This week kicked off with potentially seismic rumblings in the world of North American soccer. On Monday, it was revealed by John Ourand of SportsBusiness Daily that Riccardo Silva, the influential co-founder of MP & Silva and co-owner of Miami FC, had offered the eye-popping sum of US$4 billion to acquire the global media rights to Major League Soccer (MLS) for ten years from 2023 - an offer that would have quadrupled the league’s media rights fees some six years before they were even due to go to market.
Silva’s big-money offer, reportedly made in a meeting with league executives and team owners in June, stood on the proviso that MLS agree to introduce a system of promotion and relegation in future - a contentious caveat that would prove a game-changer for North American soccer but which rendered Silva’s proposal a non-starter for a league staunchly opposed to the risky business of divisional ups and downs.
Since Monday’s revelation, additional details have emerged which suggest the proposal is serious and not merely grandstanding on Silva’s part, as some have suggested. According to Bob Williams, a well-connected US-focused soccer writer formerly of The Telegraph, Silva’s offer includes the rights to the top three tiers of US soccer as well as the US Open Cup, and calls for around 20 per cent of annual revenues to be distributed to lower divisions in the form of solidarity payments.
Williams, who cites ‘a highly-placed source’, added that while the deal is being fronted by MP & Silva, it has the support of investors, financiers and broadcasters, with teams from across the North American pyramid having already shown an interest in finding out more.
In the wake of the news, one source close to Silva told SportsPro that ‘some interesting developments’ could be just around the corner. In the meantime, SportsPro Americas editor Michael Long considers what the Italian’s offer might reveal about his broader intentions in American soccer.
On Wednesday, the fate of the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games came a step closer to being sealed. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti (left) came closer than anyone officially connected with either bid to confirming what many have long suspected when he told BuzzFeed editor in chief Ben Smith that the 2024 event would be likely to go to the French capital of Paris, but that it would be "stupid" to turn down what is apparently a substantial offer from International Olympic Committee (IOC) negotiators to wait another four years.
In basketball, Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov may be open to selling a controlling stake in the National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise, according to the New York Post. The Russian businessman has been trying to offload a minority share in the team for nearly a year but to no avail. The Post reports that ‘wealthy Chinese investors’ could be interested in purchasing the Nets, with the team’s executive vice president of global partnerships, Mike Zavodsky, currently in China for a series of meetings.
In his efforts to sell the Nets, Prokhorov secured approval this week from the NBA Finance Committee to split the team from their loss-making Barclays Center. Both assets are controlled by Prokhorov’s Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment but it is hoped the split, which remains subject to approval from the NBA Board of Governors, will make it easier for Prokhorov to find an investor for the Nets, who are one of two NBA teams on the market alongside the Houston Rockets.
Elsewhere Perform Group’s DAZN, the over-the-top (OTT) subscription streaming service dubbed the ‘Netflix of sport’, announced its first foray into North America last Friday, confirming its plan to launch in Canada - its fifth market worldwide - next month.
Upon entering Canada, DAZN will initially carry NFL Game Pass, the National Football League’s direct-to-consumer offering, on an exclusive basis from next season. A Perform statement said that it will also provide ‘access to other sports from top leagues and competitions around the world’, although it is currently unclear which properties will be included.
In other news, Tobias Sherman (right), the global head of esports at WME | IMG, has left the company along with three other senior executives in its nascent competitive gaming division. Bloomberg reports that the departures are a major blow to WME | IMG’s esports ambitions, although the firm will seek replacements and continue to run its ELeague venture in partnership with Turner Broadcasting.
“Upon my resignation and that of my team, we will now be able to continue our track record of firsts in a variety of new ways,” said Sherman, who joined WME | IMG in 2015 but is said to have grown frustrated with the company’s esports strategy. “I also intend to create and produce more esports programming across TV and digital which is something that would not be possible as an agent.”
Meanwhile politicians and soccer officials in Argentina and Uruguay have announced plans to move forward with a joint bid for the 2030 Fifa World Cup. The two countries, both two-time winners of the tournament, are expected to go up against rival bids from China and Europe to stage the event. The South American offer could be favoured by Fifa’s top brass since it will take place on the centenary of the first World Cup in 1930 - hosted and won by Uruguay, who beat Argentina in the final.
Also this week: Uruguay’s Julio Maglione has won a landslide victory to secure re-election as president of the International Swimming Federation (Fina); New England sports owner Robert Kraft has been named honorary chairman of the three-way North American bid to host the 2026 Fifa World Cup; and FC Barcelona are reportedly on the verge of entering a San Francisco Bay Area-based team into the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).