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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Business of Sport 2017 was a lucrative one all round

From football to basketball, tennis and cricket, the cash has been rolling in faster than ever

Floyd Mayweather in the ring for his super welterweight boxing match against Conor McGregor on August 26, which made him the year's highest paid sportsman in 2017.  Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Floyd Mayweather in the ring for his super welterweight boxing match against Conor McGregor on August 26, which made him the year's highest paid sportsman in 2017. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Never has the correlation between sporting success and wealth been more apparent than in 2017 - and in few sports has it been more apparent than in English top-tier football.

"We fully expect that the Premier League’s new three-year broadcast rights deal will see a return to record levels of profitability in the 2016/17 season,” Dan Jones, partner and head of the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, said in a recent report.

Adam Bull, a senior consultant in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, added: “We have already seen to some extent the impact of the current broadcast rights deal, with clubs’ combined transfer expenditure over the course of the 2016/17 season reaching almost £1.4 billion (Dh6.86bn) – eclipsing the previous record set in 2015/16 by one-third and far exceeding any other league in world football.”

This year, European football clubs have also embarked upon record breaking spending sprees with Paris Saint Germain splashing out an incredible €222 million (Dh960.1m) to secure the signature of Neymar from Barcelona this summer.

MUNICH, GERMANY - DECEMBER 05:  Neymar of PSG  during the UEFA Champions League group B match between Bayern Muenchen and Paris Saint-Germain at Allianz Arena on December 5, 2017 in Munich, Germany.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Neymar of PSG. Adam Pretty/Getty Images

The French Ligue 1 leaders will pay the Brazilian an annual salary of €36.8m.

However, football is not the only sport reaping rich rewards - and Neymar was not the highest paid athlete on the planet this year; that accolade goes to the boxer Floyd Mayweather whose disclosed purse for fighting Conor McGregor in Las Vegas in August was US$100m.

Mayweather would have earned considerably more once his cut of the pay per view (PPV) revenue came in. Very few of the key metrics from that fight have been publicly disclosed but it is believed to have generated 4 million to 5 million domestic PPV buys and around US$500m in revenue.

An estimated 3 million people also watched that fight on illegal streams without buying the official PPV.

This year the global sports market is expected to generate revenue of around US$91bn, according to Statista, almost double the $46.5bn generated in 2005. Revenue from the sports merchandising market in North America alone, meanwhile, is expected to reach $14.2bn.

The year also saw a distinct shift in the way viewers consume sport with Amazon in April paying $50m for the rights to show Thursday night US National Football League (NFL) games, while Facebook paid Fox an undisclosed sum to stream several UEFA Champions League football matches this auturmn.

This is a trend that looks set to continue in 2018. "Politically, socially and technologically, the world is in the midst of one of the most disruptive periods in living memory - this disruption is affecting where investment in sports is coming from, how sports content is created and distributed, and changing the dynamics of relationships between rights holders, sponsors and fans," says a report by the researcher Nielsen.

Earlier this month Verizon, a wireless carrier that owns AOL and Yahoo, agreed to pay the NFL a figure of around $2.5bn to broadcast matches live on its various platforms. Unlike the previous deal, which was for mobile only, this allows the telecommunications conglomerate to provide the streaming service to tablet and laptop users.

"With global sponsorship spend forecast to reach over $62bn in 2017 and global media rights spend expected to hit $45bn, the top-line metrics remain positive," Nielsen said. "But this is a period of rapid change for sports - from China’s remarkable investments at home and abroad to new technologies such as virtual reality, the explosion in direct-to-consumer content to shifts in audience habits and consumption."

But for sportsmen and women, too, it has been a year of change - and for some such as the tennis player Roger Federer - that has been realised in his bank account.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 18:  Roger Federer of Switzerland plays a forehand during his three set defeat by David Goffin of Belgium in their semi final match the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals at O2 Arena on November 18, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Roger Federer. Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

His cumulative career prize money reached the $110m mark last month, surpassing a record previously held by the US golfer Tiger Woods. After missing much of 2016 due to injury the Swiss star reclaimed his status as the highest-earning player in tennis, recouping US$11.7m in prize money in 2017. His prize-money wealth does not include the myriad sponsorships deals he has.

Still, Federer did not have as lucrative a year as Justin Thomas; the American golfer earned $19.9m for his efforts on the PGA tour. But when it comes to remuneration both were left casting enviously glances at the world’s top footballers with both Lionel Messi and Neymar signing lucrative contracts.

November 30, 2017; New Providence, The Bahamas; Justin Thomas hits his tee shot on the eighth hole during the first round of the Hero World Challenge golf tournament at Albany. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Thomas. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

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PSG took advantage of a release clause to sign Neymar from Barcelona. The Spanish club could not countenance a similar situation arising with Messi and managed to tie the Argentinian down in the summer to a new deal reportedly worth $667,000 a week. The contract will run until 2021 and any club wishing to buy him out of it will have to come up with an improbable sounding $700m.

In September, the National Basketball Association (NBA) star Russell Westbrook signed a five-year contract extension worth $205m to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Dec 3, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) drives to the basket in front of San Antonio Spurs center Pau Gasol (16) and guard Dejounte Murray (5) during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0). Mark D Smith-USA TODAY Sports

It makes the 2017 Most Valuable Player (MVP) the highest earner in the history of the NBA. ESPN calculated that he would earn $569,512 per game in the final year of the deal.

The women's tennis stalwart Serena Williams has not competed since January due to pregnancy. But she remains the highest paid female athlete on the planet and earned $27m in prize money between June 2016 and June 2017 despite missing nearly half a year’s worth of competitions and tournaments.

Meanwhile, the International Cricket Confederation (ICC) Women’s World Cup final match between India and England held on July 23 at Lord’s in London clocked 19.53 million impressions on television in India. This set a new record, making it the most watched women’s sporting event in the country’s history.

India also played host to the Under 17 Fifa World Cup, a small but significant moment given the country’s potential as a footballing destination. However, it is a land where cricket remains king and the local broadcast of this year’s Indian Premier League final game garnered 39.4 million impressions alone.

In the US it has been a difficult year for the National Football League (NFL). There is increased scrutiny on the physical risk involved in participating in such a high-impact sport while the players have been sucked into an improbable sounding war of words with the US president over whether or not they should stand for the national anthem.

Still, the 2017 Super Bowl in February brought in around $385m in advertising dollars. About 113 million people watched the New England Patriots come from behind to beat the Atlanta Falcons, while consumer spending in the US related to the event reportedly topped $14bn.

Elsewhere, the Chinese government’s announcement in August that it would be limiting overseas investment sent shock waves through the sporting world. In recent years investors from the country have purchased controlling stakes in some of Europe’s biggest football clubs including AC Milan, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid.

On the plus side, at least for sportswear manufacturers, China will also be hosting the 2022 Winter Olympic Games and "its government is aiming to establish an $13bn sports industry by 2025, in addition to investments to promote fitness across the country," according to World Trademark Review (WTR).

"The goal is to boost domestic consumption in this new economy," said the market analyst.

"This creates opportunities for western sports brands but also the spectre of increased competition for domestic spend. With the sector is a core focus of the Chinese government – in tandem with the ‘Made In China 2025’ initiative – there will likely be a significant focus on domestic brand creation and growth.

"Good news for those looking to expand their Chinese company client base, but clear competition for international companies in the sports sector eyeing Chinese expansion," WTR said.

But while China limits outflows abroad, money from Asia continues to pour into elite overseas leagues. In September, Rakuten agreed a $20m a season sponsorship deal with the American professional basketball team based in Oakland, California, the Golden State Warriors, a figure which pales in comparison to the $59m a year the Japanese e-commerce company will be paying Barcelona in a partnership which commenced in July.

There were no major international football tournaments this year. The 2014 World Cup generated $4.8bn in revenue and 2017 saw a series of allegations surrounding this competition and its organisers emerge in a US courtroom. Some 23 people have already pleaded guilty to financial corruption and the case is ongoing.

This year has also seen serious questions arise over the viability of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, despite the reported $500m a week that is being spent on infrastructure. Mounting criticism of the decision to award the most lucrative tournament in sport to the country intensified when neighbouring countries and others broke off diplomatic ties in June.

Earlier this year Fifa announced plans to increase the number of participating countries in the World Cup to 48. The absence of teams including Italy and the US, neither of whom qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia will be felt keenly. The expansion for the 2026 tournament should ensure that the traditional powerhouses of world football always qualify, as well as propelling the tournament’s total revenue towards the $6bn mark.

The likes of Italy, Chile and the US might all have missed out but the Middle East will be well represented in Russia. Iran and Saudi Arabia have both secured qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

Fifa aims to raise $5.66bn in revenue in the three-year period leading up to next year's event. A total of $400m in prize money will be divided between participating teams but, with several sponsorship slots still unfilled, it will be interesting to see whether the most watched sporting event on earth can retain its commercial appeal amid a pervasive wreak of scandal.

Whatever happens, there is little doubt that sport's importance as a global and personal cash-cow is only likley to increase.

Big deals of 2017:

Verizon broadcast deal with NFL (US$2.5 billion)

With just a few weeks left of 2017, the US National Football League (NFL) announced a five-year deal with the US wireless carrier Verizon that is worth an estimated $2.5bn. It will allow the company to stream matches live on its various online platforms, which include Yahoo, purchased for $4.48bn by Verizon in June.

Verizon intends to monetise the deal with advertising revenue. This is the first time an over the top (OTT) content provider has agreed a deal of this scale for sports content and could herald a switch in live viewing trends away from traditional linear television towards streaming services for online devices.

Sale of Houston Rockets ($2.2bn)

Tilman Fertitta, an American businessman and television personality, paid $2.2bn to purchase the Houston Rockets in a deal that was rubber-stamped by the National Basketball Association (NBA) in October. The seller, the US attorney, businessman and financier Leslie Alexander, had owned the franchise for 24 years, which demonstrates how rarely prestigious sporting teams come on the market in the US.

Dec 9, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) celebrates the 124-117 win over the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Rockets guard James Harden: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

There is no relegation system in the country, meaning that major sporting teams in the top divisions will remain there in perpetuity. This makes any NFL, (Major League Baseball (MLB) or NBA franchise extremely attractive to potential buyers, a point 2017 has proven emphatically.

Construction of Las Vegas Stadium ($1.9bn)

The Oakland Raiders are relocating to Las Vegas, meaning the NFL franchise will require a new venue. Construction of a 72,000 capacity stadium on the outskirts of the city is currently underway and should be completed by 2020.

The total budget is $1.9bn with an estimated $375 million to be spent on land and infrastructure costs, $1.35bn on construction and $100m on a practice facility with the remaining $100m set aside to cover unexpected costs. There is also the possibility it could be used by a Major League Soccer (MLS) team in the future.

Sale of Miami Marlins ($1.2bn)

A group led by the venture capitalist Bruce Sherman paid $1.2bn for the Miami Marlins. The MLB franchise has endured eight consecutive losing seasons and have not reached the play-offs since 2013, setting an unwanted national league record.

The Miami Marlins also had the third-lowest attendances in the entire MLB in 2017 with the 36,742 capacity Marlin Park averaging 20,395 fans per game. The former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter is a member of the group that paid $1.2bn for the franchise and will be hoping he can revive the team’s fortunes.

Sale of 49 per cent of Brooklyn Nets ($1.13 bn)

Joseph Tsai, the co-founder and executive vice chairman of Alibaba Group, reportedly paid $1.13bn for a 49 per cent stake in the NBA team Brooklyn Nets. This deal valued the franchise at $2.3bn and represented a huge return on investment for Mikhail Prokhorov.

Brooklyn Nets' Allen Crabbe (L) vies for the ball with Miami Heat's Wayne Ellington, during an NBA Global Games match at the Mexico City Arena, on December 9, 2017, in Mexico City. / AFP PHOTO / PEDRO PARDO
Brooklyn Nets' Allen Crabbe (L) vies for the ball with Miami Heat's Wayne Ellington. Pedro Pardo/ AFP

In 2010 the Russian paid $200m to buy a controlling interest in the New Jersey Nets, as the team was known then. Interestingly, the deal with Mr Tsai, who has an option to eventually purchase the team outright, does not include the billion dollar-valued Barclays Centre, which Mr Prokhorov will keep.

Vivo Sponsorship of FIFA (€400m)

Vivo signed on as a major sponsor of the world football governing body Fifa, parting with €400m (Dh1.7bn) for the privilege, according to reliable reports. The Chinese smartphone company will pay Fifa somewhere between €60m and €70m per year up until and including the World Cup in 2022.

Fifa is in the midst of a major corruption scandal, which has caused major western companies to distance themselves. Asian sponsors have stepped in to take up the slack with hundreds of millions of dollars committed by Chinese companies Hisense and Dalian Wanda alone.