Manchester City Named the Most Innovative Team in Global Sports

Manchester City, one of the most successful and valuable teams in the world, can add another notch to its belt: It’s the most innovative club in global sports.

That assessment is according to a new ranking released Thursday by research firm Sports Innovation Lab, which cited the club’s digital media partnership with the OneFootball platform and network of affiliated clubs as evidence of its cutting-edge management.

Teams in the 10 highest-grossing global leagues by revenue were ranked by revenue diversity, organizational agility and how they put technology to work.

“There’s a shift in the business model of sports,” said Angela Ruggiero, Sports Innovation Lab’s chief executive officer and a four-time Olympian. “The ranking is an assessment of who is set up to succeed in the changing sports industry.”

The highest-ranked teams were those that, for example, have cross investments into women’s sports teams, mixed-use development projects or stand-alone media entities. They also have leaders from across the globe with experience in a wide range of industries and relationships with tech accelerator programs and venture capital funds.

The top six spots on the list all went to European soccer teams, including Manchester City’s crosstown rival Manchester United. The most innovative U.S.-based team was the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, owned by former venture capitalist Joe Lacob. Six NBA teams were featured, tops among all leagues globally.

Manchester City Named the Most Innovative Team in Global Sports

“Covid really put a spotlight on how teams would struggle if they were strictly tied to events and merchandise,” said Josh Walker, president of Sports Innovation Lab. “A lot of these clubs are almost a century old and have very global fan bases, but they invest heavily in women’s and youth sports and they’re strong in gaming.”

The New England Patriots were the highest-ranked of the four NFL teams in the top 25. The only Major League Baseball team to make the cut was the Chicago Cubs. No NHL team was featured on the list.

Manchester City Named the Most Innovative Team in Global Sports

“We’ve advised the NFL to give their teams more autonomy to experiment,” Walker said. “There’s a lot of protect-and-control posturing from the NFL and we think there’d be a benefit to loosen that.”

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