As we approach the end of 2020, Insider Sport is taking a look back at the top stories from each month from what has been an eventful year.

In July and August, figures showed significant changes in sponsorship industry trends, and it was reported that the sector saw its sponsorship share fall from 15.3% to 8.1% across football, rugby and cricket.

In some areas of sport, the COVID situation started looking more positive as Irish racecourses were permitted by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) to increase the limit on spectators from 200 to 500.

The month of July made many media rights partnerships such as EFL Championship club Queens Park Rangers joining over-the-top (OTT) UK-based platform Recast, and The Viacom 18 media group secured the linear and digital rights to the Spanish LaLiga in the Indian subcontinent for three years.

For integrity, anti-corruption supporters in sport grew as Ultimate Tournament assisted ESIC in investigating suspicious betting activity across the Ultimate Tournament eSportsbook betting platform, endorsing ESIC’s greater effort against match-fixing and betting fraud within the esports betting industry.

Moreso, the National Football League (NFL) issued the Washington Football Team (WFT) with a $10 million fine on the back of an investigation into the franchise’s workplace culture.

“I have learned a lot in the past few months about how my club operated, and the kind of workplace that we had,” WFT owner Dan Snyder said in a statement. “It is now clear that the culture was not what it should be, but I did not realise the extent of the problems, or my role in allowing that culture to develop and continue. I know that as the owner, I am ultimately responsible for the workplace. I have said that and I will say it again.”

Furthermore, in increasing links between sports clubs and the betting industry, the Ukrainian Premier League (UPL) named online sportsbook operator VBET as the league’s new title sponsor for the next three years. The UPL is now referred to as the VBET League, with the competition adopting a new logo to fit its new identity. 

It was a good couple of months for the enterprise as they were also later named the Ukrainian Football Cup’s new title partner in August, as part of a deal signed with the Ukrainian Association of Football (UAF), as did the Ukrainian Ice Hockey Federation (FHU).

In more disappointing news for sports fans, Formula One’s Australian Grand Prix, along with the MotoGP event were cancelled due to the ‘restrictions and logistical challenges’ posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Scheduled for 19 to 21 November at Albert Park in Melbourne, was set to be round 21 of 23, the race was called off for the second year in a row.

Additionally, Japan declared a state of emergency just two weeks before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were set to begin. Measures were taken as the looming health crisis in the country worsened.

“Taking into consideration the effect of coronavirus variants and not to let the infections spread again to the rest of the nation, we need to strengthen our countermeasures,” the country’s Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, announced.

It was also announced shortly after that Toyota would pull all Tokyo 2020 Olympics-related television advertisements during the Summer Games due to the controversy surrounding the event.

In continuing connections to the cryptocurrency world, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) named cryptocurrency platform as the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion’s official fight kit partner.

Similarly, Dorna Sports also named blockchain technology company as the official sponsor of the FIM MotoGP World Championship as part of a three-year agreement. The deal also included the title sponsorship of the 2021 Austrian Grand Prix, which was rebranded as the Bitci Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich.

Notably, BeIN Sports took legal action against Canal Plus to force the latter to complete its sub-licensing arrangement for the broadcasting rights to the French top-flight Ligue 1, whilst Manchester United was reinforcing its commitment to environmental sustainability through a partnership with the Renewable Energy Group.

“The world is at a critical juncture in which we are all recognising that we must do more to reduce harmful emissions, and there is a growing desire to secure more immediate and practical low carbon solutions. Together, alongside Manchester United, we will amplify our simple-to-adopt opportunities for individuals and organisations to reduce carbon now,” commented Renewable Energy Group President and CEO, Cynthia Warner.

In the same month that Virgin Media sealed the rights to select UEFA Champions League fixtures, The Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League (NFL) entered into a three-way partnership with BetMGM and Gila River Hotels.

Moreover, in a big month for cricket, the International Cricket Council (ICC) initiated a push for the sport to be integrated into the Olympic Games in time for the Los Angeles 2028 event, citing the popularity of the sport in the US.

As cricket will feature in the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, the ICC said that it believes the event will provide ‘a perfect showcase’ for the sport, promoting its potential as an Olympic event.

Finally, FIFA finished the month by announcing its plans to distribute $200 million in compensation to two regional football governing bodies, relating to the 2015 scandal which resulted in the downfall of President Sepp Blatter.

The $200 million package promised to compensate for funds stolen during the 2015 controversy, which saw fraud, bribery, money laundering and racketeering offences committed by conspiring officials and sports marketing executives.

“Today’s announcement confirms that money stolen by corrupt soccer officials and sports marketing executives through fraud and greed will be returned to where it belongs and used to benefit the sport,” said Jacquelyn M Kasulis, Acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York 

“From the start, this investigation and prosecution have been focused on bringing wrongdoers to justice and restoring ill-gotten gains to those who work for the benefit of the beautiful game. Our office, together with our law enforcement partners, will always work to compensate victims of crime.”

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