Thursday 10 June 2021 5:34 pm

Week in Sportbiz: Ukraine told to change Russia-baiting Euro 2020 kit; Germany muscles in on London NFL patch; beIN and Channel 4 bag rights deals

Euro 2020 may not have started yet but it has already kicked off between Ukraine and Russia.

Ukraine tweaked the nose of Russia earlier this week when it revealed a Moscow-baiting new football kit, to be worn at Euro 2020.

The yellow shirt features a map of Ukraine that includes Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and slogans including “Glory to Ukraine” and “Glory to heroes”.

Russian officials reacted with predictable anger, with MP Dmitry Svishchev calling the design “a political provocation”.

Having initially approved the kit, Euro 2020 organiser Uefa has now ordered Ukraine to change it.

The map is not the issue since it reflects the country’s internationally recognised borders, nor the “Glory to Ukraine” inscription.

But the slogan “Glory to heroes” – which is used as a military greeting in Ukraine – must be removed, Uefa said.

It added that the “specific combination of the two slogans is deemed to be clearly political in nature, having historic and militaristic significance”.

Week in Sportbiz makes that Ukraine 2, Russia 1. 

Germany muscles in on London NFL turf

London is about to get some competition from Germany for the status of the European home of American football.

The NFL has formally launched a search for a German city to host regular games as part of its annual International Series.

London has hosted NFL fixtures every year since 2007 (last year aside, for Covid reasons), and multiple games since 2013.

The NFL has staged up to four matches a year in London but that number could now be cut
The NFL has staged up to four matches a year in London but that number could now be cut (Getty Images)

But the days of four clashes a year in London look to be over. The NFL has capped overseas games at four per year, and at least one of those is heading to Germany.

“We are very excited about the development of our German fan base,” said NFL Head of UK and Europe Brett Gosper.

“Identifying a preferred host city is a key step in bringing regular-season NFL games to our millions of German fans.”

beIN see off Saudi bid for Champions League rights

Moves aplenty in the world of sports broadcasting this week, headlined by beIN Sports’ deal for exclusive Champions League rights in the Middle East and North Africa.

The three-year renewal will cost beIN around $600m, a 25 per cent reduction on the last cycle.

Saudi Arabia made a higher offer to Uefa but was unable to overcome the minor stumbling blocks of not having an international broadcaster, being top of the US government’s piracy watchlist, and their open conflict with Uefa over several issues.

Elsewhere in TV land, Channel 4 has snapped up more sports rights in the form of England’s rugby internationals against USA and Canada next month.

The broadcaster, which showed Test cricket on terrestrial television for the first time since the 2005 Ashes earlier this year, also has the rights to the British and Irish Lions’ one-off match against Japan this month.

And there are signs that Apple may be preparing to rival Amazon and DAZN as a serious player for sports streaming rights.

As spotted by industry newsletter Leaders Digest, Apple is advertising for a number of key roles in what appears to be a bolstering of its sports broadcasting capabilities.  

Downie petition keeps heat on British Gymnastics

The storm over Becky Downie’s omission from the Team GB gymnastics squad for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics refuses to subside.

A petition was launched against British Gymnastics this week after it made the shock decision to cast Downie aside.

Downie and her sister Ellie were the most high-profile British gymnasts to criticise the culture presided over by the national governing body last year.

Becky Downie criticised the culture of British Gymnastics last year
Becky Downie criticised the culture of British Gymnastics last year (Getty Images)

Campaign group Gymnasts For Change has said it believes Downie’s omission is a “sinister warning” to those who dare speak out.

British Gymnastics has said it selected its team on “gymnastic merits and nothing else”.

After three days, the petition on already has more than 22,000 signatures and counting.

Canaries call time on sponsor over sexual content

What is going on with the shirt sponsorships of football clubs in East Anglia?

First, Grammy-winning pop star Ed Sheeran signed up to be on the kit of his beloved Ipswich Town next season.

Now rivals Norwich City have tied themselves in knots over a deal with Asian betting company BK8 Sports.

The club yesterday pulled the plug on the agreement after fans protested at the sexualised content on BK8’s social media accounts.

“On this occasion, we made an error of judgement,” said Norwich chief operating officer Ben Kensell. 

Time, perhaps, for The Darkness singer and noted Canaries fan Justin Hawkins to step in and do a Sheeran.