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Barcelona sells 10% stake in broadcast rights to U.S. fund Sixth Street....Aston Villa presents plans for renovations to Villa Park....Lewis Hamilton rips Nelson Piquet for racial slur in '21 interview

Barca sells stake in broadcast rights to Sixth Street

Barcelona sold a 10% stake in its broadcast rights over the next 25 years to U.S. fund Sixth Street for €205M ($216M), according to La Vanguardia. The deal allows Barcelona to close the '21-22 financial year without losses, but "the club is still unable to sign new players this summer." Sixth Street is strengthening its presence in Spanish soccer after investing €360M ($379M) in Real Madrid's stadium renovation project in May. Sixth Street also holds a stake in Spotify, which recently became Barcelona's principal sponsor, and renewable energy company Audax, whose VP, Eduard Romeu, is also a Barcelona VP. Barcelona is signing the deal with Sixth Street after rejecting offers from Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and CVC (PALCO23, 6/28).

Aston Villa unveils plans for Villa Park renovations

EPL side Aston Villa on Tuesday revealed details of its plan to "redevelop the area around Villa Park and increase stadium capacity to over 50,000." The club has launched a pre-application planning consultation on the plans, which include a new North Stand and improvements to the existing Trinity Stand. The plans also incorporate commercial areas and a community space, and Villa hopes work on the improvements "will begin next year." The four-week pre-planning phase "is designed to enable local residents and businesses to complete a survey and have their say on the plans" (PA, 6/28). Owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens are preparing to pump in more than £100M ($122M) into redeveloping Villa Park and the surrounding areas. The owners -- who have spent well over £410M ($500M) on new players since arriving in '18 -- "are building their own lasting legacy" (BIRMINGHAM LIVE, 6/28).

Aston Villa CEO Christian Purslow said that the club plans to fill in both corners to the Doug Ellis Stand and Trinity Road Stand, and the new stand will be "deeper" to house more fans. He also touched on plans to increase Villa Park's usage through the year, not just on matchdays, with the introduction of Villa Live. Purslow: "The idea is a multi-use business premises, which will have at its heart a fan zone, double height space, pre-match, but for away matchdays, enabling Villa fans to come to Villa Park, those who can’t get access to away games, to watch games" (BIRMINGHAM LIVE, 6/28).

Lewis Hamilton demands action after racial slur

Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton called for action to change "archaic mindsets" after a racist remark about him by Brazilian former champion Nelson Piquet in '21 emerged on social media, "triggering widespread condemnation." In a Brazilian interview on YouTube in November, Piquet used a racial slur when referring to Hamilton, when commenting on Hamilton's British GP crash with Max Verstappen. He also said Hamilton had "played dirty" in the incident. The comments resurfaced as the drivers prepare to return to Silverstone this weekend. Motorsports governing body FIA, F1 and Mercedes all issued statements condemning racism but without mentioning Piquet by name. Piquet's press team did not immediately respond to a request for comment (REUTERS, 6/28).

Wimbledon facing criticism for all-white dress code

Wimbledon returned this week, and athletes have "made it clear they're ready to update the age-old traditions of the tournament," particularly those that "disproportionally affect women athletes, including the dress code." Wimbledon's strict rule on an all-white dress code "has been around since the Victorian era, but now it's being called into question." The rule was "originally enforced because any sign of sweat was considered 'rude or improper.'" In addition to complaints from women players about the fear of "menstrual blood showing through their skort," according to Catherine Whitaker, men's players Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have "expressed frustration by pushing the boundaries on what they wear." Agassi even "went so far as to boycott Wimbledon" between '88 and '90 to make his stance clear (YAHOO SPORTS, 6/27).

Whitaker said of the policy, "I would like to see it change. If they had a clothing policy that affected men in the way that it does women, I don’t think that particular tradition would last. I cannot imagine going into the biggest day of my life, with my period, and being forced to wear white." Whitaker's comments follow a "discussion that unexpectedly gripped women’s tennis last month" when Qinwen Zheng opened up about "how menstrual cramps affected her" in her defeat by Iga Swiatek at the French Open. Rio '16 Gold Medalist Monica Puig responded to Zheng at the time in a tweet, "Definitely something that affects female athletes! Finally bringing it to everyone’s attention!" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/24).

'22 Women’s Cricket WC sets viewership record

The International Cricket Council has revealed that the '22 Women’s Cricket World Cup generated 1.64 billion total views across all ICC channels, making it the most engaged women’s event on record and the global governing body’s third overall.The event in New Zealand, is the third most digitally engaged ICC event ever behind the Men’s Cricket World Cup in '19 and the Men’s T20 World Cup in '21. ICC content during the '22 tournament saw a 45% increase in engagement on the record-breaking '20 women’s T20 World Cup, which reached 1.1 billion views. The '22 World Cup also generated more than 16 times the 100 million views from the last edition of the international competition, which took place in England in '17. The tournament brought in 164 million engagements, with that figure including shares, likes and comments across social media platforms throughout the competition. This doubles the 82 million engagements during '20’s T20 World Cup in Australia (ICC).

U.K. pushing for trans ban across women’s sport

British sports will be told that the U.K. government expects them to exclude transgender women from elite female competition but ministers will "stop short of threatening funding cuts." Swimming’s international governing body FINA has imposed such a ban, leading Olympic diving champion Tom Daley to say that he is “furious” about the move. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries is hosting round-table talks for the leading sports and will be "urging them to adopt the policy announced by Fina," which states that anyone who has gone through male puberty cannot enter elite women’s events. The basis for the decision is that transgender women have a physical advantage over those born female, even if they have fully transitioned and reduced their testosterone levels. Many British sports bodies are going through a consultation process before deciding on their policies. Football, rugby union, cricket, tennis, rugby league, athletics, cycling and swimming are expected to be represented at the round-table meeting (LONDON TIMES, 6/27).

LEC Roadshows return: Malmö to host Summer Finals

By Tobias Seck

Riot Games Europe announced that the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) Summer Finals will return to an international stage for the first time since Athens 2019. The two-day event will take place from September 10-11 at Malmö Arena in Sweden, the same venue that was scheduled to host the Summer Finals two years ago before the global pandemic spoiled all live events in '20.

The event will be the first time the league makes a stop in Sweden since the 2015 LEC Finals in Stockholm. As the Swedish Public Health Agency declared COVID-19 to no longer be generally dangerous or dangerous to society from April onward, no restrictions or prohibitions apply to the running of the LEC Summer Finals. However, Riot Games could still require fans to wear masks — a policy the company enforces at its LEC studios in Berlin.

Short Takes

Disney-backed streamer Hulu is teaming with McLaren F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo to develop a half-hour scripted series set in the world of F1 (THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 6/27).

Automated video production company Pixellot agreed to a deal with Serie A side Fiorentina to provide video and data technology at the club’s new training complex (Pixellot).

Sky Italia signed an extension to its rights deal to broadcast Wimbledon from '23-26 on its Sky Sport channels and Now streaming service (SKYSPORT.it.com, 6/27).

Barcelona has "threatened legal action" against AS Roma after the Italian side pulled out of a preseason friendly at Camp Nou in August. Roma said its decision to withdraw is a "consequence of the need to modify the plan for summer friendly matches" (ESPN.com, 6/28).

The Advanced Technologies arm of Red Bull's F1 team revealed plans to launch a £5M ($6.1M) hypercar, set to be released in '25 (AUTOSPORT, 6/28).

Everton named three new members of its fans' forum, Laura Burgess, Rob Fisher and Jeff Wallner, following a public vote. The trio will have the chance to join the stadium project group that will continue dialogue with the club in terms of pricing, seat allocation, facilities and various other aspects (LIVERPOOL ECHO, 6/27).

Spanish second division side Sporting Gijon was acquired by Mexican investment vehicle Grupo Orlegi on Tuesday, with the group paying €43M ($45M) for a 73% stake in the club. Grupo Orlegi Owner Alejandro Irarragorri will serve as Sporting's president. Orlegi's portfolio also includes Mexican clubs Atlas, Santos Laguna and Tampico Madera (PALCO23, 6/28).

What They're Saying

"I think it’s a super unique way to deliver a really strong message. I mean, a lot of people in cycling talk about supporting women’s cycling ... but this is something else. This is us basically saying, 'This year we are putting the attention on the women’s Tour de France.' It’s literally putting your money where your mouth is" -- cycling team EF Education-Easypost GM Jonathan Vaughters, on the team's pink tops featuring a female gender symbol, which will be worn during the Tour de France (London TELEGRAPH, 6/28).

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