Ex-England rugby legend Mike Rafter kicks off 7 Bedford Row Chambers’ inaugural Sports Law Conference
Sports Law Chambers, 7 Bedford Row held its inaugural 'Gateway to Sports Law' Conference on 4th of September 2013.
100 delegates gathered to hear members of 7 Bedford Row, Roisin Wood of Kick It Out and rugby legend Mike Rafter speak on contemporary issues in sports law. Delegates from major sports law firms, rugby and sports administrators, sports clubs and academics provided a diverse delegate base which heard lively talks from speakers covering a wide range of sports law topics.
Conference chair Derek Sweeting QC kicked off proceedings and the first speaker was commercial barrister, Tim Walker of 7BR. Tim provided a legal analysis and update on the complex issue of sports men and women making a living in sport, including agents, exploitation of image rights and restraint of trade.
Employment barrister Patricia Leonard of 7BR spoke on recent key developments in discrimination law and the legal aspects of the misuse of social media in sport. She highlighted the risks for clubs and players posed by the inappropriate use of social media and the legal measures clubs need to implement to guard against them. Insightful points on the need for clubs and players to become more socially and legally aware were neatly illustrated by examples of tweets or posts by players. Patricia emphasized the significant legal consequences for both teams and players alike and provided practical advice on how best to combat this growing legal problem.
The theme of discrimination was continued with a powerful presentation by Roisin Wood, the Director of Kick It Out. She encapsulated the aims and achievements of KIO over the last twenty years with a focus on the recent challenges sport faces tackling racial abuse on the pitch and online. Roisin also highlighted several initiatives for reporting racism and bullying in sport including the new free 'Kick It Out App'.
The afternoon session diversified into drugs in sport. Specialist 7BR professional negligence and disciplinary barrister, Leslie Keegan, used his medical background to take delegates through "a sports lawyer's guide to the pharmacology of drugs". Leslie provided an authoratative summary of the main aspects of doping, including explaining modern problems of sophisticated blood and gene doping techniques. Leslie's informative and lucid talk provided helpful guidance for the lawyers to understand the issues on the risks and side effects of performance-enhancing drugs.
The key-note presentation was provided by Mike Rafter, ex-England Rugby legend and RFU Citing Officer. His talk was entitled "An Explanation and Presentation of the Disciplinary Process Utilised by the RFU." The talk provided invaluable insight in this complex area of disciplinary procedure. Interspersed with fascinating anecdotes of his rugby past and illustrated with helpful DVD footage, Mike's talk was not only, a real treat for all those who enjoy the game of rugby, but also for those with specialist disciplinary practices.
7 BR disciplinary barrister Tim Meakin wrapped things up by developing the talk of Mike Rafter in a legal context. He spoke on a comparative analysis of the legal issues relevant to both rugby union and rugby league disciplinary proceedings. This was illustrated by examples of how the respective codes determine foul play, including 'spear tackles/dangerous throws', in addition to stamping offences. The talk was usefully interspersed with DVD footage of the more controversial recent examples of foul play. Tim then offered practical advice on the interface between rugby disciplinary proceedings and their potential implications on civil liability claims.
Tim Meakin of the 7BR Sports Law Team summarized the success of the conference by stating that "The aim of the conference was to provide a broad spectrum of contemporary sports law issues, but at a cost and in a way that facilitates access by sports law practitioners and administrators of all levels and experience. The fact that 100 specialist delegates attended is really satisfying and we aim to repeat the event next year."