September to October 2020 in Review: Autumn signals a ‘generational change’

2020’s Autumn months held no respite for betting leadership, as the sector was placed at the forefront of global business headlines reporting on inbound changes be it through regulatory challenges, M&A or leadership changes…

SBC – Politics and M&A make global betting the headline maker… 

The betting industry’s autumn proceedings begun with further political maneuverers centred around the UK government’s vowed review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

The House of Lords formed its ‘Peers for Gambling Reform’ (PGR) group outlining ‘key priorities’ that must be guaranteed by the government’s generational reform of the gambling sector.

With the political spotlight firmly placed on the gambling industry’s wider reforms and operator conduct, Flutter Entertainment grabbed national headlines by appointing former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson as new corporate social responsibility advisor.

Further industry high-profile appointments followed as 888 Holdings declared that former Tony Blair strategic advisor Lord Mendelsohn would replace Brian Mattingley as its designate company chairman.

Observing political developments, former William Hill Chief Executive Ralph Topping pondered to SBC whether an under pressure Conservative government dealing with the ongoing Covid crisis and Brexit negotiations held the ‘capacity or imagination to reform UK gambling for the better.

September’s ‘SBC Summit Barcelona Digital’ placed the changing global demands of industry leadership at the forefront of its conference agenda as Jason Robins, CEO of DraftKings, and Sportradar founder Carsten Koerl acknowledged that the industry was in the ‘midst of a perfect storm facing changing technology and social cycles which held radical and profound effects on consumers.

Industry changes led both political and business headlines as William Hill’s board was forced to confirm ‘City rumours that the heritage bookmaker was being pursued by US suitors Apollo Global and Caesars Entertainment.

Closing its autumn trading, William Hill informed investors that it had accepted Caesars £2.9 billion bid. Company chairman Roger Devlin personally approved the Caesars offer, stating that a strategic merger with its US wagering partner laid the foundations for the bookmaker’s aggressive multi-state growth ambitions.

A generational changed would be called in Australia as Paula Dwyer and David Attenborough jointly ended their 10-year tenure as the Chairwoman and Chief Executive of Tabcorp Holdings. A poignant Dwyer signed off her chairmanship urging Tabcorp to uphold its ‘civic duties’, as Australia recovers from a ‘devastating year for its national psyche‘ as the onset of COVID-19 followed the devastation of the National Bushfires.

Insider Sport –  Diversity leads to urgent changes in football’s make-up 

September and October saw women’s football receive a significant boost as supporters prepared to return to sporting venues overseas and football continues to expand its commercial opportunities through esports ventures.

Autumn marked a period of transition for women’s football, with the FA unveiling its new sustainable strategy –Inspiring Positive Change – to grow and safeguard the women’s game. The plan, laid out by the governing body, focused on participation, development, elite leagues, and coaching and refereeing among other key remits.

The FA also named Vitality as the new title sponsor for the Women’s FA Cup, with the health and life insurance firm’s Managing Director Nick Read stating that there had ‘never been a more important time’ to get involved with women’s sport, having appointed ex-England international Alex Scott as its ambassador earlier in the month.

Everton FC Women struck ‘the biggest commercial deal in the women’s team’s history with telecom MegaFon and hot on the heels of this announcement, football-specific media company Dugout released figures which exhibited increased content engagement within women’s football, with video views increasing by 700% in the previous 12 months.

The first rumblings of the Premier League’s pay-per-view (PPV) broadcast arrangements were heard in October, as the league met to discuss the widely criticised model. The top flight opted to stick by PPV, much to the discontent of football supporters who slammed the price, but later reconvened and scrapped the model.

Meanwhile, Lionel Messi topped Forbes’ annual ‘World’s Highest-Paid Soccer Players list for 2020 after it was disclosed that the Barcelona ace was expected to earn $126 million by the end of 2020 with $92 million on salary alone.

Elsewhere, another top flight footballer invested his fortune into one of the EFL’s League Two clubs. Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin became the second largest stakeholder in Forest Green Rovers, the first fully vegan and carbon-neutral sports club in the world.

A flurry of other professional athletes also dipped their toes into the expanding esports market. Real Madrid midfielder Casimiro launched his own esports team, CaseEsports, to ‘lead the European esports scene’, and David Beckham’s Guild Esports organisation signed a £3.6 million sponsorship deal with an anonymous backer.

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