UEFA Signs Sportradar As First Exclusive Betting Data Partner

By Andrew Cohen

European soccer’s governing body UEFA has made Sportradar its first exclusive  betting data partner through a new three-year deal. The Switzerland-based gambling data firm will distribute match data from all UEFA club and national competitions to more than 900 betting operators across 120 countries.  

 An estimated $600 billion is wagered on European soccer matches per year, about two-thirds of global soccer’s $9.85 billion betting handle, according to Sportradar. The new deal covers 1,550 matches from the 2021-22 through 2023-24 seasons across all UEFA properties such as the Champions League, Europa League, Super Cup, Nations League, Euro 2022, Euro 2024 and the Under-21 Championship.

 For the past 12 years, Sportradar has provided UEFA with its bet monitoring services to help prevent match fixing. UEFA’s data deal with Sportradar comes after the governing body formed a deal in September to have Vienna-based bookmaker Bwin sponsor its Europa League and Europa Conference League, marking the first sports betting partner of a UEFA competition. 

NBPA President C.J. McCollum to Address Frustration With New NBA Gameball With Fellow Players

By Tom Friend

Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum, president of the NBA Players’ Association, is initiating a meeting with his fellow players this week to discuss the rough transition to the league’s new Wilson basketball.

The NBA replaced its long-time Spalding basketball—deployed the past 37 seasons—with the Wilson ball in a year-long process that included input from players and teams. But since the 2021-22 season began on Oct. 19—assuming the current stats through this year’s first102 games play out over a full season—shooting percentages would be down and turnovers would be up at historic numbers amid subtle complaints that the new ball is responsible.

“Not to make an excuse or anything, it’s just a different basketball,’’ Clippers forward Paul George told reporters Monday night after Los Angeles defeated Oklahoma City. “It doesn’t have the same touch or softness as the Spalding ball had. You’ll see this year, there’s going to be a lot of bad misses.’’

In a tweet from Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, McCollum was quoted as saying he will “get feedback’’ from other players this week on how to address the ball going forward. In the 2006-07 season, the NBA tried transitioning from a leather ball to a microfiber composite ball, at which time players universally rebelled. The league switched back to Spalding’s leather ball at that time, but a similar swap now seems unlikely considering the NBA signed a long-term deal with Wilson in June.

Before tonight’s games, the league-wide field goal percentage is at 44.6 percent—which, according to Sporting News, is one of the lowest numbers in the past decade. The NBA’s three-point shooting percentage has also dipped to 34.2 percent, the lowest in 18 years. Turnovers are at 15.1 per game league-wide, the largest number since the year the microfiber ball debuted.

However, according to the NBA, the shooting statistics from the early season are not necessarily alarming at all, and that the stats through 102 games are quite consistent with other seasons. The league pointed out Tuesday that the field goal percentage this year, through 102 games is tied with 2016-17 and higher than 2015-16, 2012-13 and 2011-12.

It also said NBA three-point shooting percentage is higher than 2016-17, 2015-16 and 2011-12, and that, through the first 102 games of the 2021-22 season, turnovers per game in the current season (15.1) are down 0.3 per game compared to the same point last season (15.4). Therefore, they are down, not up.

However, poor shooting has affected some of the league’s premiere scorers. Although George is shooting a strong 49.2 percent from the floor, two of the league elite shooters—Portland’s Damian Lillard and Washington’s Bradley Beal—are slumping. Lillard’s scoring average is down from 28.8 to 18.3, his shooting is down from 45% to 35% from the field and his three-point shooting has plummeted from 45% to 23%. Beal’s scoring average is down from 31.3 to 24.3, his shooting percentage is down from 48.5% to 37.9% and his three-point percentage is down from 34.9% to a career low of 22.9%.

It’s an adjustment,” Beal told NBC Sports-Washington prior to the season. “It’s definitely different. It’s a little slicker. The word ‘Wilson’ isn’t embossed as ‘Spalding’ was.’ It has its differences, but once it’s broken in, it feels pretty much the same. It’s just a matter of getting used to it.” 

Aaron Rodgers Will Convert ‘Large Portion’ of Salary to Bitcoin Through CashApp

By Joe Lemire

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has partnered with mobile payment service Cash App to promote cryptocurrency on its platform. Cash App will convert an unspecified portion of Rodgers’ NFL paycheck to Bitcoin and also give up to $1 million in Bitcoin—in $100 increments—to selected fans this week.

 Rodgers is in the final season of a four-year, $134 million contract he signed in 2018. The three-time NFL MVP announced his Cash App partnership in a video post on his social channels while wearing his John Wick costume from Halloween. 

 “I’m excited about the future of cryptocurrency and am a big believer in Bitcoin,” Rodgers said in a statement. “So much so that I’ve chosen to take a large portion of my salary in Bitcoin, thanks to the help of Cash App.” 

 Rodgers and Tom Brady, two faces of the NFL, now both have deals to promote crypto after Brady signed with crypto exchange FTX in June. Other star athletes to sponsor FTX include Packers running back Aaron Jones and Steph Curry, while the company also has TV ads appearing throughout MLB’s World Series on Fox. 

Underpaid Minor Leaguers Raise Tweet From Mets Owner Steve Cohen in Lawsuit Against MLB

By Andrew Cohen

A tweet from New York Mets owner Steve Cohen is being used against Major League Baseball in a lawsuit by minor league players suing MLB for back pay. The class action suit filed seven years ago is scheduled to go to trial next June. 

 “Education time – Baseball draft picks are worth up to 5x their slot value to clubs. I never shy away from investments that can make me that type of return,” Cohen, who bought the Mets for $2.4 billion last year, wrote in a tweet on Aug. 1.

 The minor leaguers hired Cornell University’s Dr. Erica Groshen to write a report showcasing their allegations of MLB paying sub-minimum wage salaries. Goshen, a senior economic advisor at Cornell’s school of industrial and labor relations, cited Cohen’s tweet in her report to a federal judge on Friday, according to The Athletic.

 “One recent indication of the value of a minor league player comes from Steven Cohen, owner of the New York Mets. He asserts that baseball draft picks are worth up to five times their slot value to Clubs,” reads the report.

 Last month, MLB agreed to require teams to provide housing for minor league players, starting in 2022. Salaries increased for minor leaguers last season, with the minimum weekly pay going from $290 to $500 at Class A, $350 to $600 in Double-A and $502 to $700 in Triple-A.

 In the ongoing lawsuit, MLB argues it does not have to follow federal or state minimum wage laws for paying minor leaguers because the league considers them to be seasonal employees. 

Liverpool FC Adds Team Branding Into PUBG Mobile Game

By Dominic Massimino

English Premier League club Liverpool has partnered with PUBG Mobile to add team branding and items into the battle royale shooter game for smartphones. Users can access the in-game gear to display their fandom starting Nov. 12. 

 Items will include Liverpool-branded parachutes, backpacks and outfits that can be viewed by any player in online play. The gear can be unlocked by playing classic modes in the mobile game, which was developed by China’s Tencent and is part of the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds video game series. 

 “With the realm of online gaming growing and evolving amongst our fans, PUBG Mobile is the perfect platform to connect with them in a different but very relevant context – intertwining the world of online gaming and football through the power of games and play,” Liverpool SVP Drew Crisp said in a statement.

 Liverpool, which won SportTechie’s 2020 Outstanding Team award, has strong ties to gaming industry veteran Peter Moore, who served as the club’s CEO from 2017 through Aug. 2020 and previously held executive roles at Xbox and EA Sports. In December, Moore was added to the board at Nifty Games, a mobile sports game developer working with the NFL and NBA. 

Kobe Bryant Scores Posthumously for His Family as Investment in BODYARMOR Yields $400 Million

By Tom Friend

Known as a clutch performer on the basketball court, the late Kobe Bryant came through posthumously today for his family.

Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. 2020, had six years earlier purchased 10 percent of the sports drink BODYARMOR, which today was sold to the Coca-Cola Co. for $5.6 billion.

Because Bryant invested $6 million and BODYARMOR was one of the largest shareholders in Bryant’s estate, the family of the former Los Angeles Laker will reportedly receive approximately $400 million. An announcement was made Monday by @DrinkBODYARMOR as a tribute to Bryant, according to Darren Rovell of the Action Network.

Bryant had endorsed BODYARMOR for its innovation. The company has long claimed that its product has science-based “potassium-packed electrolytes” to help prevent cramping.

“If it wasn’t for Kobe Bryant’s vision and belief, BODYARMOR would not have been able to achieve the success we had,” the company’s co-founder Mike Repole said Monday.

New Zealand, England Women’s Rugby Teams Wear Prevent Biometrics Mouthguards to Measure Head Impacts

By Andrew Cohen

Players wore Prevent Biometrics mouthguards during Sunday’s international women’s rugby match between New Zealand and England to measure impact data on collisions. The sensor-embedded mouthguards are part of World Rugby’s study on head impact and injury prevention in the sport. 

Prevent’s mouthguards measured the severity of player-on-player blows and impact to the ground throughout the game by tracking data on a collision’s load, location, direction and rotational motion. Each recorded impact is paired with time codes for video analysis from coaches and study researchers. 

The Black Ferns (New Zealand) and Red Roses (England) will again wear Prevent mouthguards during their match on Nov. 7 and during training sessions. World Ruby launched its head impact study in April, outfitting more than 1,000 male and female rugby players across youth and pro levels with Prevent mouthguards.

“We are delighted that the top two ranked women’s international teams have joined this landmark study which will deliver data and insights to make the sport safer for every participant at every level,” World Rugby chief medical officer Dr. Eanna Falvey said in a statement.

World Rugby said in a press release that it is also examining eye-tracking technology to evaluate head injuries. A leader in eye-tracking field has been SyncThink, which has been used by several NBA teams to monitor head injuries.

Facebook—Now Called Meta—Acquires Virtual Reality Fitness App Maker ‘Within’

By Andrew Cohen

Meta, formally known as Facebook, has acquired virtual reality company Within—developers of the popular VR fitness app Supernatural. The acquisition is part of Meta’s greater plans to expand its presence in the VR fitness space. 

 Supernatural’s app is exclusively available for Oculus, the VR headset brand that Facebook bought in 2014. Supernatural’s workouts task users to move their body to hit digital targets in virtual settings, such as Machu Picchu and the surface of Mars. Fitness options span boxing, body resistance, stretching and meditation.

 “Together, we will also explore ways we can enhance future hardware to support VR fitness apps, encouraging other developers to bring new fitness experiences to VR. We believe fitness will be a massive success in VR where multiple third-party fitness apps can succeed,” Meta said in its announcement of Within’s acquisition. 

 Both the NBA and MLB stream games in virtual reality through Meta’s Oculus headsets, while Fox Sports has worked with Oculus to stream boxing matches in VR. Within, which was originally called VRSE, previously secured investments from Fox, WME and Live Nation.  

Sony Invests in Sports Video Streaming Provider Kiswe

By Andrew Cohen

Interactive video company Kiswe has received investment from Sony through the Sony Innovation Fund. Kiswe’s video production and streaming tools have been used across the NBA, MLS, English Premier League and PGA Tour.

Terms of Sony’s investment were not disclosed, but the raise brings Kiswe’s total funding to $46 million. Monumental Sports & Entertainment CEO Ted Leonsis is an investor in Kiswe, which operates a second-screen game day viewing platform for the Monumental-owned Washington Wizards and NBC Sports Washington.

“When you combine sports, live music and e-commerce, our addressable market represents a multi-billion dollar opportunity which we are uniquely positioned to address with our cloud-based production, live-streaming, fan engagement, and video commerce products,” Kiswe CEO Mike Schabel said in a statement. “We are thrilled that Sony Innovation Fund by IGV recognizes and backs our vision.”

The Sony Innovation Fund has previously invested in other sports technology startups such as Kitman Labs, an analytics firm acquired by Presagia Sports earlier this year. Sony also owns the leading computer vision sports replay system Hawk-Eye

Utah Jazz Center Hassan Whiteside Bailed Out of Crypto Too Soon, Is ‘Sick’ That He Could’ve Been a Billionaire

By Tom Friend

The lure of cryptocurrency for athletes is skyrocketing, but Utah Jazz center Hassan Whiteside apparently did not see it coming—because, otherwise, he would be a billionaire today.

More than a year ago, the 7-foot Whiteside says he invested in Shiba Inu, an Ethereum token that is an alternative to Dogecoin. However, the NBA player just admitted on social media that he sold his shares before Shiba cryptocurrency started to explode in August of 2020.

In response to a Twitter post on @MorningBrew, which described an $8,000 investment of @SHIB growing to $5.7 billion in “roughly 400 days,’’ Whiteside responded on his feed with the comment: “I had $30K in SHIB…Yeah, I’m Sick’’😭

As it stands, Whiteside will have to settle for the one-year $2.4 million deal he signed with Utah prior to the season. He is averaging 8.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game for the undefeated (4-0) Jazz.

The NFL’s TV, Streaming and Betting Deals Have Led to a Huge Bonus for Roger Goodell, Who Out-Earns His Entire League

By Tom Friend

Roger Goodell, the often-ridiculed commissioner of the NFL, has earned close to $128 million over the last two fiscal years, more than any player in his league.

The New York Times reported Wednesday evening that 90 percent of Goodell’s income was through bonuses, many that are tied to the league’s lucrative TV and streaming deals that are worth over $100 billion for the next decade. The league has also struck profitable accords with sports betting organizations, such as Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings and FanDuel.

The only player even approaching Goodell’s income is Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who earns $75 million. The NFL and Goodell have been criticized, as of late, for the workplace investigation into the Washington Football Team, where leaked emails from Jon Gruden to former Washington team president Bruce Allen were littered with racist, homophobic and misogynistic language. Gruden was subsequently fired as Las Vegas Raiders coach, and critics say Goodell should be coming down harder on Washington owner Daniel Snyder, who has only been fined and temporarily removed from day-to-day team operations.