William Hill ends Scottish Cup’s wait for title sponsor

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) has signed up bookmaker William Hill to be the new title sponsor of the Scottish Cup.

The new three-year agreement will see the competition renamed the William Hill Scottish Cup. The tournament’s last commercial title sponsor was Tennent’s Lager, which ended an eight-year partnership in 2007. William Hill is already well established in Scotland as an official sponsor of the Scottish Premier League and the country’s richest horse race, the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup.

“It seems fitting for the most established and biggest bookmaker in Scotland to be attached to the oldest association trophy in world football and we at William Hill consider it an honour to be able to put our name to the Scottish Cup,” said William Hill chairman Gareth Davis. The “seven figure” deal is reported to be worth £1 million per year to the SFA.


Spanish strike ends after players seal new agreement with league

Spanish footballers have finally called off a damaging strike that had delayed the start of the domestic Liga campaign for the first time in 27 years.

The players’ association (AFE) struck a deal with the league on Thursday over wage guarantees and an arrangement to allow stars to break their contracts if they are not paid for three consecutive months. According to the AFE, 200 players across the top two divisions are owed a total of about Eur50 million in unpaid wages with several clubs in administration.

“The strike is officially suspended. The situation of the 200 players who had unpaid salaries has been resolved,” AFE president Luis Rubiales told a press conference, according to AFP. “This is a very important step for Spanish football, but it is only one turning point,” he added, citing the fact that the Spanish government has not yet voted on a law that would relegate teams for failing to fulfil player salary obligations.

The league and the AFE have agreed to establish a fund to guarantee unpaid wages, but the total amount in the fund has not been disclosed. Spanish League president Jose Luis Astiazaran, who was sitting alongside Rubiales at the press conference, added: “Today is not the day to talk about amounts. Suffice to say that through the fund…the payments due to the players who have not been paid will be guaranteed.”

Astiazaran added that the postponed round of games in La Liga would take place on January 22, with the matches originally scheduled for that date being shifted to May 2. The Segunda Division games that were lost to the strike have been rescheduled for October 26. A similar strike threat looms in Italy, where Serie A players are in a dispute with the league stakeholders over a new collective agreement.


UEFA signs up further broadcast partners

UEFA has awarded the free-to-air media rights to Euro 2012 in Portugal, while it has also concluded a deal for the 2012-15 Europa League cycle in the USA and Caribbean.

Public service broadcaster RTP and leading commercial broadcasters SIC and TVI have been awarded free-to-air rights to Euro 2012 in Portugal, with the agreement set to complement an existing pay-TV deal with Sport TV. The three broadcasters will provide transmission of 19 matches, including the opening and final matches, and highlights programmes of all 31 games. Sport TV will show all 31 matches live.

Meanwhile, Fox Sports has clinched all media rights to the 2012-15 Europa League in the USA and Caribbean, bringing to an end UEFA’s relationship with current partner DirecTV. Fox Soccer Channel will broadcast at least two live Europa League matches, as well as one highlights programme and one delayed match per match week. In addition Fox Soccer Plus will show one live match per kick-off slot up to the quarter-finals.

The announcement concludes the award of media rights in the region, after Fox Sports were also awarded the 2012-15 Champions League media rights. The rights awarded to Fox Sports in the Caribbean are non-exclusive.

DHL delivers groundbreaking United sponsorship deal

Manchester United has underlined its reputation as a commercial superpower by agreeing a groundbreaking deal that will see DHL become the club’s first official training kit sponsor.

The leading logistics company has upgraded its current relationship with the Barclays Premier League champion. DHL has been United’s official logistics partner for a year, but the new four-year agreement, worth a reported £40 million, will see the company’s logo included on the club’s training kit during domestic competitions.

The agreement dwarfs the revenues that the majority of United’s Premier League rivals generate for their main shirt sponsors, with only Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur thought to make more than £10 million per season from their agreements. The DHL deal is worth around half of the reported £80 million United receives from its main partner Aon.

“This deal breaks new ground in the English game,” said Manchester United’s chief executive, David Gill. “We are delighted that DHL has chosen to pioneer training kit sponsorship with the club. Their global presence and international standing are a perfect fit for the world’s most popular football club.”

John Pearson, CEO of DHL Express (Europe), added: “This strategic partnership will see DHL getting more involved in the behind the scenes operations of Manchester United and supporting the club in its continued success. Building on our current relationship with the world’s biggest football club reflects our ability to provide unparalleled logistics services for customers across the globe.”

PSL joins major broadcast players

South Africa’s Premier Soccer League (PSL) has agreed a five-year broadcast rights extension with SuperSport that places it amongst the world’s top television revenue earners.

The agreement, announced on Friday, will be worth US$277.5 million to the PSL with the deal also including internet and mobile rights. The pay-TV company paid $200 million for the last set of rights, which are set to expire at the end of the 2011-12 season in May. SuperSport will sub-licence 140 games per season to free-to-air television, with 40 matches broadcast across both mediums.

“The winning tender offered a composite package that includes internet and mobile rights,” said PSL chairman Irvin Khoza. “We need to be clear that it wasn’t just the money that influenced us but (we) looked at the growth and enhancement of our product on our current deal, where we moved from being 30th ranked league in the world to the top 10.”

Imtiaz Patel, group CEO of SuperSport’s parent company Multichoice, added: “It’s a vote of confidence on the PSL and a clear sign of the responsive relationship that we have with each other”.

MetLife to be unveiled as New Meadowlands Stadium naming partner

The US$1.6 billion home of the New York Jets and New York Giants National Football League (NFL) teams is set to be renamed MetLife Stadium after a major new naming rights deal was reportedly agreed.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that the insurance company had finalised an agreement and a press conference to confirm the sponsorship of the venue known as New Meadowlands Stadium is expected to take place this week. The New York Post reported that the deal is worth in the region of $20 million per year for 20 years, which would make the contract one of the most lucrative stadium partnerships in world sport.

MetLife is currently signed up as one of four ‘cornerstone’ sponsors of the stadium, which opened last year after the most expensive sports venue construction project in history. MetLife pays around $7 million annually to be one of four leading sponsors with Verizon, Anheuser-Busch and PepsiCo being the other partners.

The Giants and Jets used private funds to build the stadium and the two teams jointly operate the venue through New Meadowlands Stadium Corporation. With just over 82,500 seats, the stadium is the largest in the NFL in terms of permanent seating and the venue will host the NFL Super Bowl in 2014.

According to AP, a deal with banking giant Allianz was close to being agreed in 2008 that would have been worth an estimated $30 million annually.

ESPN STAR Sports Wins Asia Broadcasting for Rugby World Cup

ESPN STAR Sports has won the broadcast rights in Asia for the Rugby World Cup 2011 to be held in New Zealand it was announced by Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL).

The deal involves, ESPN STAR sports broadcasting all 48 matches live across 13 territories in Asia, ensuring that sports fans will see every try, tackle and pass of Rugby’s premier event.

This will be supplemented with dedicated  streaming and video on demand through ESPN Player and MobileESPN in Singapore  and weekly highlights programming in several territories.

Rugby  participation in Asia has grown by 18% since Rugby World Cup 2007 in France and  the announcement further underlines ESPN STAR Sports’ commitment to bring the  very best Rugby action to sports fans in Asia.

“Asia is a major growth region for Rugby and  the IRB is committed to ensuring that sports fans across the Region are able to  experience our showcase event,” said RWCL Managing Director Mike Miller.

“ESPN  STAR Sports is recognised as Asia’s leading sports broadcaster and through  extensive Rugby World Cup 2011 programming, it will deliver the platform for  Rugby to engage new fans across the Region.”

ESPN  STAR Sports Managing Director, Manu Sawhney, said: “We are delighted to bring  the third largest sporting event in the world to Rugby fans across Asia. We have  a proud history of Rugby programming and have screened every RWC tournament  since 1999, which underscores our commitment to bring the best in worldwide  sports to our viewers in Asia.”

Terms of deal will see ESPN STAR Sports broadcast all the action in Singapore, China,  Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Korea, Laos, Macau, Mongolia, Myanmar, Papua New  Guinea, Philippines and Vietnam.

Rugby  World Cup 2011 kicks off on September 9 with the final will be played on October. 23.

Facebook to broadcast FA Cup match live

A piece of sports broadcasting history will be made on Friday as the opening match of the new FA Cup season will become the first game to be broadcast live on the Facebook social network.

The landmark deal has been reached thanks to an agreement between the Football Association (FA) and the competition’s new lead partner Budweiser. The American beer brand in June signed a three-year deal to partner the world’s most famous club knockout tournament and the beer brand sees the Facebook initiative as the perfect way to announce the start of its agreement.

The extra preliminary round tie pits Ascot United against Wembley FC and will be streamed straight from the Budweiser UK Facebook fan page. The 90-minute live stream will be available via an application Budweiser has built specifically for the world’s largest social network. It will open up a game that would traditionally attract around 90 spectators to Facebook’s 700 million global users.

Iain Newell, marketing director of Budweiser UK, said: “As a long-standing supporter of football globally, Budweiser is committed to bringing the world’s most prestigious knockout competition closer to the fans. What better way to demonstrate this than by broadcasting the very first kick to a global audience via Facebook. This is the first time an FA Cup tournament fixture has been broadcast live on the social network, which is great news for football fans and clubs alike.”

City’s Etihad deal faces UEFA questions

UEFA Club Financial Control Panel chairman Jean-Luc Dehaene has revealed he has “some questions” about Manchester City’s groundbreaking sponsorship deal with Etihad Airways.

Etihad last month struck a 10-year deal for the naming rights to the Barclays Premier League club’s stadium as well as shirt sponsorship and funding for the proposed new Etihad Campus. The partnership, reportedly worth £400 million, has prompted criticism from some quarters that it is an attempt to circumvent European football’s strict new financial fair play rules. Etihad is the national airline of Abu Dhabi, whose ruler is the half-brother of City owner Sheikh Mansour.

Dehaene told BBC Sport: “I have some questions, yes. But it would be dangerous for our authority if we take judgements without facts. If we see clubs that are looking for loopholes we will act. It is not enough to say, ‘we’ve got a sponsorship contract and that’s okay’ if the contract is out of line.” In an interview on Monday, City’s chief executive Gary Cook said: “We’ve got a great relationship with Etihad. It’s a long-term programme and they are equally very excited by it.”

United plans $1 billion Far East flotation – reports

Manchester United’s mooted partial stock market flotation in the Far East is targeted towards the club’s huge Asian fan base, according to a financial expert.

Owners of the Barclays Premier League champion, the Glazer family, are planning to reduce their stake in the club, according to widespread reports on Tuesday. It is believed that an initial public offering (IPO) could raise US$1 billion for a 25% to 30% stake in the club with the flotation viewed as a method to reduce United’s sizeable debt, which has been a continual source of concern for its fans.

Although United has refused to comment on the reports it is believed a listing on either the Singapore or larger Hong Kong Stock Exchange could be approved by the end of the year. The Florida-based Glazer family acquired United for £790 million in 2005 in an agreement that saw the club de-listed from the London Stock Exchange. While the Glazers reportedly plan to remain in control at Old Trafford, a partial flotation would reduce the club’s debt, which exceeds £500 million.