As the year comes to a close, Insider Sport is looking back at 2021 highlighting the breaking stories of the year.

November and December began to look more uplifting months for the world of sports business, starting off with The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) receiving the largest grant in the organisation’s nearly 50-year history as part of a transformative’ partnership with the National Football League Foundation (NFL).

It has been a good year for Therabody, as in November, muscle massage company partnered with The ATP Tour to become its official recovery partner after having secured other deals with sports organisations throughout the year.

Furthermore, UEFA announced that it has received five declarations of ‘record’ interest representing eight member associations to host the UEFA European Women’s Championship Final in 2025.

A joint declaration of interest was received from the member associations of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. The member associations of France, Poland, Switzerland and Ukraine have also shown their interest in the bidding.

The organisation stated: “UEFA has responded to the surge in popularity of women’s football by raising the standards for hosting the event in 2025.”

It has been reported that the numbers behind women’s football are rising ‘exponentially’, as the last women’s world cup broke all previous records.

On a panel SBC’s Betting on Sports Europe (BOSE) in November, Principal Consultant at 1710 Gaming, Tina Thakor-Rankin spoke of how the Women’s World Cup in Australia 2023 will provide ‘a new betting demographic’, and particularly women’s football provides a platform for pushing equality forward as ‘the sport becomes more and more popular’.

“When the Middle East – known for suppressing women’s rights – starts to use women’s football as a sign to the world they are modernising and liberalising, suddenly things start to switch up.

“The Saudis have a diversification programme for 2030, and as part of that, they started to liberalise and came up with three things; women can drive, women can go to the cinema and women can go to a football match.”

Furthermore, the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games introduced an additional five providers to its list of sponsors to provide services, systems and equipment to deliver a ‘safe and successful’ event. 

The new sponsors included software and solutions provider Wiz-Team, facilities management company OCS Group UK, event management solutions firm EventsAIR, audiovisual services company Sports Technology and radio provider Riedel Communications.

In the Premier League, Manchester City announced a partnership with 3Key which was supposed to see the decentralised finance (DeFi) trading analysis and advisory technology company become a regional partner of the team. However, the deal was shortly suspended due to the company’s ‘lack of online presence’, leading to debates around the safety of cryptocurrency partnerships with football clubs.

In November, the fan-led government review of football clubs, launched earlier this year after extensive backlash against the European Super League (ESL) proposal, agreed that measures must be put in place to protect club heritage, including measures to prevent sides from joining new competitions not affiliated to FIFA, UEFA and the FA.

In delving into cultural, civic and community roles of football teams, the review underlined that there should be ‘additional protection for key items of heritage’.

Mapping out future steps to ensure club heritage, it revealed a ‘Golden Share’ model that each club should engage with: “This should be held by a democratically run Community Benefit Society formed under the Cooperative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 for the benefit of the club’s supporters. 

In the US, the National Basketball Association (NBA) entered a multi-year partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) which saw the capital host the first NBA games in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), whilst sports betting operator Betway further enhanced its marketing in the US wagering and gaming market, partnering with the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League (NHL).

Also in the NHL, Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner, stated that US participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics is going to have to be a players’ decision.

The NHL Players’ Association, (NHLPA) agreed that athletes may participate in the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympic men’s hockey tournament. However, with the ongoing COVID situation – namely Chinese restrictions and political and safety considerations – participation was now being questioned.

In the same week that owners of San Francisco 49ers’ announced a deal to acquire Leeds United FC for over £400 million within the next two years, the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) agreed to a further three years of its World Grand Prix under the title sponsorship of BoyleSports.

Finally, to finish the year, The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) came under severe scrutiny following the outcome of the F1 2021 World Championship.

The Abu-Dhabi track saw controversy following race director Michael Masi‘s decision which led Max Verstappen to victory over Lewis Hamilton, who was labelled as ‘comfortably ahead’ prior to a crash further back that halted the race.

Mercedes has had two appeals rejected by the FIA regarding that only the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen unlapped themselves, but the company is planning to produce another. Masi’s ‘overriding authority’ over the safety car use has also been cited in rejecting the appeal, which is still ongoing.

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