With a turbulent year swiftly coming to an end, Insider Sport has cast its analytical eyes back on the past 12 months, breaking down some prominent news stories.
In March and April, sports fans were given hope as the DCMS outlined plans for financial support for the UK’s sporting sector and began implementing a stadium reopening strategy.
Meanwhile, European football fanatics continued to look forward to the Euro 2020 tournament, but controversial developments caused some conflict between the fans and owners of some prominent teams.
In European football, a major development occurred in the Low Countries, as the clubs of the Belgian Pro League voted unanimously in favour of a merger with the Dutch Eredivisie to create the proposed ‘BeNeLeague’.
“This future ambition is based on respect for the sporting aspirations for the top clubs and the need for economic stability for the other professional clubs,” the Pro League explained.
“There is unanimous support to give the possible realisation of the BeNeLeague every opportunity. The management of the Pro League will now take an active role in this.”
On the other side of the North Sea, the British sporting sector continued to benefit from the government’s Winter Survival Package, with a further £50 million pledged to support teams and organisations throughout the country.
Commenting at the time, Sir Ian Cheshire, Chair of the Independent Board, said: “As we look to the conclusion of the Winter phase of the Sport Survival Package, this tranche of £50 million in support funding for rugby league, horse racing, speedway, drag racing, and clubs playing in football’s National League will ensure these clubs and organisations are able to sufficiently recover from the financial impact of the pandemic.”
Additionally, UK sports fans were encouraged by the outlining of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) plans for the return of spectators to stadiums, with one of April’s FA Cup semi-final ties chosen as a pilot test event.
Across the continent, football fans were eagerly anticipating the UEFA 2020 European Championship after it was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic from the previous year.
Speaking to SBC, Kamil Murcko, Head of Sales at Enetpulse, shared his prediction that data on both player and team performances would be key to driving interest among bettors ahead of and during the long-awaited tournament.
“Logically, the extra waiting time has only increased the hype around the tournament, which is also the trend we see at our clients,” he explained.
“It seems that all the question marks only make the desire of bringing the excitement of football fully back even bigger. At Enetpulse, we expect the same levels of activity as we would usually see for major football events, perhaps even more.”
Moving on, on the media rights side, Matchroom Boxing reached a major agreement with global sports streaming platform DAZN which saw the company replace Sky Sports as the boxing promotion’s exclusive UK broadcast partner.
Eddie Hearn, Matchroom Sport Chairman – who took over his father Barry Hearn’s position shortly before the deal was reported – had previously described DAZN as the ‘future of boxing,’ having collaborated with the company in the past.
Perhaps the biggest sports business story of this time period, however, was the hugely controversial proposals for the creation of an international European Super League (ESL) by a group of English, Spanish and Italian top-tier football clubs.
In a move lambasted as ‘cynical’ by UEFA, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, FC Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid all agreed to become founding members of the new project.
However, after substantial fan, pundit and political criticism, the majority of ESL clubs left within the first few days of the league’s announcement, whilst the DCMS later detailed plans for a ‘fan-led inquiry’ into the governance of the sport.