On October 6th, a day before the IBF Congress meeting and the presidential election, the IBF announced a groundbreaking agreement with League Sports Co (LTC) to launch the World Bowling League (WBL) in 2024.
In WBL's 45-minute-long introductory video, LTC announced many sports innovations, such as a brand-new 360-degree lane design, strategic elements like reverse scoring and restricted throws, and cutting-edge innovations like an AI scoring system.
According to LTC's founder and CEO, Adi K Mishra, the WBL is set to revolutionize bowling, catering to fans, competitors, broadcasters, sponsors, agencies, and bookmakers.
Moreover, LTC promises unprecedented financial incentives for athletes, with collective prize money expected to reach $3-5 million in the first year and the potential to grow to $10 million in the second year, depending on growth.
This grandiose bowling event, set to revolutionize a sport where results are commonly still tracked using paper sheets and World Championships are being broadcasted on a personal YouTube channels, left the bowling community both excited and concerned, wondering if it can be delivered.
'BowlingLife' dug into the details of partnership between IBF and League Sports Co, attempting to determine whether the WBL has the potential to elevate the sport of bowling to new heights, or if it might merely turn out to be another costly endeavor that fails to meet expectations.
Note: as the attempts to contact both the IBF and the League Sports Co (LSC) officials failed, information in this article is based on publicly available data.
What do we know about League Sports Co (LTC)?
Back in 2022, the IBF signed a deal with a company claiming responsibility for nearly everything: event delivery, fan experience, media, data, betting, and digital opportunities to boost commercial revenues and ensure the long-term success of the sport. This is to be achieved through the use of many innovative ways, including cryptocurrency and NFTs, a 360-degree viewing experience, a new scientific player-ranking system, and a flawless AI score capturing and scoring system.
To flawlessly execute a massive project like WBL, League Sports Co must possess not only substantial human and financial resources but also a track record of successfully organizing major sports events. Such a portfolio would lend credibility to the IBF's decision to enter into a partnership.
League Sports Co's history begins in 2013 when a company called Karma Innovations LTD (also known as KI-VC) was established. Karma Innovations LTD, registered in Singapore, operated as a sports, media, and blockchain collective focused on research, venture capital, and the development of the next-gen web3 economy.
In July 2020, Karma Innovations LTD introduced the XTZ brand, which was registered in the United Arab Emirates, positioning itself as one of the leading esports and blockchain companies in Asia. However, public sources show no major esports projects by the XTZ, except the support for one esports team in India.
Less than a year later, in January 2023, Karma Innovations LTD became operated by League Sports Co. By April 2023, XTZ Esports Tech Limited's official website (xtzesports.com) was also redirected to a new website (leaguesportsco.com). In June 2023, XTZ Esports Tech Limited officially announced a major restructuring into League Sports Co. According to LSC's founder Adi K Mishra (who is also a founder of former Karma Innovations LTD and XTZ Esports Tech Limited), the new name 'better reflected its core values.'
League Sports Co is also connected to two products - Zone and MetaBoundless. Zone is a web3 gaming platform that offers opportunities to win cryptocurrency by playing online games (e.g., chess or pool). Meanwhile, MetaBoundless is a streaming platform that claims to be an industry pioneer with best-in-class features. However, according to the data of its website, MetaBoundless had not covered a single sports event up to now. Furthermore, MetaBoundless uses video coverage, that was done by 'StrikeCloud' during World Championships in Dubai, in 2021 for its promotional purposes.
Can League Sports Co create a revolutionizing bowling event?
Although we hope that the IBF with the League Sports Co delivers everything it is promising for the World Bowling League, there are valid reasons to exercise caution regarding the expectations associated with this brand new bowling project.
As we can see from the website creation dates, the first WBL website worldbowlingleague.io was created in February 2022 (almost 3 weeks before the IBF announced the deal with XTZ Esports Tech Limited) and it was then redirected to worldbowlingleague.org starting from August 2023. This suggests that the idea of the WBL was known well before its public announcement on October 6th.
In the keynote speech, the LSC noted that the vision for the WBL was initially introduced in 2022, and it is reasonable to assume that IBF and LSC needed some time to develop a comprehensive concept and vision for how the WBL should operate.
The news about the WBL was oficially posted on the LSC LinkedIn page a while ago.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to believe that the decision to publicly announce the 45-minute long keynote speech about the WBL, with an impressive prize pool of almost $10 million, just one day before the IBF Congress meeting and the presidential election, was made entirely at random.
In 2022, when Dubai XTZ Esports Tech Limited and IBF signed a tie-up, it was announced that the deal was signed for 10 years. However, in October 2023, when the news about the WBL was announced, League Sports Co stated that the deal would now run for up to 20 years. Such a rapid change in the duration of the agreement raises questions about the reasons behind this extension.
Moreover, we were unable to identify any significant past success stories related to XTZ Esports in publicly available data. This absence of success stories in their portfolio raises questions about their capability to revolutionize bowling on a large scale and justify the deal with the IBF. On top of that, XTZ Esports made a major restructuring to League Sports Co (LSC) only a year after signing the deal with IBF. According to LSC, the new name 'better reflected its core values.' Four months later, LTC and IBF announced the news about the World Bowling League.
Slips in the past
During the IBF Congress, Sheikh Talal expressed his joy over the achievements of his previous term, including the initiation of a long-term broadcast strategy, which wasn’t detailed.
Previous broadcasting partner, 'StrikeCloud,' responsible for the telecast during the 2021 World Championships in Dubai, did not had a single bowling-related broadcast since then, its official website is parked free, and the World Bowling Championships, which was hosted in Kuwait on October 3-15, was broadcasted through a personal YouTube channel.
Moreover, the pictures and video coverage, that was done by ‘StrikeCloud’ during the World Championships 2021 in Dubai, is now used by LSC for its promotional purposes.
Building from scratch
In the past years, IBF failed to integrate the simplest player and fan-based solutions, such as accurate and user-friendly result tracking systems, broadcasting, event coverage, and effective information dissemination across social media platforms. Now IBF signs a deal with a company, that claims to be responsible of nearly everything - event delivery, fan experience, media, data, betting, and digital opportunities to grow commercial revenues and ensure the long-term success of the sport by using cryptocurrency and NFT’s, 360-degree viewing experience, new scientific player-ranking system and flawless AI score capturing and scoring system. Isn't it too much for a single company that doesn't yet have experience covering major events in its portfolio?
Ideas out of this world
Some of the WBL ideas that were announced on October 6th sound rather impractical. For instance, the use of Strike Vision AI, which involves AI-based ball motion tracking, speed metrics, and score capturing, relies on its installation in bowling alleys. Without it, the scores won't be recorded in the WBL UBPI rankings, effectively opting player out from participating in WBL events. The idea of having Strike Vision AI in every bowling alley worldwide seems like a daunting task, especially considering that it appears to be a paid subscription service, as indicated in the media announcement.
Moreover, to ensure accuracy in the ranking system and provide the best possible speculative betting experience, WBL plans to monitor the topography of every lane in the world. However, they have not specified how they intend to accomplish this.
Both perks appear to be a costly feature with a success rate that may be close to zero.
Where is the money coming from?
WBL aims to eventually pay out $10 million in prize money, indicating that they anticipate generating significantly more than $10 million in pure profit. They mentioned virtual advertising, implying that they intend to cover every available space with ads, which is a logical and inevitable revenue source. They are also relying on arena seating, suggesting they may plan to charge for tickets, parking, concessions, and betting, which is not substantially different from the revenue streams of current bowling formats.
So, what sets WBL and the new partnership between IBF and LSC apart from existing bowling formats? Can we expect that all this revenue will be sustainable over time? Most importantly, what is the exact value of the deal between the IBF and League Sports Co and whether this value increased if the agreement was extended to 20 years?
Is it still bowling as we know it?
In the official announcement, there was a lot of discussion about the new reverse scoring system, 360-degree viewing experiences, pinboys and pingirls setting the pins during the tournament, modular lane designs, restricted throws, and playing in iconic locations, many of which are outdoors. How different will these innovations make WBL from traditional bowling and how can it be an interest of IBF? How can it benefit traditional bowling played in domestic leagues or international events like the European Championships or World Championships?
While the announcement of the World Bowling League has generated excitement within the bowling community, these concerns highlight the need for a more comprehensive understanding of the partnership and its potential implications for the sport of bowling. We will update the story when IBF and/or LSC provide more information regarding World Bowling League.
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