Insider Sport’s Year In Review: January – February

As the year comes to a close, Insider Sport is looking back at 2019 highlighting the breaking stories of the year and some of our most insightful features and interviews.

We open up this series by looking at January and February with a specific focus on an interview with At the Races CEO Matthew Imi, Nike’s MLB partnership, UEFA’s global Nations League rejection, Formula 1’s Netflix deal and the PGA Tour. 

Matthew Imi: Sky Sports Racing – adapting to industry challenges as a new channel

On 1 January of this year, Sky UK launched its new channel Sky Sports Racing, which has been led by At the Races CEO Matthew Imi. The channel joined Sky’s ten other dedicated sports channels.

The new channel, which has replaced At the Races, broadcast race meetings from both the UK and abroad to around the world. InsiderSport caught up with Imi to find out how the ways in which the new channel is tailoring its racing coverage to its viewers, how the media giant plans to overcome the challenges that 2019 brings, and how the channel has fared during its first month.

Imi stated: “Sky Sports’ broadcast and digital platforms have huge reach and an engaged audience. Our ability to cross-promote our domestic and international racing fixtures to sports fans is a huge opportunity for not only us as a channel but the sport itself.”

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Nike strikes exclusive partnership with MLB

Nike has announced that from the start of the 2020 season, it will become the exclusive provider of Major League Baseball’s on-field jerseys, including baselayers, game-day outerwear and training apparel.

As part of the agreement, Nike will also continue as an official MLB sponsor, supporting league initiatives, grassroots marketing and fan events. It means Nike will partner with all 30 MLB Clubs and promote its brand and products across MLB media assets, including MLB Network, and MLB Social.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr, emphasised:

“Nike’s global brand and reputation as a leader in driving innovation makes them an ideal partner.”

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UEFA rejects FIFA plans for global Nations League

The Professional Football Strategy Council (PFSC) remained adamant that plans for a revamped Club World Cup and a new global Nations League were unacceptable.

At a meeting, which took place at the House of European Football in Nyon, a host of subjects were on the agenda, however UEFA, ECA and European Leagues all found unity in rejecting the expansion plans of Gianni Infantino.

Issuing the following statement, the group underlined they “were of the unequivocal view that any decision on potential new competitions can only be made as part of an agreed framework for the international match calendar post-2024. Furthermore, all related sporting and commercial matters must be fully disclosed and discussed amongst professional football stakeholders beforehand.”

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Formula 1 unites with Netflix to provide intimate access to fans

Formula 1 has united with Netflix to unveil details for the much anticipated docuseries, Formula 1: Drive to Survive, which will launch on the service on the 8 March 2019.

The 10 part series, which for the first time in the sports history will provide fans with exclusive and intimate access to the greatest racing championship in the world.

From the makers of Senna and Amy, the series will reveal the true story of the sport – not only focusing on the fight to be World Champion, but granting fans with an unprecedented insight into the personal lives of the drivers both on and off the track.

Ian Holmes, Director of Media Rights commented: “As we move into a new generation of Formula 1 we are thrilled to announce our new docuseries Formula 1: Drive to Survive.

This truly unique series embodies the sport and helps us to showcase and unearth the untold stories on and off the track.

Partnering with Netflix to create an original series puts us at the forefront of becoming a media and entertainment brand and attracting new fans to the sport.”

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PGA TOUR – Stakeholder transparency key in US sports wagering

The sports betting floodgates have been swinging open wildly for a number of months now, after the US Supreme Court removed PASPA, and Delaware sprung in to enact sport wagering legislation shortly ahead of New Jersey.

Before the landmark decision in May 2018, US sports leagues long standing opposition to such activity had begun to soften, as a whole new wave of debate begun to rage ahead of, and during, the roll-out across the US.

One such entity backing a legalised, licensed and regulated sports betting scene prior to the ruling was the PGA TOUR, which had been monitoring and actively lobbying legislators in various states.

Andy Levinson, Senior Vice President of Tournament Administration at the PGA TOUR, commented: “As states consider sports betting legislation, we feel that the voices of the sports leagues and the athletes should be heard. Rather than the discussions focusing solely on tax revenue and eliminating the black market – which are important elements to be considered – we are bringing subjects like integrity and consumer protections to the conversation as well.”

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