Thursday 6 May 2021 5:17 pm

Week in Sportbiz: Ed Sheeran sponsors Ipswich Town; Javier Tebas blasts Gianni Infantino; Tokyo 2020 set for first transgender Olympian

It has been a whirlwind few weeks at Ipswich Town. Fresh from welcoming new owners, the League One club now has an unlikely new shirt sponsor: Ed Sheeran. 

The Suffolk songsmith, a long-standing fan of the Tractor Boys, has agreed to sponsor the men’s and women’s team on a one-year deal that starts next season.

“The football club is a big part of the local community and this is my way of showing my support,” said Sheeran.

“I have always enjoyed my trips to Portman Road and I’m looking forward to going back there as soon as supporters are allowed into stadiums again.”

Last month saw US group Gamechanger 20 buy Ipswich Town from Marcus Evans in a transaction worth £40m.  

Sheeran added: “With the new owners from the US coming in, there are sure to be exciting times ahead for Ipswich fans, including myself.”

Less exciting was the fizzling out of the team’s promotion hopes: one win in eight games has left the play-offs out of reach with one game remaining.

Tebas takes aim at Infantino

Never one to take a backward step, Javier Tebas has come out swinging at Gianni Infantino as the European Super League fallout continues.

LaLiga boss Tebas was irked by Infantino suggesting that players’ appearances could be capped as a means of mitigating the extra fixtures necessary for the Fifa president’s pet project, an expanded Club World Cup.

Tebas also referred to Infantino as “W01” – a codename allegedly used in the European Super League plans that he believes implicated the Fifa chief in planning the breakaway, despite his public denunciations. 

“Gianni Infantino, known as W01 by the ‘inventors’ of the Super League, shows a great ignorance of football and its industry,” he wrote on Twitter.

He added “Please have more respect for the national leagues and fewer absurd ideas from the famous bar,” followed by emojis of frothing tankards.

Tebas may have felt emboldened by LaLiga winning a significant legal ruling against Real Madrid this week.

The verdict upheld LaLiga’s right to negotiate broadcasting and commercial deals on behalf of all clubs in Spain’s top two divisions.

Tebas introduced that collective bargaining arrangement, which has lessened the financial advantage enjoyed by Real Madrid and Barcelona and, perhaps, led to the four-way title fight currently playing out.

Hubbard to make history at Tokyo 2020

At 43, Laurel Hubbard will be the oldest weightlifter at this summer’s delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

But that isn’t the most notable aspect to Hubbard: the New Zealander is also set to be the first transgender athlete to compete at an Olympic Games.

Hubbard transitioned eight years ago, since when she has begun competing on the international weightlifting stage.

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is set to become the first transgender athlete to compete at an Olympic Games after her place at Tokyo 2020 was effectively assured
New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is set to become the first transgender athlete to compete at an Olympic Games after her place at Tokyo 2020 was effectively assured (Getty Images)

The sport’s rules require athletes who transition from male to female to take medication to suppress testosterone levels. 

Some research suggests, however, that such measures may not completely remove the physical advantages bestowed in male adolescence. 

Hubbard has not been named in New Zealand’s team yet but new rules rubber-stamped this week mean that she is assured a spot based on ranking.

Oracle and KPMG land big football deals

Football saw the onset of two major new data partnerships this week – and it’s more interesting than that might sound. 

Oracle has signed up to be the Premier League’s official cloud provider from next season. The deal means viewers can expect to see Oracle’s analytics tools, including live win probability and a “momentum tracker”, used in live broadcasts as well as social channels.

KPMG and international footballers’ union Fifpro, meanwhile, have launched a new platform to monitor players workload. It will log not just minutes played but also how far players have had to travel and how much rest they have had – and it’s all available to the public.

On a smaller scale but a sign of the times: Bayern Munich and Canada player Alphonso Davies is releasing his own NFT – non-fungible token, aka a digital collectible – next month.

F1 back on track in Spain

As Formula 1 heads to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix this week, new research shows the sport is enjoying a revival in the country.

Live race viewership is at its highest level since 2015, while social impressions and engagements are also up on last year, says Nielsen Sports.

Carlos Sainz Jr's move to Ferrari has been cited as one reason for increased interest in F1 in his native Spain
Carlos Sainz Jr’s move to Ferrari has been cited as one reason for increased interest in F1 in his native Spain (Getty Images)

The numbers are down to DAZN joining Movistar in offering a dedicated F1 channel, as well as heightened interest in the fortunes of Spanish drivers.

Former world champion Fernando Alonso has returned to the grid with Alipine, while Carlos Sainz Jr has switched from McLaren to another of Alonso’s former teams, Ferrari.

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