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Volume 10 No. 25
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Euro 2012, Platini, F1, NHL Migration Highlights Top Stories From Europe

The SBD Global staff compiled the top sports business stories globally of '12, in no particular order. Here are the top stories from Europe.

A RECORD-SETTING EURO 2012: The Euro 2012 in Poland and the Ukraine was a significant hit both in stadiums and living rooms across Europe. The tournament broke a 16-year-old attendance record with 1.4 million fans attending 31 matches. Meanwhile, Spain’s 4-0 win over Italy in the Euro 2012 final July 1 became the most-watched football match in Spain’s history, recording an 83.4% share.

HRT SUFFERS FINANCIAL HARDSHIP: Spanish F1 team HRT faced serious economic difficulties and laid off a number of employees. The team’s owner Thesan Capital originally put the team up for sale with a goal of finding a buyer before December. However, no buyer came forward and HRT failed to provide motorsports' governing body FIA with the $500,000 deposit necessary to be subscribed to next year’s F1 season. The team now looks set to officially close down.

Reports initially indicated Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim had his sights on purchasing La Liga club Getafe. However, those reports were shot down by Slim’s brother in-law Arturo Elias Ayub who wrote on Twitter, "The Carso Group has neither talked to nor approached Getafe or any other Spanish club." Ayub was correct about Getafe, but it turned out Slim did want to purchase a Spanish club as he invested €2M ($2.5M) in Spanish third-tier team Real Oviedo. The acquisition was made through Slim's company Grupo Carso, and made him the club’s majority shareholder.

F1 TRACK FOR FRANCE: The withdrawal of the New Jersey race from the F1 calendar and new private investments made an F1 Grand Prix return to France in ’13 a strong possibility with Le Castellet Circuit Dir Stéphane Clair saying that a France F1 Grand Prix in '13 had a 90% chance of taking place. Reports even indicated F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone was working on bringing F1 back to France and wanted the race to take place at Magny Cours instead of the Castellet circuit. Ecclestone said, “If we drive in France, then in Magny-Cours." However, both French tracks missed application deadlines as they could not finalize their projects on time. Castellet circuit ambassador Alain Prost said that the financial side was missing in addition to a true will from Ecclestone to come back to France.

PLATINI'S FOOTBALL REVOLUTION: A Frenchman is trying to revolutionize Europe, to be more specific European football. Many are wondering if it is just a coincidence? UEFA President Michel Platini proposed a plan to host Euro 2020 not only in one or two host countries, which has been the case since the tournament’s inaugural edition in ’60, but to stage it in 12 or 13 host cities across the entire continent. Platini’s plan has gained support after heavy criticism at the beginning. In addition, Platini has said that expanding the Champions League from 32 to 64 teams and scrapping the Europa League is an option amid a wide-ranging debate over the future of UEFA’s club competitions. It remains to be seen if those plans will flourish, or if Platini will encounter his own personal Waterloo.

F1'S ONE MAN SHOW MAKES WILD WEST COMEBACK: From bribery scandal over postponed flotation to the signing of a new Concorde Agreement and the comeback of a U.S. Grand Prix, calling F1 in ’12 eventful would be an understatement. In June, former German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky was sentenced to more than eight years in prison for accepting $44M in alleged bribes from F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone. Ahead of the bribery scandal, F1 had to delay its planed $3B Singapore IPO due to market instability. However, motorsports’ elite series also created some positive headlines with an impressive return to the U.S. at the newly built Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, where more than 117,000 fans attended the race. F1’s new Concorde Agreement, which is the contract between FIA, F1 teams and the Formula One Administration and to be finalized in the coming weeks, will pour substantially more money into FIA’s coffers. FIA's annual income from F1 is expected to increase by 40% to about $40M.

NHL LOCKOUT CREATES A EURO MIGRATION: The NHL lockout, which started on Sept. 15, has triggered an exodus of players who are heading overseas to join a club in one of Europe’s top hockey leagues. Whether it has been the German DEL, Russian KHL, Swiss NLA, Austrian Erste Bank Hockey League, Czech Extraliga or the Finnish SM-LIIGA, they all welcomed locked-out NHL players with open arms. The only exception is the Swedish Elitserien that prohibits its clubs from signing locked-out NHL players to short-term contracts. The Swedish Competition Authority that described such a ban as illegal challenged the league’s ruling. However, a Swedish court recently ruled to overturn the SCA’s decision and upheld the initial ban on short-term contracts for NHL players.

GEARING UP FOR SOCHI 2014: Sochi 2014 organizers were forced to defend the construction progress of the Olympic venues over and over again. With just a little more than 13 months until the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 7, 2014, organizers revealed that construction is on track and all venues will be delivered on time. Int’l Ski Federation (FIS) President Franco Kasper, however, was less concerned about the construction progress but more about the drastically reduced capacity for events in the mountains. Constructional and safety reasons, as well as transportation and traffic problems are to blame for the reduced on-site capacity.

CYCLING'S DOPING ISSUE COMES TO FOREFRONT: The Int’l Cycling Union (UCI) has had a rough ’12. Following the findings of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in the Lance Armstrong case, the UCI decided to strip him of his seven Tour de France titles and ban him for life. The Armstrong scandal got the ball rolling and the UCI has since been under fire by sponsors, anti-doping agencies and various national cycling federations. Many of those are calling for increased actions in the fight against doping and for the head of UCI President Pat McQuaid. The future of professional cycling and its credibility with sponsors and fans hangs in the balance.