Birmingham City FC gain record stadium naming rights deal with Knighthead

Birmingham City confirmed that it has entered a major multi-year naming rights agreement with Shelby Companies Limited, which is mainly owned by Knighthead Annuity & Life Assurance Company.

As a result of this deal, the club’s stadium will now be called “St Andrews @ Knighthead Park”, the Club’s Wast Hills training ground will be renamed The Knighthead Training and Academy Grounds and a new fan ‘entertainment zone’ @ Knighthead Park, will be built on club-owned land nearby.

Knighthead Annuity & Life Assurance Company (“Knighthead Annuity”) is an insurance and reinsurance company established in 2014 to serve global clients seeking financial products that provide both principal protection and guaranteed rates, as well as reinsure similar liabilities for U.S. insurance companies.

Tom Wagner is the Chairman of both the club and Knighthead and has helped to finance this deal with a long-term commitment in mind. Knighthead took over the Blues in mid-July when the club was in financial crisis and Wagner has promised that there is a slow process in place to bring the club back on its feet, with this deal being the first big step.

The value of the agreement is based on an annual sponsorship fee, a Men’s First Team performance-related bonus and a Club wide social media performance-related bonus. For the remainder of the 2023/24 season, the value to the Club with incentives could reach £6,241,666 ($12,021,211 AUD). In 2024/25, the first full year of the partnership, the value to Birmingham City, with incentives, could reach £9,450,000 ($18,200,339 AUD)

Knighthead will receive physical and digital branding rights across the stadium, training grounds and all club-owned channels. Knighthead has also committed to donate from the start of the 2024/25 season, to the Birmingham City Football Club Foundation.

Knighthead Park will provide consistent brand exposure to a global audience at a key time in Knighthead’s growth plans, as well as inject important revenue into Birmingham City FC.

Tom Wagner explained the overall plan he has for the club.

“St. Andrew’s @ Knighthead Park is step one in our plan to create a world-renowned ‘Sports Quarter’ in Birmingham,” he said via media release.

“We invested in Blues because of the opportunity to not only transform a football club but to also be a catalyst for change in the city itself. Our ambition is bold.

“It is for the Club to become a beacon of excellence for Birmingham. We are at an early stage in the journey, but we have already started to capture the imagination of a global audience. It is only going to grow. That is why the timing of the multi-year naming rights partnership is perfect and why it is so important to Knighthead.

“We continue to invest heavily in the Stadium and training grounds to make them fit for purpose. The process will continue as we pursue the development of the broader Knighthead Park.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to enter into a partnership that will grow the brands of both Knighthead and BCFC, while remaining true to our goal of achieving excellence across both enterprises.”

Birmingham City Chief Executive Officer Garry Cook expressed his excitement at what this means for the club’s future.

“Birmingham is now a global story, and the Club is at its epicentre,” he added via press release.

“A worldwide audience has tuned in to what is happening at Blues, they want to find out more, and we have only just scratched the surface of what is possible.

“St. Andrew’s @ Knighthead Park and the ambitious plan for a ‘Sports Quarter’ will become a proxy brand for Knighthead. It will be world class and a clear statement of intent.”

“Knighthead has invested in Birmingham and is bringing a level of ambition that is going to improve the fortunes of both the Club and the city itself. New thinking and approaches are required for football clubs to grow and compete. Our partnership is an example of this,”

The value of this partnership for both parties is not to be understated and the very positive reaction by fans is a key indicator. There is a clear plan in place to improve Birmingham’s financial situation eventually to then build better facilities and improve the squad with a long-term goal of going back to the top flight.

FIFPRO Asia/Oceania report of AFC Champions League assesses the cost of competition for players and clubs

FIFPRO Asia/Oceania has published a report on key financial findings from the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) flagship club competition, the AFC Champions League (ACL).

The report, AFC Champions League Analysis Report: Counting the cost for players and clubs, was produced alongside sporting intelligence agency Twenty First Group (TFG).

This analysis is in response to the announcement of AFC Champions League Elite (ACLE) commencing in July this year, as revealed by the AFC in December 2022.

Based on TFG’s analysis, insights and feedback from participating players and clubs, the report addresses the feasibility of running ACLE with key factors including on-field quality and competitive balance, attendances and fan engagement, economics for clubs and players, travel and workload, competition design, and football development outcomes.

The research undertaken focusses on the value of introducing ACLE, based on the current operations of the ACL.

“This report analyses the merits and drawbacks of the current AFC Champions League based on various data and the results indicate that the merits do not outweigh the drawbacks for most players and clubs, making it an unsustainable system,” FIFPRO Asia/Oceania Chair Takuya Yamazaki outlines in the report.

“However, this does not mean that the future of football in Asia is bleak. On the contrary, we believe that this economically significant region can lead a discussion for truly sustainable competition formats.”

The report is the most comprehensive public analysis of the ACL and includes recommendations for what the AFC should be implementing.

“For players, the development of competitions is central to their employment conditions and future opportunities. As its primary workforce, the players are determined to play their role to shape a sustainable and innovation-driven future for the football sector in Asia,” Yamazaki added.

World Leagues Forum is involved in representing professional football leagues on a global level. General Secretary Jerome Perlemuter explained that collaboration between all stakeholders in the Asian region would help shape and deliver sustainable competitions.

“FIFPRO’s contribution to shaping the future of Asian continental competitions is most welcome,” Perlemuter said.

“Sustainable football development requires confederations, leagues and players to work together with a common objective to shape high potential continental competitions in a consistent global calendar. In this context, it is important to consider economic, geographical and cultural specificities. We look forward to continuing these discussions with FIFPRO and all stakeholders.”

To see the report in full, you can do so here.

Wellington Phoenix team up with Chinese outfit Tianjin Tiger

Wellington Phoenix have partnered with Chinese Super League team Tianjin Tiger to boost football growth in both nations.

As part of the Wellington Phoenix Tianjin Tiger Sister City Friendship, the clubs have agreed to hold an annual encounter between their men’s first teams.

The inaugural Wellington Phoenix F.C. vs. Tianjin Tiger F.C. Sister City Shield match is set to take place in Tianjin this September, with the second in Wellington next year.

The strategic collaboration was formed after Phoenix general manager David Dome visited Tianjin in September as part of a business delegation headed by Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau.

The club hosted a delegation from Tianjin, and the two sides signed the Memorandum of Understanding at the Mayor’s office.

Phoenix general manager David Dome was thrilled with the partnership going through.

“The mayoral delegation to China last year was invaluable and I’m thrilled about this partnership with Tianjin Jinmen Tiger, which will be of benefit to the club on multiple levels,” he said via press release.

“Not only will the men get to play a Chinese Super League side as part of their A-League pre-season each year, but the academy will soon benefit from an influx of footballers from Tianjin.

“We’re looking to grow our academy to have an international component and Tianjin Jinmen have committed to sending some young players to Wellington to attend training camps in July and we’re discussing the possibility of their juniors being part of a new international academy annual programme.

“International students are essential for the secondary and tertiary education sector in Wellington and we are evaluating how an elite international academy focused on football can be part of New Zealand’s international education offering.”

Wellington mayor Tory Whanau added that the city is excited about the opportunity. 

“I’d like to congratulate David Dome and the wider team for the work they’ve done on this MoU,” he stated via press release.

“I’m beyond stoked that the delegation last September has resulted in this MoU between the Wellington Phoenix and Tianjin Jinmen Tiger. 

“The development opportunities for both the clubs will be invaluable to not only football but also our cities.”

The Phoenix are enjoying a successful A-league campaign where they currently sit top of the table 18 games into the season.

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