026 World Cup, there will be official LaLiga games on North American soil" -- Relevent Sports CEO Daniel Sillman, on the push by his agency and LaLiga to hold a game in the U.S. (ESPN.com, 6/23).

"Every action anyone takes in life comes with a consequence and it is no different in professional sport, especially if a person chooses to break the rules. That is what has occurred here with several of our members" -- DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley, on his organization fining players who have joined the LIV Golf series (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/24).

"It was time for me to step down and move on because it's not a life. We can't go out to eat anywhere. We go to a restaurant, people harass you, even reputable restaurants, you hide in a private room somewhere" -- former Valencia President Anil Murthy, saying that he resigned from the role in May, despite widespread reports that he was sacked (CHANNEL NEWS ASIA, 6/24).

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