2021 in review – November

Los Angeles’ famous Staples Center rebranded as Crypto.com Arena via a 20-year naming-rights deal between AEG and the Singapore-based cryptocurrency platform.

The deal was reportedly worth $700m (£523m/€618m), making it one of the largest sports venue naming-rights agreements in history. The partnership underscored the rapidly growing influence and widespread adoption of the NFT marketplace.

Elsewhere on the sponsorship front, the new Tampere Deck Arena in Finland agreed a naming-rights deal with Nokia after a deal with technology company UROS fell through, while hotel group Accor acquired naming rights to Sydney’s Stadium Australia through a seven-year deal.

In England, Yorkshire Cricket Club became embroiled in a racism row over the treatment of former player Azeem Rafiq.

After an internal investigation undertaken by Yorkshire found Rafiq was a victim of “racial harassment and bullying”, the club said it would take no disciplinary action. Yorkshire’s stance prompted Emerald to withdraw its sponsorship of the team’s Headingley Stadium, with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) later banning the venue from hosting international or major matches.

In other news, five football clubs – Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Cardiff City – selected to trial licensed safe-standing areas at their stadiums from January 1.

The five clubs will be the first in the top two tiers of English football to allow standing in nearly 30 years. Research will be carried out at the grounds with a view to a potential wider roll-out of safe standing from the start of the 2022-23 campaign.

The NHL also opened its second new venue in the space of a month as the New York Islanders christened the $1.1bn UBS Arena. Work on the 17,250-capacity venue, which is operated by Oak View Group, began in 2019.

Qatar’s innovative Stadium 974 also hosted its inaugural event in November after becoming the seventh of eight World Cup venues to be completed.