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‘Fouls’ Off The Field of Play – Key Considerations For Athletes, Clubs & Sponsors

Upset Footballer
Friday, 27 May 2022 By Stephen Taylor Heath

What happens if athletes engage in morally questionable or illegal behaviour outside of the field of play?

It is a question that includes behaviours ranging from domestic abuse to racism and homophobia, to drug taking, to the expression of certain political views, and leads to legal consequences that potentially bridge contract/commercial law, employment law, regulatory law and possibly criminal law.

This article provides a high level and practical examination of the various commercial and regulatory consequences that can result from such behaviour from the perspective of UK law. To anchor the analysis, it draws on the recent example of Kurt Zouma, a football player at Premier League club, West Ham, who was reprimanded for kicking his cat in a widely shared social media video and recently pleaded guilty1 to two charges under the Animal Welfare Act. The broader principles are however applicable to many different sporting scenarios. The ‘fallout’ from the player’s actions is assessed from four different perspectives, namely:

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Written by

Stephen Taylor Heath

Stephen Taylor Heath

Stephen is a Partner and Head of Sports Law at JMW.

Stephen is highly regarded by clients and his peers and currently ranked as a ‘Leading individual’ by Legal 500 in the TMT/Sports category. He is as an acknowledged expert in particular with regard to multi-jurisdictional broadcast agreements for major events and Ambassador agreements for high profile sports and media personalities. He is also noted for his work on constitutional and regulatory matters across several sports as well as his involvement in commercial initiatives to modernise the approach of several key sporting governing bodies such as the Royal & Ancient and British Boxing Board of Control.

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