Relevent Sports, the billionaire’s media group selling football to America

Encouraged by the lucrative potential of making American spectators fall in love with European soccer, a billionaire father and son-in-law bet they can sell the most popular sport in the United States.

Relevent Sports Group, a New York-based media company backed by real estate tycoon Stephen Ross and led by CEO Daniel Silman, is fighting for part of an international gold rush that includes teams, leagues, sports brands and media companies.

The bid comes as the United States prepares to co-host the 2026 World Cup alongside Mexico and Canada, a tournament that FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, expects to bring in more than $10 billion in revenue. Ross Hard Rock Stadium in Miami is one such stadium. The United States is also set to host next year’s Copa America and the renewed FIFA Club World Cup in 2025.

“The next five years are massive,” Silman told the Financial Times in an interview. “You’ll see a constant drumbeat of events come to the United States.”

While US investors typically buy top clubs like Chelsea and AC Milan to get into football, Relevent has taken an alternate route, hosting matches and expanding into media rights deals.

From its inception hosting big money exhibition matches for clubs, Relevent has turned its attention to the leagues. The company partnered with the English Premier League for a nine-match “Summer Series” that drew 265,000 people, as well as with La Liga for a four-match summer tour of the United States and Mexico that drew 100,000 fans.

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Relevent and La Liga want to take it a step further by eventually bringing competitive matches to the United States.

The company participates in Legal action against FIFA and American football as it fights for official league matches to be held in the United States. In 2018, Relevent teamed up with La Liga to host an official season match between Barcelona and Girona in Miami. However, FIFA introduced a policy that prohibited leagues hosting matches outside their home country and Barcelona withdrew.

“We hope to have an official La Liga match in the United States,” said La Liga president Javier Tebas. “You can rest assured that when we can, legally, the next day we will stage a match in the United States.” FIFA declined to comment.

But more than six years after El Clásico – the showdown between Barcelona and Real Madrid – was first brought to America as an exhibition match, Relevent is no longer dependent on events.

When the coronavirus pandemic made global travel impossible, the company quickly moved into media rights and has since brokered multibillion-dollar US television deals for the Champions League and La Liga.

“We have reached numbers that we did not expect,” UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin told the Financial Times. “In the United States, they are willing to pay more for the best and nothing for the rest.”

Backed by capital from Ross, who also owns the Miami Dolphins NFL team and promotes the city’s Formula 1 Grand Prix, Relevent is in expansion mode. It is building a team in Switzerland and stepping up its presence in Europe as it targets more football media rights deals.

Sillman is also looking for acquisitions that could help it expand. Its targets include sports media and content assets, brands and live events. He said he wants to establish the company as a “bridge” that works both ways, and is seeking partnerships with the American leagues as they target international expansion.

The 34-year-old Silman’s rise in the sports world began when he was still a student at Michigan Ross, the business school named after the owner of Relevent. While there, Silman emailed Ross for guidance about his work advising professional athletes and the duo struck up a relationship.

Silman eventually sold the company and joined the billionaire’s arm in 2014 before becoming CEO of Relevent three years later at the age of 28. He has also been Ross’ son-in-law since 2020.

“I know him and work with him and he works hours and hours and hours,” said Ferran Soriano, chief executive of City Football Group, which owns Premier League champions Manchester City.

Connecting American and European football, Relevent Stadium predates Silman. This vision came from co-founder Charlie Steltano, the former general manager of the New York-based MLS team who later became the New York Red Bulls. Stiltano, who has since left the company, has used his decades of football experience to build a relevance in the sport.

But Silman’s place in the soccer establishment was cemented during the turmoil of the European Premier League in April 2021, when dozens of elite clubs sought to form a breakaway competition. Their mission failed after a backlash from fans and policymakers, but Silman’s opposition to the project helped him make friends in the industry.

“I was in touch with him at the time after it happened and it was very surprising to see that someone who lives in a country of closed leagues clearly understands what it means to have a pyramid and why European football is so successful,” said Shiffrin. .

Relevent brokered La Liga’s $2 billion in media rights deals in the US, Canada and Mexico in 2021, a welcome boom as soccer has struggled to recover from its Covid losses.

The following year, the company brokered a deal whereby Paramount agreed to pay $1.5 billion over six years to screen UEFA’s European club competitions in the United States. At $250 million a season, it was 2.5 times higher than before.

“For decades, people have been talking about the increasing popularity of soccer on television in the United States, and it’s really starting to happen, it’s happening,” Sean McManus, president of Paramount CBS Sports, told the Financial Times.

As more viewers tune in, Soriano of City Football Group, which owns New York City FC, believes opening business in the US for the soccer industry is “huge” and growing rapidly.

“In the United States there will be a major global soccer event every year. When you say update the size of the opportunity, multiply it by 10, because it is really big.” “This is the opportunity for companies like Relevent.”