In looking back on a year of sponsorships, NFTs, broadcast rights and more, Insider Sports takes a look at the most noteworthy business stories of the year.

Throughout May and June, COVID-related concerns continued as sports teams began to pull out of events such as the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The pandemic-hit season also saw Derby County gain a £100,000 fine by an independent disciplinary commission.

Firstly, May kicked off with sports betting media firm Better Collective AS reaching ‘definitive terms’ to acquire sports betting publisher the Action Network for a fee of $240 million on a ‘cash and debt-free basis’.

The Stockholm-listed publisher branded the Action Network buyout – its biggest M&A transaction to date – as an essential deal, accelerating and diversifying its US growth strategy by adding the revenue effective assets of Action Pro, Action Labs and Fantasy Labs to its US media portfolio.

“We add three new, very well positioned US sports media brands to our portfolio and welcome around 100 new colleagues, together representing an invaluable pool of knowledge and expertise on the US sports betting media market. By all accounts, this is a great day for Better Collective,” said Better Collective CEO, Jesper Søgaard.

The week took a more negative turn when North Korea announced that it was set to skip out on the 2022 FIFA World Cup following its intention to withdraw from the Asian qualifiers for the Qatar-based tournament, due to coronavirus.

The country was urged to reconsider its decision by both the AFC and South Korea’s football association. However, North Korea cited exposing players to the risk of contracting the coronavirus for its reason not to travel to the qualifiers.

Similarly, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) suspended the 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) season after a number of staff and players returned positive COVID-19 tests amid a second wave of the pandemic.

“These are difficult times, especially in India and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, however, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times,” the IPL stated.

It was later revealed that the BCCI faced losses of more than $300 million in sponsorship and broadcast revenue, following the postponement of the league.

Moreover, following a few strategic sponsorship moves such as Google with the WNBA and McLaren with Castore, talks on a gambling sponsorships ban continued and Forest Green Rovers FC became the debut English professional football club to join the calls.

“It’s like gambling has taken over football,” noted Dale Vince OBE, Chairman of Forest Green Rovers. “If you watch a game on TV you are inundated with ads – gambling logos are on almost half of Premier League shirts, and constantly flash up on pitch side boards. For me, the fun has already stopped. This is an abuse of football and of football fans.”

Starting off June by making history, the Football Association (FA) appointed Debbie Hewitt MBE as its first female Chair in 157 years.

“As the events in recent months have shown, this is a significant moment in time for English football, with a clear purpose for all stakeholders to secure the long-term health of the game at all levels,” she said.

Furthermore, Premier League side Manchester United introduced a Fan Advisory Board and Fan Share Scheme as part of a new equity structure.

The club said that this would ‘establish a foundation for supporters to build a meaningful ownership stake and create a new spirit of partnership with the club’.

Staying in the Premier League, Norwich City announced the termination of its short-lived commercial sponsorship deal with Asian operator, BK8 Sports.

The deal was met with widespread criticism from fans after supporters uncovered ‘sexually provocative’ social media marketing campaigns published across BK8’s channels.

Norwich City’s Chief Operating Officer, Ben Kensell, said: “We have worked hard to build trust and engagement through our countless initiatives with our supporters and partners. We place huge value on our open and honest relationships with our community and supporters.

In the same week that Tokyo 2020 capped its spectator limit at 10,000, England’s goalless draw against fierce rivals Scotland in the 2020 UEFA European Championships became the most-watched match of the tournament so far on ITV.ITV’s exclusive coverage of the clash peaked with 20 million viewers, representing 79% share across ITV and STV.

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