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2022 in review: The sports business year in deals

As the curtain comes down on 2022, SportsPro presents a month-by-month look back at the deal-making highlights from the past year.

20 December 2022 SportsPro

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The end of 2022 offers an opportunity to look back on yet another busy year of deal-making in the global sports industry.  

The past 12 months have brought media consolidation in some markets and rights fragmentation in others, while a number of high-profile sports properties have either changed ownership entirely or welcomed new minority investors. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of sponsorship deals have been agreed, major event hosting contracts have been finalised, and a handful of mergers and acquisitions have been closed.

All that is set to continue into 2023 and beyond. But for now, SportsPro takes a month-by-month look back at some of the deal-making highlights from the past year.


The year started with a pair of funding rounds within days of each other that offered a reminder of where sports tech investors have been hedging their bets. 

First, non-fungible token (NFT) and blockchain firm Animoca Brands reached a US$5bn valuation after raising US$358 million in a round led by Liberty City Ventures. Venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and Kleiner Perkins were then among the new investors as Tom Brady’s NFT company Autograph generated US$170 million in Series B funding. 

January also saw some eye-watering deals in esports and gaming. Savvy Gaming Group (SGG), which is owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), paid a reported US$1.5 billion to acquire esports organisation ESL Gaming and competitive gaming platform FaceIt, with the two companies merging on the back of the deal.

Meanwhile, in a move that could have even wider implications, Microsoft agreed a US$68.7 billion deal to buy video game publisher Activision Blizzard – although the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has since moved to block the transaction on the grounds that it would harm competition. 

In sponsorship, TikTok further increased its presence in sport by becoming the title sponsor of the Women’s Six Nations and an official partner of the men’s competition, while the social media platform also agreed deals covering the European Handball Federation’s (EHF) men’s Euro 2022 championships and the Africa Cup of Nations.

Other deal highlights:


The spotlight was once again on DAZN’s finances as Access Industries, the sports streaming subscription service’s main shareholder, moved to free the company of debt by agreeing a US$4.3 billion recapitalisation of the business.

On the investment front, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) made the long-awaited announcement that it had accepted a NZ$200 million offer from private equity firm Silver Lake for a minority stake in the governing body’s new commercial entity. Meanwhile, in the US, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) received a US$75 million investment to turbocharge its growth in what represented the largest-ever capital raise for a women’s sports property.

In sponsorship, there were two major agreements for Max Verstappen’s Red Bull Racing, who announced technology giant Oracle as their new title sponsor in a five-year deal believed to be worth around US$300 million. Just days later the team unveiled a three-year partnership with Bybit, claiming at the time that the reported US$150 million deal was the largest single per-annum cryptocurrency sponsorship in international sport.

Other deal highlights


Apple’s much-touted entry into the live sports broadcasting space came to fruition when it snapped up a package of Major League Baseball (MLB) rights in nine territories. The tech giant’s multi-year pact now sees its Apple TV+ streaming platform exclusively air a weekly MLB Friday night doubleheader across the US and Canada, as well as Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Korea and the UK.

In soccer, Spanish giants Barcelona continued efforts to reduce their eyewatering €1.35 billion (US$1.41 billion) debt by confirming an expansive four-year partnership with Spotify. Reportedly worth €70 million (US$73.4 million) per season, the music streaming platform bagged some of Barca’s most sought-after sponsorship inventory, including front-of-shirt branding and naming rights for the Camp Nou.

Meanwhile, France’s Ligue 1 joined LaLiga in going down the private equity route. The end of the month saw the league’s clubs give the go-ahead for CVC Capital Partners to take a 13 per cent stake worth €1.5 billion (US$1.6 billion) in the Professional Football League’s (LFP) new commercial company, which will handle the selling of broadcast rights for Ligue 1.

Formula One ended March by confirming the long-expected return of the Las Vegas Grand Prix in 2023. Breaking with tradition, the street circuit race will take place on a Saturday and could start as late as 10pm to ensure European viewers can tune in on Sunday morning.  

Other deal highlights:


Nearly a year on from an initial announcement, the multibillion dollar merger between US media heavyweights Discovery and AT&T’s WarnerMedia officially closed to create Warner Bros Discovery. Now boasting nearly 200,000 hours of programming, the hope is that combining the Discovery+ and HBO Max streaming platforms will see a new service rival global players such as Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix when it launches next year.

On the tech investment front, digital soccer platform OneFootball raised US$300 million to fuel its plans for Web 3.0-based products, including non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Blockchain fund Liberty City Ventures led the Series D round, with Animoca Brands and Dapper Labs also pitching in.

April also saw the Australian state of Victoria named as host of the 2026 Commonwealth Games. It is the first time a state or region has been awarded the event and will mark the sixth time it has gone to Australia. The Games will take place across several cities, including Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Gippsland, with the opening ceremony being staged at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

Other deal highlights:


The newly merged Warner Bros Discovery begun May by agreeing a deal with BT to combine the two companies’ sports broadcasting operations in the UK and Ireland. The combined entity boasts rights to top sports properties such as the Uefa Champions League, Premier League, Olympic Games, cycling grand tours and tennis Grand Slams. The deal, worth an initial UK£633 million (US$771 million), includes the option for Discovery to buy BT out.

Elsewhere, the Rugby World Cup is entering uncharted waters after the US landed hosting duties for the 2031 men’s and 2033 women’s tournaments. Staging the two events is projected to cost approximately US$500 million, with USA Rugby targeting a profit of around US$1 billion.

Also in the US, history was made when US Soccer signed new collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) with the players associations for its men’s and women’s national teams that achieved equal pay. Running until 2028, the most important aspect of the new deal is that the pair will be equally compensated for all competitions, including Fifa World Cups.

The month was rounded off by the Todd Boehly-led consortium completing its takeover of English soccer giants Chelsea. The group paid UK£2.5 million (US$3.1 billion) for the Blues and committed to investing an additional UK£1.75 billion (US$2.13 billion) in the west London club. The fast-tracked acquisition ended the 19-year ownership of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who had to sell up amid the threat of sanctions from the UK government following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Other deal highlights:

The signing of US Soccer’s new CBAs with its national teams was a historic moment


This month was headlined by two blockbuster media rights deals.

The first saw the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) media rights fetch a a record I₹48,390 crore (US$6.2 billion) for the cycle running from 2023 until 2027. Under the new agreement, Disney Star will pay around US$3 billion for the T20 cricket competition’s domestic TV rights, while Viacom18 will muster up a similar amount for digital rights across the Indian subcontinent and other key international markets.

Meanwhile in the US, it felt like a landmark moment when Major League Soccer (MLS) unveiled a ten-year, US$2.5 billion global broadcast rights partnership with Apple. In what is the tech giant’s largest media rights acquisition to date, the deal will see Apple air all MLS matches on its Apple TV streaming service from the start of the 2023 season.

In European soccer, AC Milan kicked off their summer by confirming their €1.2 billion (US$1.28 billion) sale to RedBird Capital Partners, which replaced fellow US private equity firm Elliott as the Serie A side’s new owner. There was also a major ownership change across the pond, where an investment group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton completed a US$4.65 billion takeover of the National Football League’s (NFL) Denver Broncos, setting a new record price for a North American sports franchise.

Other deal highlights:

The big movers

The past 12 months might have seen large sums of money change hands, but there have also been some notable executive transactions, with several big names either switching, departing or joining their organisations. 

Below is a selection of the most significant moves of 2022: 

Mark Emmert
President, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
Notes: NCAA president Mark Emmert (right) announced in April that he will be stepping down from his role after more than a decade in the job. It was recently announced that the 69-year-old will be replaced by Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker in March next year. 

Tom Harrison
Chief Executive, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)
Notes: Former Surrey chief executive Richard Gould is now at the helm of English cricket after Tom Harrison gave up the role in June. Harrison was a polarising figure during his time in the job. He delivered a record broadcast deal in 2017 but faced criticism over the launch of The Hundred and for his organisation’s response to the racism scandal which erupted last year. 

Jessica Berman
Commissioner, National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL)
Notes: In April, Jessica Berman (left) departed her role at the National Lacrosse League  (NLL) to become the commissioner of the NWSL. Marla Messing had been serving as interim chief executive after previous commissioner Lisa Baird left the organisation in October 2021 as part of the fallout from an abuse scandal that rocked the league.

Vince McMahon
Chair and Chief Executive, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)
Notes: The face of the world’s largest professional wrestling company retired from his post in July amid reports that he had agreed to pay US$12 million over the past 16 years to suppress allegations of sexual misconduct and infidelity. He was replaced by his daughter, Stephanie McMahon, who took on the role of chair and co-chief executive.

Kasper Rorsted
Chief Executive, Adidas
Notes: It was all change for Germany’s two biggest sportswear brands following news of Adidas chief executive Kasper Rorsted’s plan to step down from his post three years early. Adidas poached his successor Bjørn Gulden from Puma, which promptly appointed Arne Freundt as its new chief executive.

Mattia Binotto
Team Principal, Ferrari
Notes: Italian Formula One giants Ferrari recently announced that Fred Vasseur, the Alfa Romeo boss and Sauber Motorsport chief executive, will take over from Mattia Binotto (right) as team principal from January 2023.

Andrea Agnelli
Chairman, Juventus
Notes: Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli and the Serie A team’s entire board of directors sensationally resigned in late November as it was revealed that the club was under police investigation regarding ‘salary manoeuvres’ in the financial years between 2019 and 2021.

Donata Hopfen
Chief Executive, German Football League (DFL)
Notes: The DFL’s first female chief executive Donata Hopfen (left) resigned in December amid reports that a number of executives on the organising body’s board had a lack of confidence in her leadership. Alex Hellman and Oliver Leki have since been appointed as interim managing directors. 

Gillon McLachlan
Chief Executive, Australian Football League (AFL)
Notes: The AFL confirmed in November that Gillon McLachlan will step down as chief executive in April 2023 having held the role since 2014. A successor will be appointed early next year.

Other honourable mentions:

In September, Jordi Bertomeu‘s time as president of EuroLeague Basketball came to an end after more than 20 years, with Dejan Bodiroga being brought in as the European basketball league’s new president and Marshall Glickman as acting chief executive.

There was also a change in leadership at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which saw Roger Binny (left) replace Sourav Ganguly as its president. 

Meanwhile, at the International Olympic Committee (IOC), long-serving managing director of IOC Television and Marketing Services (IOC TMS) Timo Lumme announced plans to retire at the end of the year, with Anne-Sophie Voumard appointed his replacement. In other Olympic news, Andrea Varnier was confirmed as chief executive of the organising committee for the Milan-Cortina 2026 winter Games.  

Elsewhere, Six Nations Rugby chief executive Ben Morel handed in his resignation, Reagan Carey was named commissioner of the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF), and Brett Yormark took on the same role at the Big 12 college sports conference.


Back on the deals front, Barcelona confirmed a €300 million arrangement with Sixth Street Partners which saw the US investment firm acquire a further 15 per cent stake in the Spanish soccer giants’ LaLiga broadcast rights revenue for the next 25 years, having already acquired a ten per cent share for €207.5 million earlier in the summer. It was just the start of Barcelona’s efforts to raise funds through so-called ‘economic levers’. The club would go on to sell fan token platform Socios and production company Orpheus Media a 24.5 per cent stake each in its Barca Studios content hub.

Meanwhile, Nordic media firm Viaplay completed a UK£30 million (US$37.2 million) acquisition of pay-TV service Premier Sports to support its expansion into the UK market. Through that agreement, the Stockholm-based company was able to add LaLiga rights to its UK content offering, which also includes European qualifiers for the Fifa World Cup and Uefa European Championship featuring Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In sponsorship news, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed a 15-year naming rights deal with digital insurance brand Acrisure, which will reportedly pay up to US$20 million a year for the NFL team’s iconic stadium to be renamed as the Acrisure Stadium.

Also in July, Fiume Capital and Juggernaut Capital Partners acquired action sports and entertainment company Thrill One. The deal was worth US$300 million, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

Other deal highlights:

Viaplay’s acquisition of Premier Sports will support its expansion into the UK market


In another seismic media rights deal, the Big Ten college sports conference confirmed its new US$7 billion domestic media rights agreements with Fox, CBS, and NBC, with the deals running from 2023 until the end of the 2029/30 season. Under the agreement, Paramount-owned CBS and Comcast’s NBC will each reportedly pay US$350 million per year.

It would prove to be one of two major deals secured in August by CBS, which also agreed an extension of its Champions League broadcast rights partnership with Uefa for six years from the 2024/25 season. The Athletic and Bloomberg both reported that the deal is worth US$250 million annually, up significantly from the US$100 million currently split by Paramount and Spanish-language broadcaster TelevisaUnivision.

In chess, Play Magnus Group, which was founded by five-time world champion Magnus Carlsen, accepted an offer worth approximately US$83 million from Chess.com to acquire the operator of the virtual Champions Chess Tour.

The month ended with another coup for Disney Star in India, which agreed a deal with the International Cricket Council (ICC) reportedly worth around US$3 billion for the rights to all editions of the 50-over and T20 Cricket World Cups taking place until 2027.

Other deal highlights: 


In major news for the sports broadcasting industry, global streaming service DAZN acquired rival Eleven to expand the volume and variety of its content. The move also enabled DAZN to expand its international OTT platform, establishing a significant foothold in Asia and Western Europe as it added major domestic soccer rights to its portfolio. It was a busy month for DAZN, which also bought the global rights to the Primera División, making the service the home of top-flight Spanish women’s soccer for the next five seasons.

The month also saw a major broadcast rights deal struck in Australia, as the Australian Football League (AFL) agreed a record AUS$4.5 billion contract with pay-TV network Foxtel, free-to-air (FTA) broadcaster Seven Network and telecommunications firm Telstra. The arrangement marks the biggest sports broadcast rights deal in Australian history and will run from 2025 until 2031.

In the US, Apple continued its spending spree as it was announced as the new sponsor of the NFL’s Super Bowl halftime show, with the company committed to paying a reported US$50 million annually over a five-year period.

Other deal highlights:


On the eve of the men’s T20 World Cup, the ICC announced a global partnership with Saudi Arabian energy firm Aramco, covering the governing body’s major events until the end of 2023. As part of the deal, Aramco gained the naming rights for the ICC player of the match awards, which has proven controversial with some cricketers.

Elsewhere, Polish soccer’s top-flight Ekstraklasa inked a four-year extension to its domestic broadcast rights partnership with pay-TV network Canal+ in a deal reportedly worth PLN1.3 billion (US$294 million) in total. Staying in Europe, Audi confirmed it plans to acquire a stake in Sauber ahead of a 2026 Formula One entry in partnership with the Swiss outfit. The German manufacturer aims to supply Sauber with engines from the new engine regulation period, which will centre on 100 per cent sustainable fuels.

The end of October also saw Disney’s ESPN sell a majority stake in the X Games to private equity firm MSP Sports Capital. The financial terms have not been disclosed, but the deal means MSP will control the franchise’s daily business operations, with ESPN to remain a minority stakeholder in the event and its major broadcast partner.

Other deal highlights:


There was plenty happening at Wasserman, which acquired Spanish-based BSE Media Group to further grow its global talent marketing and branding services. The agency giant saw change at the investor level, too, with RedBird Capital Partners and Madrone Capital Partners both selling their stakes in the company to US private equity firm Providence Equity Partners.

Meanwhile, two pickleball leagues agreed to a merger, with Major League Pickleball (MLP) and the Professional Pickleball Association’s (PPA) Vibe Pickleball League joining forces. Both competitions had already drawn significant investment, with LeBron James and Tom Brady among those investing in MLP. The Vibe Pickleball League had also attracted interest, with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban announced as the first team owner.

The month also saw Netball Australia ink a five-year partnership with state tourism board Visit Victoria, which replaced Hancock as a premium partner of the Australian Diamonds. Visit Victoria, which is paying a reported AUS$15 million for the deal, came into the picture after Hancock’s agreement was terminated following player backlash concerning the mining company’s record on Indigenous issues.

Staying Down Under, Tennis Australia announced a domestic broadcast rights extension for the Australian Open with commercial network Nine. The renewal, which is worth worth AUS$425 million and runs from 2025 to 2029, is the biggest in the governing body’s history.

The month ended with MLB’s Boston Red Sox confirming their long-rumoured jersey patch deal with insurance company MassMutual. Sports Business Journal reported that the deal is worth US$17 million per year.

Other deal highlights:

The Australian Open will be staying on Nine until 2029 after the commercial network agreed an extension of its domestic broadcast deal


Back in 2018, Amazon’s acquisition of US Open tennis rights in the UK and Ireland marked one of its first major moves into sports broadcasting. But December saw coverage of the hard-court Grand Slam return to Sky Sports as the pay-TV network agreed a new five-year deal starting from 2023.

Amazon did, however, negotiate an extension of its Champions League rights deal in Germany, where a new player was starting to make its presence felt in the market. Dyn Media, a sports streaming platform set up by former Bundesliga chief executive Christian Seifert, secured exclusive rights to the Basketball Champions League (BCL) in Germany, Austria and Switzerland until the end of the 2025/26 season, adding to a fledgling portfolio that also includes the Handball Bundesliga, Basketball Bundesliga and Women’s Volleyball Bundesliga.

Also in Europe, the Premier League officially welcomed its latest US investor as Las Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley completed his takeover of AFC Bournemouth, bringing an end to the tenure of Russian-born British businessman Maxim Demin.

In sponsorship news, the XFL landed a couple of new sponsors ahead of its relaunch in 2023, including Under Armour as official uniform partner and Zoa as its official energy drink.

Other deal highlights: 

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