Barca confirms home games will be played away from Camp Nou in '23-24....U.S. businessman John Textor completes takeover of Lyon....Wimbledon to incorporate big data to improve fan experience

Barca confirms move to temporary home in '23-24

Barcelona and the local city council announced on Tuesday that the club will play at Estadio Olímpico Lluís Companys during the '23-24 season while Camp Nou is undergoing renovations. The local city council will speed up the timeline of the project, especially the aspects related to public transportation, at a cost of €7.2M ($7.6M), with the club paying for 64% (€4.6M/$4.9M) and the city paying for 36% (€2.6M/$2.7M). Barcelona is estimating that the move to Estadio Olímpico for '23-24 will cost €15-20M ($16-21M). Barcelona President Joan Laporta "insisted that thte club will only be playng away from Camp Nou for one season, '23-24." Work on Barca's Espai Barça project will begin this summer (MARCA, 6/21). Barcelona plans to return to Camp Nou in '24-25, but the Espai Barça project is not expected to be completed until sometime during the '25-26 season (PALCO23, 6/21).

John Textor completes acquisition of Ligue 1 Lyon

American investor John Textor became the main shareholder of Ligue 1 club Lyon on Tuesday and "immediately targeted" the dominance of Qatar-funded rival Paris St. Germain. Lyon last won the Ligue 1 title in '08 and has "struggled to compete as PSG spent lavishly to win Ligue 1 in eight of the past 10 seasons." Textor, whose new club finished eighth in '21-22, said, "I don’t like these models like PSG. Great team, whatever, great athletes, we all love to watch them. I think over the few years we want to go after them." Player transfer spending was promised in a capital injection of $90M as part of a deal valuing the club at around $840M. OL Groupe owns its 59,000-seat stadium that hosted the '19 Women’s World Cup final and the women’s team has been European champion six of the last seven seasons (AP, 6/21). Aulas said he would continue as club president for "at least three years" (AFP, 6/21).

Textor, who also co-owns EPL Crystal Palace, is partnering with Authentic Brands Founder Jamie Salter on the Lyon deal, "underlining the appetite for sports assets even as the global economy slows." Longtime Lyon Owner Jean-Michel Aulas, an "influential leader" in French soccer, is selling "most of his stake," and cinema group Pathé and private equity group IDG Capital "will also exit."  OL Groupe runs basketball operations, in addition to the men's and women's teams, and owns NWSL side OL Reign. Lyon's equity would increase to €884M ($931M) after a "planned capital increase for the group’s investment needs, including building a nearby arena for concerts and events." OL Groupe made a net loss of €107M ($113M) on revenues of €177M ($186M) in the '20-21 season (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/21).

Wimbledon hoping data improves fan experience

Wimbledon is "turning to big data to help improve fans’ tennis knowledge" after discovering that even ticket holders were "not aware of most of the players in the game." Crowds at this year’s tournament -- "expected to return to sold-out levels" with easing of coronavirus restrictions -- will be exposed to more facts and figures that organizers hope will help get them “closer to the sport." AI-powered stats will seek to "better explain the strengths and weaknesses in players’ games but also predict upsets and rising stars." Spectators at Wimbledon, as well as television viewers and app users, will have access to "Win Factor," which will "aggregate data from a number of sources to better predict a player’s chances of victory in a given match" (London GUARDIAN, 6/21).

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. Discovery Sports will offer viewers every match from Wimbledon live in 11 European markets. Fans in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Bulgaria will be able to watch on discovery+, Eurosport, Eurosport App and In the U.K. and Ireland, they will be able to watch a daily highlights show on Eurosport and discovery+ in the U.K., with both singles’ finals to air live (BROADBAND TV, 6/21).

Sports bodies weigh changes to transgender policies

Transgender athletes have been blocked from competing in women’s international rugby league matches, including this year’s World Cup, with FIFA, the FA and World Athletics "set to impose similar bans." The International Rugby League said it would use the end-of-year event to help develop a "transwomen inclusion policy" for the future which "takes into consideration the unique characteristics of rugby league." World Athletics is "likely to follow rugby league and swimming in imposing a ban on transgender athletes from elite women’s races," and FIFA is also considering following FINA's new policy, while FA Chair Debbie Hewitt also said that any policy "had to ensure fairness as well as inclusion." She said, "I think it is a really tricky subject. We talk about being inclusive but it has to be inclusive for everybody and it has to be fair, that’s the line that any sports administrator has to think about" (LONDON TIMES, 5/21).

The National Rugby League is "yet to decide whether to follow suit" after the IRL announced its ban. An NRL spokesperson said, "The NRL is undertaking ongoing engagement with experts and stakeholders regarding transgender participation. The policy will be determined by the [Australian Rugby League] Commission after all advice is carefully and sensibly considered" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 6/21).

FIFA extends emergency rules for Ukrainian clubs

Seeking to protect Ukrainian soccer clubs during the Russian military invasion, FIFA on Tuesday extended emergency contract rules for foreign players and coaches through next season. FIFA’s move aims to give clarity and security for clubs with some staff likely to opt for leaving on loan deals while the direction of the war is unclear. Interim rules first applied by FIFA in March let soccer employees from abroad get out of their contracts in Ukraine and Russia for the rest of the season that just ended. Ukrainian clubs had stopped playing during the war and in Russia some coaches and players declined to continue with clubs there.

With the European offseason transfer period now starting, Ukraine’s top club Shakhtar Donetsk warned this month that some agents were trying “to take our players for free” and exploit the uncertainty. FIFA said Ukrainian and Russian clubs have until June 30 to reach agreements with overseas players and coaches, who would then “have the right to suspend their employment contracts” for one year (AP, 6/21).

Men In Blazers talk '26 World Cup host city reveal

The co-hosts of "The Men in Blazers Podcast" discussed the announcement of the North American host cities for the 2026 World Cup, wth Roger Bennett saying the announcement by FIFA on FS1 was a "departure from FIFA’s normally tight-suited, buttoned-up" announcements. Bennett: "While most of their presentations are slightly surreal, this one was next level." Michael Davies: "I wonder who was really behind this? Was it a Fox production? Was it a Telemundo production? Was it a FIFA production? Hard to tell." He added, "It was tough to watch, but many things involving FIFA and UEFA are tough to watch so it was perfectly on brand."

Davies noted Boston being named a host city probably "wasn’t all done on the merits." Bennett said that Patriots Owner Robert Kraft "has a long relationship with FIFA and let’s just say he knows enough to realize that the number of bank trucks you back up to the loading dock of FIFA headquarters essentially correlates with the decisions" of what cities were named ("The Men in Blazers Podcast," 6/20).

Edward Gaming renews sponsorship deal with Bixin

By Hongyu Chen

Chinese esports organization Edward Gaming (EDG) announced today that its League of Legends division has renewed the sponsorship deal with the Chinese gaming social media network Bixin. In addition, the sponsorship will also affect EDG’s esports marketing strategy, and player merchandise distribution, as well as improving engagement between fans and EDG star players. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Bixin is the largest social network for gamers in China. Users pay others to play with or against in gaming sessions. It has sponsored multiple League of Legends Pro League (LPL) teams such as FunPlus Phoenix (FPX) and Invictus Gaming (IG). Bixin and EDG first signed a sponsorship deal in March of 2021 before the team won the League of Legends World Championship 2021.

Meanwhile, the China Audio-visual and Digital Publishing Association (CADPA), a nonprofit organization that the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party owns, announced on June 17 that it has teamed up with multiple Chinese esports-related companies, including game publishers, tournament organizers, teams, livestreaming platforms and publications, to establish the Chinese Esports Working Council (Hongyu Chen, SBJ). See more on CADPA's new initiative here.

Short Takes

The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) announced a partnership between Team Germany and Fanatics that will run through the L.A. '28 Games. The deal is the first of its kind for Team Germany, and will see Fanatics open and operate an online store this summer. The agreement is Fanatics' first Olympic deal since the launch of the IOC's official Olympic Store last year, and it is Fanatics' first in Germany since opening a warehouse in the Netherlands (Fanatics).

Dutch soccer club Ajax signed a multi-year sponsorship deal with online gambling company Unibet, which recently won a license to offer betting and gambling in the Netherlands. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed (DUTCH NEWS, 6/21).

Bundesliga side Schalke named hotel booking platform HRS its training kit partner as part of a new three-year deal which will see HRS’ logo feature on the team’s warmup and training apparel (Schalke).

Russian former F1 driver Nikita Mazepin has revealed he plans to sue Haas for "salary arrears" that he claims are owed to him (GP FANS, 6/21).

Wales manager Ryan Giggs resigned, having originally stepped aside in November '20, after being "arrested on suspicion of actual bodily harm and assault" (LONDON TIMES, 6/20).

European esports organization Qlash on Tuesday named Spanish sports apparel brand Kelme as a technical partner in Spain. As part of the partnership, the two brands will present the club’s new jersey during DreamHack Valencia, a gaming and esports festival taking place on July 1-3. Financial details were not disclosed (Tobias Seck, SBJ Esports).

McLaren Racing today will announce a "new and rare" sponsorship from Goldman Sachs, and the deal has a "particular focus on sustainability." Terms of the deal are not being released aside from it being for multiple years, but the sides will partner together on sustainability projects. See more in today's SBJ Daily.

What They're Saying

"We have never spoken with him, directly or indirectly. A lot of clubs are interested in him, also various national teams, but we have never spoken with him" -- Paris St. Germain President Nasser Al Khelaifi, on the club's reported interesting in hiring Zinedine Zidane to replace Mauricio Pochettino as manager (AS, 6/21).

"We need the players fit. I need to be able to see players to select ... it takes a good five to six weeks to get started in a new season" -- Australian men's soccer team coach Graham Arnold, calling for an earlier start to this year's A-League Men’s season ahead of the World Cup in Qatar (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 6/19).

"Relegation was a shock. Since we’ve taken on the club, we’ve reduced losses, the wage bill -- we’ve cleaned it out immensely. They weren’t expecting such a violent sanction" -- French soccer club Bordeaux President Gérard Lopez, on the club being relegated from Ligue 1 to France's third tier by French soccer's financial watchdog, the DNCG (GET FRENCH FOOTBALL NEWS, 6/21).

Matter Of Opinion's Gabriele Marcotti analyzes Barcelona members greenlighting a proposal to "sell future merchandising and TV rights in exchange for immediate cold, hard cash." Marcotti writes that the plans "will raise money now, but it's a massive gamble on their future."

The Sydney Daily Telegraph's Paul Kent defends FINA's decision to ban transgender women from competing against women and adds that "those arguing for the inclusion of transgender women on the basis of equality are either deliberately distorting the argument or lost in a hopeless state of denial."

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