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When Thomas Gronnemark was hired by Liverpool as a throw-in coach in 2018, the sport's analysts at best scratched their heads and, at worst, mocked the decision outwardly. finally, to criticize management decisions in a sport in and of itself. In football's over 100-year history, the throw-in has been viewed as a necessary but time-consuming nuisance and often a secular step to the next step. Gary Lineker, former player and soccer front man for BBC Television, summed up the consensus among players, coaches and fans when he said, "You just hit it." But Gronnemark saw the throw-in as something entirely different – an idle tool that, when given the attention it deserves, can not only reshape the game but make the difference between a good team and a great team.
My passion for soccer is both personal and professional. As the former president of Dugout, I started a content platform that currently delivers around 500 million eyeballs a month to the largest teams in the world. Before that, I was Chief Media Officer at Liverpool Football Club and, among other things, forecasting the rights of the broadcast media. Like most of my family and friends (maybe it runs in our blood?), I am a dedicated and lifelong fan so I was interested in Groonemark's attitude. A trainer only for objections? Could one aspect of the game with seemingly small margins make a significant difference?
Groonemark himself called his role the "strangest job in football". His strategy is threefold and full of nuances and complexity. The long throw-in shows the distance a player can reach. The quick throw-in depends on a player's speed and decision-making skills. The clever throw-in demonstrates a team's ability to understand the playing field and to create a pressure-relieving space with specific, practiced and coordinated movements. All three offer scoring opportunities, and as most athletes and coaches know, practice doesn't necessarily make perfect, but it helps. It didn't take long for Groonemark's coaching method to produce results: Liverpool scored 14 of their 85 Premier League goals through throw-ins in the 2019 winning season. I was convinced to say the least. As a co-founder of Stellwagen Ventures, a global venture company, I often think of the measurable impact of Groonemark and how its unexpected and laser-focused decisions led to groundbreaking successes.
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External investments have long played an important role in professional sport, but the territory is no longer just for the individual millionaire or billionaire: public companies, institutional investors and SPACs (Special Purchase Acquisition Companies) are approaching the playing field (or the field or the) Route or the court). Investing is no longer a vanity venture, but for private equity partners willing to take an innovative and disciplined approach, the profits can bring far more than just boastful rights.
While there have been relatively few deals so far, the trend is hot and now. Nearly $ 911 million was invested in ten deals in European sports in 2019, according to financial data firm PitchBook. $ 1.2 billion has been invested in the United States. Branded companies like Silver Lake, Bain Capital and Blackstone are joining companies like CVC Capital Partners and Advent International, whose $ 2 billion investment in November 2020 earned them a ten percent stake in Italy's Serie A new media entity. With American sport considering easing the rules on outside investment in the NBA, NHL, MLS and MLB (the NFL still prohibits it), the trend towards outside private investment that Europe has enjoyed seems to be on the fast track, and As with many aspects, the pandemic has allowed wise leaders to see the value of sport in very different ways.
Related: A new breed of private equity investors
Empty stadiums have not dampened the rabid engagement of sports fans around the world. In the absence of live action, many have tuned into classic games and matches and relived the excitement when they are already aware of the outcome. When live sports returned, fans adjusted slightly to the cardboard cutouts in the seats and cheered. For organizations facing devastating losses – at a cost of anywhere from $ 4 billion to $ 7 billion for English football and an estimated $ 8 billion for American sport – this relentless and unphased fandom was a shining spot in a bleak year. Despite or because of the pandemic, investors are taking note of this – and they should.
In addition to ticket sales, merchandise revenue, and sponsorship deals, Broadcast Media Rights (BMRs) have long been the real money-makers in professional sports entertainment – with a forecast of $ 85 billion worldwide by the end of 2024. With a growing global audience, these BMRs have become decidedly more valuable: A predictable, easily identifiable market will definitely kick in. An influx of technology gives fans more opportunities to engage with their beloved teams. Future-oriented organizations are approaching these new opportunities with increased focus. Direct-to-fan communication, deregulated gambling, digital ticketing and contactless payment are just a few of the areas that offer revenue opportunities ripe for exploration and exploitation. But like traditional infrastructure improvements – for example, increasing stadium capacity, OTT, academies, and entertainment areas – growth requires capital.
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For companies looking to weather the pandemic (and who don't), the benefit of an infusion of investor money is more important today than ever. Cash attracts superstar players and helps nurture newfound talent and sometimes even improves the quality of the food on offer at the stadium. No wonder that sports fans cheer on management with an open checkbook. While deep-pocketed investors have long been desired, European football leagues predictably prefer those who resist armchair coaching and consistently stick to the promised funds. Interfering partners and undelivered assets can lead to outrage among fans and worse, poor performance and relegation to the minor leagues. For teams able to strike the right balance between minority stakeholders or BMR investors and management, the benefits allow for not only a comforting financial cushion, but also operational excellence, proper business planning and data-driven decision-making.
Investing in sport requires a different level of expertise and patience that is typically not required in the tech or industrial markets already tapped. Professional sports are a complicated industry with diverse interest groups, and the fact that large sums of money may not be available for unpredictable periods of time can give even the most seasoned broker the chills. While this may not be a standard practice, it is clear that the payouts are great. Consider CVC Partners' investment in Formula 1: an infusion of $ 952 million in 2006 rose to a return of $ 6.7 billion in 2016. It's no surprise that fast-paced Arctos alone Sport Partners is expected to raise $ 1.5 billion to raise investments between $ 20 million and $ 400 million across American and European teams.
While nothing is a sure shot, investments in sports are as good as they can get, with mutual benefits and rewards. The unwavering dedication of sports fans around the world, once ready to weather the rain, sleet and snow in an open stadium and now getting used to the weirdness of the Covid era, is perhaps the most predictable game in town. I watch week after week and until he can play with his team again, my son will kick it around with me in the garden. We're going to work on his objections, and I would suggest we all should.
With the willingness to rethink the "match" and use a mixture of long-term ambition, speed and expert decision-making – long, fast and clever – investors and organizations can achieve the highest degree of success together.