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US Digest | MLB aims to establish long-term relationship with London

Welcome to SportBusiness Group’s US Digest, rounding up the news and developments coming out of the world’s biggest sports market

MLB aims to establish long-term relationship with London
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred wants to create a “relationship with London that will persist” after announcing the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox will play each other in two regular-season games in the UK capital next June. Two further games are lined up at London Stadium for 2020 as part of a strategy to establish a footprint in the city and better engage with MLB’s European audience. If games are postponed by rain, they will be played in the US.

United 2026 offers financial and diplomatic assurances
North American World Cup organizers offered two sweeteners to Fifa this week. One, co-chairman Carlos Cordeiro’s claim the tournament would generate record $11bn profits for soccer’s governing body. Two, an assurance that no athletes or visitors would be denied entry to the US on grounds of citizenship. This follows Donald Trump’s attempts to impose travel bans on several predominantly-Muslim countries. Ahead of the June 13 vote, South Africa retracted its support for Morocco.

Manning considers joining Panthers ownership group
A twist in the race to take over the Carolina Panthers: former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning has been approached by billionaire Ben Navarro to join his ownership group as a limited partner. Manning, who has turned down lucrative broadcasting opportunities with Fox and ESPN since retiring, is still considering the offer. Navarro is considered the leading bidder of the four groups interested.

Smaller NFL stadiums on the way, says Raiders chief
Oakland Raiders president Marc Badain has revealed the NFL franchise capped their stadium in Las Vegas at 65,000 – instead of going for the biggest arena possible – as it is getting “challenging” to fill cheaper seats due to the rising quality of the “at-home experience”. The Vegas stadium will tie for the NFL’s fourth smallest when it opens in 2020. At least one NFL stadium built within the next 10 years will have a 50,000 capacity, Badain claimed.

UFC announces blockbuster deal with ESPN+
UFC’s eyebrow-raising deal with ESPN+ – worth $750m over five years – raises two interesting points. 1) Digital-rights deals are becoming increasingly lucrative as OTT streaming services look for exclusive content. ESPN+ will broadcast 15 full fight cards from January 2019, which represents just a third of the UFC schedule. 2) Sports properties are getting extra value for their content by breaking it into pieces. UFC is in talks with Fox and NBC for its remaining fight nights.

France family exploring Nascar sale
The future of Nascar is far from clear after Reuters reported that the France family, who have been involved in the motor-racing series since 1948, are exploring a sale of their holdings. Nascar has lost big-name drivers and struggled to keep sponsors or draw audiences – either in person or on TV – in recent years. Despite its problems, the Nascar’s value is believed to be “several billions of dollars”.

Also this week

  • F1 owner Liberty Media is exploring future grands prix in Las Vegas and New York. Miami politicians will vote today (Thursday) on whether to stage a street race in the city in October 2019.
  • Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts has become the majority owner of a USL expansion team in the city, raising doubts over the long-term future of the MLS Chicago Fire.
  • The Arizona Diamondbacks have been given permission by local politicians to end their 20-year stay at Chase Field as early as 2022 in return for ending litigation.
  • MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has revealed the league could expand to 32 teams, with Montreal and Mexico possible team locations.
  • The NBA2K League got off to a sluggish start, with audiences averaging 6,000-7,000 on Twitch for its tip-off tournament, dropping to 4,000 for some games.
  • The PGA Tour is poised to come to Detroit for the first time, with a Quicken Loans-sponsored tournament starting next year.
  • YouTube TV has added Orlando City to its MLS portfolio, alongside Seattle Sounders and LA FC.
  • Twitter is expanding its live sports programming by streaming 20 WNBA games during the 2018 season.

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