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Is ugly money good for football?

This is a newsroom ThinkIn. In-person and digital-only tickets are available.When football clubs are looking for investment, what are their options? When Newcastle United accepted a mammoth $300M investment by Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund (PIF), it came with promises to bolster the club, benefit local communities and enrich the experience for fans. But should Newcastle be accepting money from a country with Saudi Arabia’s human rights record? Can national fans reconcile going to Qatar later this year with the knowledge of how labourers were exploited and died during stadium construction?Where does this leave the fans who have concerns about where the money flowing into their clubs comes from, or where the leagues turn to for partners and hosts?Is this about seeing the long term benefits to the game, the fans and their communities, or are we allowing oppressive regimes and problematic companies to ‘sportwash’ their reputations? editor and invited experts Andrew ButlerEditor and Head of Social Anthony BurnettCEO, Kick It Out Chris PaourosCo-Chair, Proud Lilywhites Dale VinceChair, Forest Green Rovers David HarrisonJournalist Florence Lloyd-HughesJournalist and broadcaster Kieran MaguirePodcaster and football finance lecturer, University of Liverpool


Fans vs Football: who owns the game?

As the pandemic-delayed Euro 2020 tournament finally gets going, what state is football in – and who now holds the power? Some of Europe’s biggest clubs tried to stage a coup during lockdown and were shamed into dropping their plans for an elite European Super League which seemed great for them and terrible for everyone else. Within 48 hours the whole thing disintegrated, the big clubs were fined and agreed to make a £13m+ ‘goodwill contribution’ to fund grassroots football initiatives across the continent. But is this all just too little too late? Have the owners of giants like Juventus, Real Madrid and Manchester United been thwarted for good? Is UEFA back in charge? Or have the ‘legacy fans’ who stood up for tradition finally realised their power to take back the game? And an uncomfortable question: is it just a bit hypocritical that fans who embraced the big-money Premier League two decades ago should now object to what many had predicted was an inevitable next step? Can the soul of football be revived or is it lost forever? editor David TaylorEditor and reporter


Tortoise Festival of ThinkIns – Should men and women be paid the same in sport?

Should women and men be paid the same in sport? We’ve turned a corner in the past few years; there’s more respect for women’s sport, and much more coverage. But there isn’t – yet – anything like the money available to men. Does simple fairness demand financial parity for sportswomen at the stratospheric levels of some men’s sports? Or, with all the complaints from fans about the way money has wrecked men’s sport, is the question more complicated? If the rewards for female sports go up, and for men’s sport go down, might we see a rebalancing in everyone’s interests? Our special guests for this ThinkIn included: Tallulah Lewis, Women in Racing Chair Eddie Ramsden, Director at Lewes FC Ian Ridley, sports journalist and author  The Readout  We’ve turned a corner in the past few years; there’s more respect for women’s sport, and much more coverage. But for women, there is not anything like the money available to men. Does simple fairness demand equality? We came together to talk about the gender pay gap in professional sport, but left with a better understanding of why women’s sport is so undervalued.  The history. It’s worth thinking about the impact of the FA’s ban on women’s football (yes, really). In 1920, women’s football was more popular than men’s. Then the (all-male) FA, banned it. The lack of equality in pay, remarked one contributor, “is as a result of really low media coverage, driving really low interest and attendance, driving really low commercial interest.”  The decision makers. In the UK, nearly every major TV sports channel or Head of Sport position is held by a man. The exception is the BBC where Barbara Slater runs the show. This year, we’re being served a summer of women’s sport on the BBC. Not just the Football World Cup but the Netball World Cup, the Women’s cricket ashes and more. To create more exposure in the media, we should look at the people at the top who can spark change at the bottom. The problems start young. We were lucky to have with us teenagers from an east London secondary school – they spoke eloquently about the disparities they noticed between genders in sport in their age groups. Schools need to place equal value on boys’ and girls’ sports. At a professional level, women’s sports need to be valued equally in prize money. Two years ago, the FA increased prize money for clubs in the FA cup. They doubled it for the men – but left it the same for women. At every level female sport is dealt a dud hand. What next? The interesting question is not whether women and men should be paid the same (“of course they should!”) but how do we get to a point where women and men are paid equally as quickly as possible? The Lewes FC story – a (small) club where male and female players are paid equally is a fascinating story and worth returning to.


Can women’s sport ever punch its commercial weight with men’s?

England’s women are World Cricket champions; the football team is on the rise and the leading women’s clubs in England are cutting a swathe through Europe; two women jockeys have just won Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival. The crowds are growing but can women ever hope to command the commercial heights already scaled by the men? What is a Tortoise ThinkIn? A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. Modelled on what we call a ‘leader conference’ in the UK (or an editorial board in the US), it is a place where everyone has a seat at the table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It’s where, together, we sift through what we know to come to a clear, concise point of view. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise. Drinks from 6.00pm, starts promptly at 6.30pm. If you are late to a ThinkIn you can ‘SlinkIn’! If you would like to contribute to this ThinkIn, let us know by emailing thinkin@tortoisemedia.com We film our Thinkins so we can watch them back, edit the best bits and share them with members who weren’t there in person. Members can find their ThinkIn booking code in My Tortoise, under My Membership. The best experience to book a ThinkIn is via your app.