• Andy Marston

84: NHL owner buys Pro Pickleball Association and Jake Paul beefs with UFC's Dana White

It's been a strong start to the year for Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic heroes from Tokyo, who have dominated the New Year honours list.


Jason and Laura Kenny received a knighthood and damehood, respectively, while gold medallists Hannah Cockroft, Tom Daley, Adam Peaty and Max Whitlock were among other star names from the summer to be recognised with OBEs.


Elsewhere, Emma Raducanu has been made an MBE and, in an arguably even greater step forward for women's sport, Chelsea Women's manager Emma Hayes received an OBE after her team retained the WSL title and reached the Champions League final.


Here's to continuing this strong start to the year! 💪🔥

 

TOP STORY

NHL owner invests into America's fastest growing sport

The Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) and Pickleball Central, have been sold to Tom Dundon, owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, according to reports by No Man’s Land’s Pickleball.


Pickleball, which combines elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, is widely reported to be one of the fastest growing sports in America. However, this purchase has the potential to rapidly accelerate that growth by uniting two of the major forces within the sport: The PPA and Pickleball Central.


Pickleball Central is one of the largest companies devoted exclusively to pickleball with over 300 distribution partners and retail websites which have served over 200,000 customers worldwide. It’s affiliate, PickleballTournaments.com, is the worldwide industry leader in pickleball tournament software, management, and services, too.


This is set to be combined with the PPA, who aim to be for pickleball what the PGA is for golf. They have already been making some big moves to differentiate from their rivals and they have locked up at least 22 of the best players to play almost exclusively on their tour.


In 2021, the PPA held 16 tournaments, 2x the 2019 total — and grew prize money from $500k to $2.5m. Furthermore, they signed an agreement with Fox Sports to air these tournaments across the U.S. and have signed on corporate sponsors like Hyundai and Guaranteed Rate.


By putting these under one roof, Dundon, a Pickleball fanatic himself, has a controlling stake in what professional pickleball will look like moving forward - From tournaments and broadcasting to retail and distribution.


Our Take:

I really like the idea of rightsholders owning retail businesses within their sector (one example I’ve written about before is Chelsea and Blue Fuel).


In this case, we could expect to see top players (who are contractually tied to the PPA) marketing and endorsing Pickleball Central while they, and the PPA, benefit from increased retail distribution for officially endorsed products. A potential win-win.


📚 Further Reading

  • Chelsea Digital Ventures: The tech business spun out of a football club - CityAM

  • World’s first Khabib Gym by Palms Sports to open on Yas Island - Arabian Business

  • The new owner of Wiggle and Chain Reaction goes public, plans US 'acceleration' - Bicycle Retailer

 

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

Jake Paul kicked off the New Year by putting forward a set of demands to UFC boss, Dana White surrounding fighter pay and healthcare.


If met, he has claimed he would “immediately retire from boxing and fight Jorge Masvidal in the UFC.”


Ashwyn Lall, Founder of Ash’s Sports Talk, believes that the demands, which included increasing minimum fighter pay from $12k to $50k and providing 50% of annual revenues, were always likely to be rejected but would success in helping the YouTuber turned boxer to further “expand his audience,”


Whether either would care to admit it, the ‘feud’ has captured huge attention across social media. Jake’s follow up response has amassed over 2m views on Instagram in less than 24 hours.


Whether you love him or hate him, he (along with the likes of KSI) has played a huge part in bringing the Creator Economy into the world of combat sports. And as we’ve seen in other sports, when you can give fans access to personalities and the rivalries within a sport, it sells.

📚 Further Reading

  • 'The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition' set for a global premiere on Netflix - Sportskeeda

  • YouTube celebrities taking over boxing with help from Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather Jr. - USA Today

  • Watch: A combat sports commentator left his booth to start a fight as Bare Knuckle FC once again descended into chaos - Insider

 

WEEKLY ROUND UP

Trading Cards

  • Global sports retailer, merchandiser and now sports card and memorabilia giant Fanatics is acquiring Topps trading cards in a deal slated to be finalised today. The deal, which is in the range of $500m, includes Topps' collectables arm, both physical and digital.

Community

  • Founder of Social Chain and Host of Diary of a CEO, Steven Bartlett has partnered with Krissy Cela, Co-Founder of Tone and Sculpt, to launch a brand new community called THREE SIXTY focused on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Participation

  • Golf’s popularity picked up during the pandemic, and nearly two years later, the sport is still swinging for the stars. In 2020, golf had its biggest net increase since 1997 at 60 million-plus rounds, with 3 million people taking the course for the first time.

Metaverse

  • Universal Music Group is hitching its wagon more firmly to the metaverse hype train. The record company teamed up with avatar company Genies to create digital versions of its artists (inc. Rihanna and Migos), as well as NFT outfits and accessories, for use in virtual worlds.

Content

  • The Bundesliga has teamed up with 442oons to create an animated series called "Bundesliga Squad Game". The content is orientated around challenges from the Netflix series Squid Game but with a football theme added. Animoca Brands and Bored Ape Yacht Club have announced a partnership to develop and publish a blockchain game utilising BAYC’s hugely popular Bored Ape NFTs.

NFTs

  • Animoca Brands and Bored Ape Yacht Club have announced a partnership to develop and publish a blockchain game utilising BAYC’s hugely popular Bored Ape NFTs. The new game is expected to release in Q2 of 2022 and will feature play-to-earn mechanics.

 

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