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 SportPost.com, 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.

Austin’s US grand prix set to be axed from 2012 F1 calendar

The first Formula One grand prix in the United States for five years is set to be pulled from the 2012 calendar after construction work at the venue ground to a halt, the championship’s rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone admitted on Wednesday.

Construction work at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, had been ongoing on the understanding that the hosting contract between Ecclestone and race promoter Full Throttle Productions would be passed to the new circuit. However, with work having ceased over doubts about the race contract, and with the State of Texas reportedly refusing to pay funds towards the development in advance of the event, the race looks certain to be cut from the schedule when International Motorsport Federation (FIA) members meet on December 7.

When asked whether the November 2012 race would be called off, Ecclestone told the Press Association: “Yes, it will be, for sure.” It emerged on Tuesday that more than 300 people at the venue in Austin had stopped construction work following the dispute. A statement from the Circuit of the Americas had earlier read: “Organisers of Circuit of the Americas, a premier motor sports racing and entertainment venue being developed in Austin, Texas, are suspending further construction of the project until a contract assuring the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix will be held at Circuit of the Americas in 2012 is complete.”

The statement added: “The race contract between Formula One and Circuit of the Americas has not been conveyed to Circuit of the Americas per a previously agreed upon timetable. While construction at Circuit of the Americas has progressed as scheduled with over 300 workers at the construction site daily, all work will suspend immediately. The delivery of the Formula One grand prix race contract will allow construction operations to resume.”

Bobby Epstein, a founding partner of the track, added: “We have spent tremendous resources preparing for the Formula One and MotoGP championship races, but the failure to deliver race contracts gives us great concern. We believe the United States is vital for the future of Formula One and its teams and sponsors.” Indianapolis staged the last F1 race in the United States in 2007.

At the weekend, Tavo Hellmund, the individual behind Full Throttle Productions, said it was “the responsibility of the Circuit of the Americas to make this project happen before Mr Ecclestone’s patience runs out”. The 2012 race in Austin was due to be followed by a second of two new grands prix in the US, with a New Jersey race scheduled for 2013.

Tottenham announces delisting plans

Barclays Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur has announced it is set to delist from the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange and return to private ownership in a bid to press ahead with a stadium project.

The proposal was revealed on Wednesday as the Barclays Premier League club reported record revenues for the 2010-11 season. UEFA Champions League participation enabled Tottenham’s financial results to record a rise in revenue of almost £44 million to £163.5 million, with operating profits increasing by 42% to £32.3 million. The effects of maintaining a playing squad capable of mixing with Europe’s best saw costs rise by 35% to £131.2 million, but the club was able to record a pre-tax profit of £400,000 for the year ending June 30 versus the previous year’s loss of £6.5 million.

The North London club’s intention to delist being interpreted as a strong sign it is focusing its efforts on the Northumberland Park development next to White Hart Lane following its defeat in the Olympic Stadium bid. The Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) was last month instructed to start a new process to secure tenants for the Olympic Stadium post-London 2012 after February’s original decision to award the stadium to West Ham United sparked legal challenges from Tottenham and third tier team Leyton Orient.

Tottenham had sought a judicial review in the belief that a £40 million loan from Newham Council gave West Ham an unfair economic advantage and made the original decision unlawful. Tottenham reportedly needs to raise £300-£350 million to build the new 60,000-seat stadium at Northumberland Park, and chairman Daniel Levy believes borrowing money will be easier if the club is privately owned. The club’s majority owners ENIC will now propose the club’s delisting at Tottenham’s AGM on December 13.

“It is clear to us that increasing the capacity of the club’s stadium is a key factor in the continued development and success of the club and will involve the company in considerable additional capital expenditure,” said Levy. “Given this requirement, we believe that the AIM listing restricts our ability to secure funding for its future development. We are ambitious for the club and have always taken the steps that we believe to be in its best interests.”

Well done Norwich & Aviva.

Norwich City FC are not known for their trend setting but they may have started one as they have changed their shirt sponsorship for one game becoming the first team in the Premier League to do so.

A logo for the Railway Children charity will replace Aviva on the front of the Canaries’ shirts for Saturday’s clash against Arsenal, which is being televised live on Sky Sports.

City Chief Executive David McNally said: “Norwich City are delighted to support Aviva’s charity partnership with Railway Children. It is a great opportunity for our fans to show their support and to raise the profile of such an important cause.”

This is the fourth year that Aviva has given away its Norwich City shirt sponsorship to charities.

This year’s sponsorship marks the continuation of Aviva’s commitment to its chosen national charity, Railway Children, which helps raise awareness of the fact that every year in the UK an estimated 100,000 young people under the age of 16 run away from home.

Aviva’s work with Railway Children is part of its five-year global ‘Street to School’ programme to raise awareness and support for children living and working on the streets around the world.

Terina Keene, Railway Children, Chief Executive said: “It’s a chilling fact that every year in the UK 100,000 young people under the age of 16 run away from home.

“Having survived a difficult home environment, many young runaways have lost their trust in adults and see the streets as their only alternative if they feel they cannot live at home any longer. Faced with limited choices and not knowing where to turn, many end up living alone on the streets, where they are at risk of violence, sexual abuse and drug or alcohol dependency.

“We fight for children living on the streets everyday, and we are delighted that Norwich City, through our partners Aviva, have embraced Railway Children and our cause so wholeheartedly. This game will provide a much needed boost to Railway Children’s work across the UK, by raising awareness of the issue, as well as much-needed funds.”

Anne Filatotchev, marketing director, Aviva UK added: “Aviva works with Railway Children to raise awareness about the issue of young runaways. With the high profile nature of our Norwich City sponsorship and of Barclays Premier League football in general, we have the perfect opportunity to raise awareness nationally of the important work this charity does.”