2016 has been an eventful year, to say the least.
News headlines around the globe have reflected uncertain times, marked by the tragedy and outrage of war in Syria, the challenges and opportunities created by technology, and the political turmoil caused by unexpected votes like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. Sport will need to come to terms with its place in a difficult world and face up to its own crises – from runaway budgets for major events to the malignant scourge of doping in Russia and beyond.
Nonetheless, there have been highlights in the past 12 months and SportsPro has been there every step of the way. The biggest story of the sporting year was always likely to be Rio 2016, whose fraught build-up led to serious doubts about the readiness of its hosts amid a year of acute political and economic difficulties. In the event, South America’s first Olympic Games produced a litany of memories despite those many issues on the ground.
SportsPro was in Brazil with a daily diary that set the scene, from the internal wrangling that marked the IOC’s reception of the McLaren Report, to the modestly triumphant opening ceremony and some small moments of history.
Elsewhere in the sporting world, soccer’s biggest continental events ruled the day. France was the venue for an expanded 24-team Uefa Euro 2016, and SportsPro went behind the scenes at the biggest broadcast operation in the tournament’s history. The run-in to that tournament had been marred by terrorist incidents that meant its security operation would be under considerable scrutiny, but in almost every aspect - from its sponsorship programme to the excitement generated by newcomers like Iceland - the competition ended up a success.
Across the Atlantic, the Copa América Centenario was the tournament that almost never happened, undermined by the sprawling corruption scandals that had brought down senior figures in collaborating confederations Conmebol and Concacaf. In the event, Chile retained their title, but the tournament was also a major showcase for soccer in its host nation, the US, where Major League Soccer continues to mature. New champions Seattle Sounders are showing signs of becoming the first international breakout success of American soccer.
Other disciplines were seeking a path to worldwide prominence in 2016, from cricket’s attempts to harness the appeal of Twenty20 and expand beyond its traditional borders to snooker’s lucrative foray into the massive Chinese market. But it was global forces beyond sport that really set the agenda, not least in terms of extensive international investment and in broadcasting - where advances in technology and viewer behaviour have led to the dawn of OTT.
Once again, SportsPro celebrated the world’s most marketable athletes in the summer and this time it was Stephen Curry who topped the list, with his rise to number one reflected a range of converging factors in basketball, entertainment media and plenty more besides. Indian cricket megastar Virat Kohli, at number three in the list, gave an exclusive insight into the life of an elite sportsperson. With change in how social and digital media affecting sport’s relationship with fans and consumers, as evident in the way the world record transfer of French soccer international Paul Pogba was communicated.
There were stories beyond all of that, of course, in this endlessly surprising industry. SportsPro spoke to people all around the business of sport in 2016, from Israeli storyteller and Paralympian Pascale Bercovitch, who competed at Rio 2016 in her third different sport; to Ben Ryan, the English rugby sevens coach who led Fiji to their first ever Olympic gold; to the great British racehorse trainer John Gosden. From March Madness to the Super Bowl and plenty more in between, there was a SportsPro perspective to be offered.
In 2016, SportsPro rebranded its flagship magazine, relaunched its website, and took its events into a new era. There will be plenty more to come across those three platforms - and in podcasts - in 2017, and we look forward to facing that year with you, whatever it may bring.
The SportsPro team