ZURICH/ZUG – The Board of the European Club Competition (ECC) has appointed the international sports marketing company Infront Sports & Media as the exclusive commercial partner for the new pan-European club ice hockey competition.
The cross-season, international league format will start as of the 2014-2015 season and determine the European club ice hockey champion out of 40 top-tier clubs and national league winners.
“The time is now right to establish a pan-European league for top club ice hockey,” said Anders Ternbom, Chairman of the ECC and representative of the clubs within the board. “We all believe in the potential of this project and we are positive that with all stakeholders closely involved and having Infront as proven marketing partner, we will put in place a successful, competitive and financially viable league.”
The inaugural season will see 40 clubs from the national leagues in Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland take part, including the respective national champions and regular season winners. Discussions with the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) regarding the participation of KHL clubs are still on-going. Out of the 40 teams in the Preliminary Round, 16 will advance to the 2nd knock-out stage playoff round.
The new brand name of the international league, which will stretch out from August to February each season, will be communicated in early 2014.
“In many major European markets, club ice hockey is played on an impressive sportive level and is enjoyed by thousands of committed fans,” said Kalervo Kummola, IIHF Vice President and representative of the international federation within the ECC Board. “It is therefore the logical next step to take club ice hockey to another level and go international. We are convinced that the joint forces of clubs, leagues and federations backing the ECC will make this project a boost for the European winter sports landscape.”
The ECC’s commercial partner was selected following an international tender process and will see Infront exclusively handle all commercial and media related areas of the new competition, which is being launched and fully backed by all relevant stakeholders in national and international ice hockey. The decision to enter the all-encompassing partnership was made at an ECC Board meeting taking place in Berlin last week.
“Ice hockey is part of our company’s DNA and the partnership with ECC is a key priority for Infront,” said Philippe Blatter, President & CEO of Infront. “Our experience within the commercialisation and promotion of ice hockey makes us strongly believe in the sportive and marketing potential of the new competition and we are fully committed to help develop an impactful pan-European league.”
“Our target from day one will be to ensure maximum exposure producing and giving fans access to each and every ECC game played during the season. The new league has the potential to become a must-have property for commercial partners in all core and adjacent ice hockey markets in the world.”
Infront will be responsible for the worldwide distribution of media rights, the centralised marketing rights, merchandising rights as well as the high-quality multimedia production of all 149 ECC games in HD format. In addition, Infront will provide substantial support to the ECC rights holders in the overall development of the new competition, delivering services in the area of digital media, branding, promotion and rights delivery.
“Initial feedbacks from the market on the launch of the ECC competition have been entirely positive and prove all efforts in bringing the project to life worthwhile,” said Bruno Marty, Infront Executive Director Winter Sports.
“Winning the ECC tender is a great success for Infront, for which we have been working hard for a few years. Our team has a strong track record of managing both media and marketing rights under one roof and efficiently exploiting the resulting synergies to develop major sports events in a strategic manner. Based on our broad experience with winter sports properties we will make sure that the expectations of the ECC shareholders, commercial partners and ice hockey fans worldwide will be more than fulfilled.”
The new competition, which will start in August 2014, is fully owned and operated by the European Club Competition (ECC), which includes – as its shareholders – top European clubs, six national leagues and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). This means that all levels of national and international ice hockey are represented in the planning and implementation of the annual event.
“With the new European Club Competition we will create additional value – sportive, financial and emotional – for the European clubs, leagues and fans,” said Gernot Tripcke, Managing Director of the German Ice Hockey League (DEL) and representative of the leagues within the ECC Board.
“Infront’s comprehensive and very detailed approach provides a perfect fit for the needs of the new league and its stakeholders. We are very confident to have the best partner on our side to develop a new, strong ice hockey property over the next coming years.”
Infront has already entered a partnership with the sportsman media group, collaborating on the media rights exploitation in German speaking territories, for the distribution of certain marketing rights as well as selected specialised services.