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Volume 6 No. 234

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Former IOC VP Kevan Gosper will "urge the IOC to adopt an extreme heat policy to serve as the global standard for sport," after witnessing the fourth day of the Ashes Test in Sydney this week, where temperatures topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), according to Nicole Jeffery of THE AUSTRALIAN. Gosper said that he was "disturbed" by what he saw at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday. He said, "We can't put athletes at risk. ... From a governance point of view, all sport has to be mindful and attentive to conditions that can put athletes' health at risk." At the same time that the Australian and English cricketers were "sweltering" at the SCG, players were enduring temperatures of up to 44.5 degrees Celsius (111.2 degrees Fahrenheit) at Sydney Olympic Park as they played the first round of the Sydney Int'l. The WTA invoked its heat policy at 10:30am, "which gives players an optional 15-minute break after 15 minutes," but the ATP "does not have a heat policy, so the men continued as usual" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 1/12).

Formula 1 Managing Dir, Commercial Operations Sean Bratches met with teams prior to the Christmas break to "run through ideas" for the '18 season, and "one of the biggest areas of change will be the way that grand prix racing is broadcast," according to Jonathan Noble of MOTORSPORT. McLaren F1 Exec Dir Zak Brown said that he is "excited by what is being proposed." In a guest blog on the "James Allen on F1" site, Brown said, "Before Christmas Sean Bratches presented the new F1 commercial strategy to us, the teams. There is a huge emphasis on digital, as we know, but last year was about testing things out. ... You'll see significant changes there on the broadcast, on the graphics and the storytelling." While welcoming Liberty Media's "push to improve things for fans," Brown predicted "fireworks" in its negotiations with teams about the future of the sport. There has "already been unease" from Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault about future engine rules, as well as "other concerns about a drop in commercial rights income." Brown added, "The honeymoon period is over. Some senior team executives have been openly critical of Liberty. I prefer we're constructive. They've only really had their feet under the desk for the last six to 12 months having inherited a sport previously operated pretty uniquely. ... There will be some big negotiations going on through 2018 with the teams on contract renewal and I predict that there will be public fireworks; we are already starting to see that. ... Will Ferrari really leave if they don't like the new rules? I have my opinion but we'll see how this plays out" (MOTORSPORT, 1/11).

The NBA Boston Celtics squared off against the Philadelphia 76ers in a game at London's O2 Arena on Thursday. The Eastern Conference rivals were each playing a regular season game in the U.K. for the first time in franchise history, having both played preseason games there in the past -- the Celtics in '07 and the 76ers in '13. London had previously hosted seven NBA regular season contests, including one in each of the past five years. Ahead of the game, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said, "I am delighted the NBA continues to bring the world's best basketball to our great city in what has now become a well-established and eagerly anticipated event on London's sporting calendar."

The teams arrived in the English capital earlier this week to robust fanfare. "Everywhere we go, there are fans waiting outside hoping to get a glimpse of the team," Celtics Team President Rich Gotham said. "It almost feels like an all-star game or a playoff game with the amount of media that is covering our every step over here." The Celtics and 76ers' rosters are loaded with players born outside of the U.S. The 76ers boast Australian-born rookie Ben Simmons, Cameroonian Joel Embiid and Croatian Dario Šarić, among others, while the Celtics lineup includes Aussie Aron Baynes, German Daniel Theis and Frenchman Guerschon Yabusele. 76ers President of Business Operations Chris Heck said, "Being a part of something on the global stage has been our hope and now it's coming true."

Nike is NBA London Game 2018's presenting sponsor, but both teams also catered events for their partners this week. On Wednesday, the 76ers hosted an event at Kensington Palace for the team's fans and partners. Among the reception's crowd were several hundred who made the trip from Philadelphia. Similarly, the Celtics brought a group of sponsors as part of their traveling contingent. Gotham said, "Most of what we're doing over here with our team sponsors is really hospitality-oriented versus brand-oriented." Investment management firm Putnam, which sponsors the Celtics' parquet floor and courtside club, participated in a team event, while health services company Optum enjoyed a suite.

The 76ers were the designated home team for the game. "We see this as a brand play, and a big-picture play for the franchise," Heck said. "It is not a moneymaker directly. ... This is a marketing play, every bit as an investment back into this franchise to build it up." The NBA's league office in London managed and handled all of the logistics for the event with The O2. However, the 76ers brought their entire game presentation, including the dance team, mascot and in-game entertainment, to help promote the feel of being in their home arena.

Players from each franchise did their parts to help strengthen interest, including some who journeyed into the community to add a personal touch. Premier League side Crystal Palace, in which the 76ers ownership group has a stake, took part in local promotions with the 76ers throughout the week. Additionally, Embiid, Justin Anderson and Markelle Fultz represented the team at the English Football League Cup match between Arsenal and Chelsea on Wednesday, while the Celtics' Jaylen Brown and Semi Ojeleye also attended the game. Other player promotions included Baynes' participation in a video shoot with former Wallabies captain and current Premiership Rugby side Harlequins player James Horwill and Theis conducting a Facebook Live chat in his native German.

Kyrie Irving (left) and Ben Simmons (right) help drive global interest in the NBA.

Venturing into the int'l marketplace is essential for the further development of each team's brand. In November, the 76ers signed their first int'l partner in Australian meat-pie company Four'N Twenty. Heck said that deals with Australian companies make sense because the team has garnered interest Down Under since former Australian national team head coach Brett Brown was hired in Philadelphia. While interest has increased since the arrival of Simmons, the deal with Four'N Twenty was completed before he made his debut. "The conversation started because of our international makeup," Heck said. "But also a strategy from our Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment sponsorship team to go global." The franchise's global expansion is also focusing on Asia. Last month, it hired a Philadelphia-based Chinese employee to produce content for the Mandarin-speaking market in hopes to grow interest on the mainland. "[China] is an absolute top priority for us. We have been working with the league and we're hoping to play there sooner than later," Heck said.

The Celtics are likewise tailoring their partnerships for the int'l market. Shirt sponsor GE is a worldwide corporation with a presence in Europe. "While we're playing in London, we're looking at this as accessing the whole European market in primetime," Gotham said. "That GE jersey patch travels everywhere we go, so it's obviously very big exposure for them and something that went into the creation of our partnership with GE. ... It was really about the global footprint that the Celtics have and the fact that our brand and our uniforms are seen all over the world."

The NBA is an increasingly global game, having staged games in Asia, Europe and Mexico over the last three decades. Gotham, who was with the Celtics for their London trip in '07, noticed a vast difference in fanfare in the decade since that visit. "The NBA has been a global business for a long time, the Celtics have been one of the truly global brands in all of sports since the '80s, but the intensity of the coverage and the intensity of the interest is exponential based on the way fans all over the world can follow the team," he said.

NBA fans in London "hoping to grab a late ticket" for Thursday's game at The O2 Arena faced a mark-up of "anywhere between 350-600%, depending on the seat," according to Motez Bishara of ESPN.com. By Thursday morning, a "walk-in price" for the cheapest seat for the game was £487 ($658) including fees on StubHub, with a premium seat in the center of the lower bowl going for a "staggering" £1,701 ($2,300) including fees, and only sold in a set of three (ESPN.com, 1/11).

SHOWPIECE GAME: In London, James Benge reported NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is "eager to see London host the league's All-Star Weekend." He said, "It’s something we’d love to do, to play our All-Star Game in London or Europe. We have talked about it for years. Logistically it’s very difficult because of the length of break we’d have to take around the game but in terms of doing things on a one-off basis it’s much more possible than bringing a franchise over here. The payoff in terms of fan interest is arguably that much greater even than playing a single game here." It could be some time before the "showpiece game" moves outside the U.S., as Indianapolis was announced as the '21 host. Silver: "There’s actually a waiting list of teams who want to participate in these games. There could be [more than one game a year] but ultimately it’s not clear that doing one-off games is something that scales. If we’re not in a place where we can bring a team to Europe, adding a few more regular season games doesn’t accomplish much" (EVENING STANDARD, 1/11).

Squash execs have "long held a desire" for the sport to be a part of the Olympic Games and "thanks to innovations in technology, their dream may be closer to becoming a reality." The sport "hopes that the adoption of new data systems will make it a more appealing product" as it seeks inclusion in the Paris 2024 Olympics. Next month, squash will "pioneer a statistical tracking system for the first time at a world tour event" at the Swedish Open in Linkoping from Feb. 8-11 (REUTERS, 1/11).

Over the past few years, airbag motorcycle suits have "helped prevent serious injury to the world’s fastest riders." This airbag technology is used by most of the top pilots. Motorcycle suits with airbag technology were never mandatory, but that will change for all classes across the 2018 MotoGP World Championship, including Moto2 and Moto3 racers (ULTIMATE MOTORCYCLING, 1/11).