The Convers Sports Initiatives (CSI) enters Administration

The Convers Sports Initiatives (CSI) investment group, which controls a portfolio of leading entities in the sports industry, has entered administration

Russian businessman Vladmir Antonov, who founded CSI, was arrested last week on a Europe-wide warrant and charged in a London court with alleged fraud as part of a money-laundering investigation in Lithuania. He also faces deportation to Lithuania on charges of alleged asset-stripping at the Snoras Bank, which is 68% owned by Antonov and has been placed in temporary administration.

Earlier this year CSI made a series of acquisitions, acquiring a majority stake in online platform, gaining control of North One Sport from North One Television and snapping up Executive Sport Ltd, the parent company of the popular ‘Leaders in Football’ conference. According to a statement on the CSI website, the subsidiaries of Convers Sports Initiatives “are not subject to an administration order”. CSI also owns English Championship club Portsmouth.

Accountancy group UHY Hacker Young has been set the task of finding buyers for all of the subsidiaries. “On November 25 my partner at UHY Hacker Young Andrew Andronikou and I were appointed as joint administrators to CSI,” read a statement from UHY Hacker Young partner Peter Kubik. “CSI own a number of sports teams, media franchises and entertainment rights businesses.”

Kubik added: “We were appointed as administrators after uncertainty arose over the future of CSI. CSI has a number of sports related assets and we are very confident of finding interested buyers for these subsidiaries. Our aim is to ensure that the sale process is as smooth as it possibly can be. We will now be undertaking a period of due diligence at CSI and once that has been completed we will be in a better position to answer questions.”

Reasons for Festive Cheer at the NBA!

A shortened National Basketball Association (NBA) season is set to begin on Christmas Day after a tentative deal was reached over the weekend to secure a new collective bargaining agreement and end a five-month lockout.

A majority of the 29 owners and 450 players still need to vote for the agreement, but the deal would see the season begin with a triple-header on December 25 and run for 66 games instead of the original 82-game schedule. At a news conference on Saturday, NBA commissioner David Stern said the agreement was “subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations, but we are optimistic that will all come to pass”. Stern, NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and the union’s president Derek Fisher said they would leave the remaining details of the deal to their lawyers.

“We thought it was in both of our interests to try to reach a resolution and save the game,” said Billy Hunter, the union’s executive director. A fortnight ago talks between the two parties broke down with Stern warning of a “nuclear winter” as the decertification of the union would allow players to pursue the NBA for damages through the courts. However, with a new outline agreement for a 10-year deal, the prospect of the whole season being cancelled would appear to have been averted.

The agreement will allow for either party to opt out after the sixth year of the deal. Owners relented slightly on their previous insistence that players should receive no more than 50% of basketball-related income after they were guaranteed 57% in the previous deal. The two sides agreed to allow players to receive a 49-51% “band” of basketball-related income, which would be linked to league profitability. The deal also includes shorter contracts and a more punitive tax system to rein in the top-spending teams.

“I think it will largely prevent the high-spending teams from competing in the free-agency market in a way that they have been able to in the past,” NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver told a press conference. “We feel ultimately it will give fans in every community hope that their team can compete for championships.” Stern added: “The reason for the settlement was we’ve got fans, we’ve got players who would like to play and we’ve got others who are dependent on us. It has always been our goal to reach a deal that was fair to both sides and would get us playing as soon as possible, but that took a little time.”

Losing the entire season would have caused a major headache for the NBA’s broadcast partners. Turner and ESPN/ABC are together paying US$930 million per season through to the end of their contracts in 2016, and several projections found that the networks could have collectively lost about $1.25 billion in advertising revenue if the season had been cancelled.

Vaughan aims for 2015 Rugby World Cup sell-out

A flexible pricing structure, which could see tickets sold for as little as £7, will help to ensure that Rugby World Cup 2015 is a sell-out, according to Paul Vaughan, the man responsible for running the event.

The head of the organising committee for the tournament, speaking on the first day of the sell-out Rugby Expo 2011 at Twickenham on Wednesday, told delegates that marketing efforts would focus on the nine million active rugby followers in England. However, the former commercial chief of the Rugby Football Union added that the “British big-event mentality” and the attraction of the UK as a tourist destination would enable the event to sell all three million tickets available.

“The British love a big event,” Vaughan said. “Just look at the way that the Olympics have sold out. Even sports like handball – which is not that popular here – sold out almost immediately. Compared to the recent New Zealand World Cup our challenge is to make England 2015 not bigger – the size of the country will determine that – but to ensure that it generates a lot of cash for the world game and that it is a fantastic experience for fans. We want to ensure a long term legacy for the game and you will see some activity in the next few months here.

BBC confirms new Six Nations rugby broadcast deal

British public-service broadcaster the BBC confirmed on Wednesday that it had extended its deal to broadcast the RBS 6 Nations rugby union championship through to 2017 across its television, radio and online platforms.

The official announcement came after weeks of speculation that the BBC had committed to prolonging its relationship with the premier national team rugby tournament in the northern hemisphere. The broadcaster’s previous deal to carry the annual competition, which features England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales, was due to run until 2013.

Although financial details of the deal have not been disclosed, the Daily Mail newspaper reported earlier this month that the BBC’s new four-year rights deal for the Six Nations would cost up to £40 million per year. The 2011 tournament, which was won by England, generated an audience of 4.7 million per match – the highest viewing figures for 13 years.

The BBC’s director of sport, Barbara Slater, described the Six Nations as a “crown jewel in the sporting calendar” – an interesting description considering the tournament is currently listed in category B of the so-called ‘crown jewels’ list of sporting events reserved for free-to-air television in the UK, meaning highlights must be shown, but not necessarily live action. “Viewing figures continue to grow year on year and we look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the Six Nations to build interest even further through the BBC’s unparalleled offering of TV, radio, online and interactive services,” Slater added.

Six Nations chief executive John Feehan said: “We are delighted that BBC Sport will maintain, extend and enhance its coverage of the RBS 6 Nations, the world’s biggest annual rugby tournament, for a further four years to March 2017. The RBS 6 Nations is a major sporting event combining traditional rugby values with modern means of fans’ support, this could not be possible without the support of BBC Sport, RBS and our other partners and broadcasters.”

The RFU post Record Financial Results.

The Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) turbulent year has finally received some positive news after posting a record financial performance of £8.7million profit.

Revenue for the year from July 1 2010 to June 30 2011 increased by £24.3million from £112million to £136.3million. Operating profit for the year was £40.6million, an increase of £14.8million on the £25.8million recorded for 2009/10.

The retained profit for the year was £8.7million compared to a retained loss of £1.1million in 2009/10.

The growth is mainly driven by the match programme, with increases also witnessed in most other revenue streams, especially broadcasting, sponsorship and hospitality.

Martyn Thomas, acting chief executive, said: “In a year which presented many challenges, this is a significant achievement. The RFU’s record revenues mean that the game benefits because although the union works to maximise profits, unlike a PLC we then invest this in the sport. “These results put us in a very strong position for the lead-up to Rugby World Cup 2015 which will bring a unique opportunity to grow the game nationwide, while creating a lasting legacy.”

Bayern Continue to Post Impressive financial figures

Bayern Munich has announced a Eur1.3 million profit for the 2010-11 season despite failing to land any silverware, with the club stating it is in a strong position to meet UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.

Bayern’s 2010-11 campaign saw the club finish third in the 1.Bundesliga, lose to Schalke 04 in the semi-finals of the DFB Cup and exit the UEFA Champions League at the round of 16. The club has blamed this lack of sporting success, allied to the economic downturn, as the reasons behind it failing to match its Eur2.9 million profit for 2009-10. Bayern posted a turnover of Eur290.9 million compared to Eur312 million in 2009-10 with sponsorship and commercial revenues remaining relatively unchanged at Eur82.3 million. However, merchandising revenues increased to Eur43.9 million, up from Eur38.9 million last season. UEFA’s FFP rules, which state clubs must break even over three years, come into full effect in 2013-14 and Bayern’s 19th consecutive year of profits stands the club in good stead, according to board director Karl Hopfner.

Manchester City Posts New Annual Loss Record

Manchester City has announced annual losses of £195m for the 2010-11 financial year, a new record for English football clubs.

The club has spent heavily on player wages and transfer fees since Sheikh Mansour took over in 2008 and sought to establish the club as serious challenger for domestic and European trophies.

There will be no UEFA Financial Fair Play rule implications as the figures are not within  the accounting window.

Officials at the club do not expect such dramatic losses in future. Graham Wallace, City’s Chief Operating Officer said:

“Our losses, which we predicted as part of our accelerated investment strategy, will not be repeated on this scale in the future.”

There is positive financial news for the club. Overall turnover during the same period was £153.2m, and the accounts showed City’s commercial revenue has reached £48.5m, an increase of 49.7 percent. The sponsorship deal with Etihad Airlines is reported to be worth £35m per year for the next ten years.

TV rights have increased 27.4 percent to £68.8m following the 2010-11 season, which was one of the most successful in the club’s recent history. TV revenue is likely to increase further still this season as the club competes in the Champions League for the first time.