Review: European Sports Law and Business Forum

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

On the 19-20th October C5 hosted a conference which brought together a mix of people from sports law and sports business. This may not be a new concept, but it is one that works well. The subtle difference this time was that both the lawyers and the sports industry people where gathered with the purpose debating the problems facing sport and trying to construct viable solutions to these problems.

All too often at this type of conferences the discussions get bogged with academic legal debate, which is very interesting, but does not really those involved in the day to day running of the sport who. The of the main attractions was the international focus of conference, as was so eloquently put by Pierre Lalive, the chair of the first day, “the importance of sports law in sports business cannot be under estimated, for one the potential commercial exploitation of sports law is vast and in the age of globalisation it is important to consider international law not just national law”.

The revenue generated for sport from the sale of broadcasting rights has benefit sport greatly over the last few decades. This was touched on by Matthew Pay of ESPN and Raj Koria of Sportfive gave commercially focused presentations, both expressing their concern of the convergence of the new technology and the problems this can cause for commercial rights holders.

The commercial theme was continued by Caroline McGory, from Mecedes GP, who gave a fascinating talk about the recent history of Mecedes GP, formerly Brawn GP, formerly Toyota GP. While this only touched on some of the legal issues faced by the team the presentation gave a detailed insight into the adversity the team had to overcome to keep its place if Formula One. Adversity was also the catalyst for change for the FEI. Lisa Lazarus, from the FEI, explained how the FEI reacted to the equine sports providing 50% of the doping cases at the Beijing Games in 2009. This led to a governance review and a separation of power at the FEI which has had a positive impact on the sport as whole not only with regard to reducing the instances of doping offences being committed.

Throughout the two days there were also more detailed legal presentations for example that of Olga Vorobyeva of NTV PLUS explaining how broadcasting is regulated in Russia; Dick Pound’s talk on the Court of Arbitrations code provisions; Ian Lynam of Charles Russell discussed morality clauses; Nick White of Couchmans offered his advice relating to the importance of drafting contracts for athletes with social media in mind; and Stephen Sampson of Hammonds and Daniel Pereira discussed UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Regulations and player transfers. K & L Gates were well represented with Warren Phelops and Scott Megregian giving an overview of the impact of the Lisbon Treaty on the regulation of sport.

With all the coverage of corruption in sport in the media of late it would have been wrong not to include a section on gambling and sport. Antionio Constanzo from BWIN and Khalid from ESSA discussed the need for clearer regulation of gambling in sport.

What stuck in my mind most, maybe was because it was the end of the conference, or maybe because of its relevance in these hard economic times, was the discussion that ensued at the final panel discussion regarding the cost of arbitration in sport in particular the expense of taking a case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. It was a lively debate, but the general consensus seemed to be that the cost of arbitration needs to come down although how exactly this would be managed was not clear.

The event was very good, providing an excellent selection of speakers from a broad spectrum of sports. The chair on the second day, Howard Stupp of the IOC, was particularly good at moving the discussion along and stimulating the debate. There was a distinct advantage hosting a two day conference which provides more opportunities to discuss issues for longer and in more detail and giving more networking.

C5 did well to arrange replacement speakers for late dropouts but one felt this could have been communicated better as a number of attendees I spoke to were a little confused when they were waiting for a particular speaker to turn-up but in fact a replacement speaker had been brought in. The Court of Arbitration Day following the two-day conference was cancelled but attendees were notified in advance and given full refunds.

Sean Cottrell

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