Thursday, March 29, 2007

European Parliament Calls On Commission To Clarify Legal Status Of Professional Football

The European Parliament has called on the European Commission to ‘clarify the legal status of football’ after adopting a report titled ‘On the future of professional football in Europe’, drafted by Ivo Belet (EPP-ED, BE).

The report asks the Commission to specify ‘under which conditions legitimate and adequate self-regulation is supported’. The report also backs UEFA’s club licensing system; calls for football to establish agreement on a collective insurance system; asks the Commission to investigate the adoption of collective sale of TV rights; supports UEFA’s home-grown player rule.

European Commissioner, Jan Figel, is currently consulting on a White Paper on sport, due to be published this summer. Sporting federations are concerned that attempts to define sport’s relationship to EU law could undermine their decision-making autonomy (See World Sports Law Report, Volume 04, Issue 10, October 2006).

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on its planned White Paper on sport. Click here to give your view.

Andy Brown 


Friday, February 23, 2007

Comment: Human Enhancement Technologies in Sport

The Select Committee on Science and Technology today released its Human Enhancement Technologies in Sport report, commissioned in March last year. Mike Morgan, a Solicitor with Hammonds, gives his opinion on key points within the report.

“Among the recommendations which struck me were:
1: Paragraph 57 - Suggestion that WADA-accredited labs should perform testing of commercial supplements for use in sport. If that were allowed to happen, the labs and WADA would be exposing themselves to potential legal action where athletes subsequently test positive for a banned substance emanating from a batch of that supplement. Also, it could lead to a repeat of the ATP debacle from 2003, where a number of players who had tested positive for a prohibited substance (nandrolone, in that particular case) were exonerated because the ATP had approved and apparently provided the suspected batch of contaminated supplements to those players. Whilst the issue of supplements is a very important one and does need further investigation, it is certainly not as black and white as the Committee's recommendation would suggest, particularly not from a legal point of view.”

2: “Paragraph 92 - Recommendation that the length of ban for a first time-offence be increased from two years to four years. This is an issue that has raged for over a decade and is subject to complex legal arguments, so it is surprising that the Committee has spent just one paragraph of the report considering the length of a ban for a first time offence, before recommending that a four-year ban should be applied ‘in all incidences of proven doping’”.

3: “Paragraph 76 - Restricting Olympic participation to athletes who have competed internationally in the 12 months before the Olympics. Twelve months is a very long time for athletes and such a policy would put a lot of unnecessary pressure on athletes to perform, particularly promising young athletes who are on the brink of becoming international. It also does not consider the position of athletes who choose to concentrate on their studies, or even those athletes who choose to ease off in the year prior to an Olympic year (as athletes often do, to minimise the risk of injury that can result from the stress of two consecutive years of hard training)”.

“All in all, the Committee does not appear to have considered the legal ramifications of a lot of their recommendations. On a positive note though, it is encouraging to see the recommendations at paragraphs 121 and 122 that the government should spend more on sports science research, as that is one area in which we are lagging behind some of our European colleagues and certainly behind the US and Australia”.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Premier League: Attendance Reporting Up To Clubs

Comments made by the FA Premier League to World Sports Law Report suggest that attendance figures may not accurately reflect the number of people at its grounds.

The Guardian recently highlighted the issue in an article, receiving confirmation from Arsenal that its attendance figure reflects the number of tickets sold, rather than actual bums on seats. The club told the newspaper that as many as 3% of ticket holders – more than 1,800 people – did not take their seats for the 11 February game against Wigan, where a near-capacity attendance of 60,049 was reported.

An FA Premier League spokesperson said that it is for a club to decide how attendance figures are calculated. Apparently, some clubs base attendance on tickets sold and others on ‘gate receipts’, i.e. the number of ticket holders passing through the turnstiles.

Bolton Wanderers recently became the first Premier League club to cut season ticket prices, following concern that high ticket prices, coupled with widespread availability of football on television, may be keeping fans on the sofas and away from the turnstiles. Wigan have also reduced the cost of certain games this season, following concerns over empty seats.

If the FA Premier League wishes to retain the impression that all of its grounds are 100% full all of the time, perhaps it could introduce a rule requiring all clubs to base their attendance figures on numbers of tickets sold. Conversely, if it thinks its clubs should take action to remedy the empty seats appearing on television screens and in newspapers (which both sponsors and broadcasters, who provide revenue, hate to see), perhaps it should require its clubs to report attendance based on gate receipts.

Andy Brown


Friday, February 16, 2007

Belgian Court: Player Images Can Be Used Without Permission

In an interesting article, Bond Pearce LLP highlight how a Belgian court confirmed that in certain cases, betting companies can legitimately use player and club images without consent, as the betting public needs appropriate information to make informed betting decisions, and this includes photos of the clubs and players.

The court apparently accepted the betting companies’ argument that in this case, the use of players’ images did not have a predominantly commercial goal, but was an application of the right to information.

The case falls into that difficult area of sports law where the rights of access for organisations providing ‘services’ to the public must be balanced with the wishes of sports governing bodies, and personalities, to protect the value of their rights.

It is a fine line to tread. The World Association of Newspapers is currently in negotiation with the International Rugby Board and the International Cricket Council over media access to the Cricket World Cup and Rugby World Cup, both of which are to be held this year.

Another case which has parallels with both of the above concerned media access to the fourth Ashes Test in Australia. Cricket Australia had threatened to lock out media organisations due to the rebroadcast of moving images from previous tests on the internet. This case is examined by Claude Harran, of Dibbs Abbot Stillman, in the January edition of World Sports Law Report.

The relationship between sport, gambling, sponsorship and advertising will be examined at a World Sports Law Report Briefing, held at the offices of DLA Piper in London on 7 March. Contact Jit Jaswal for more information.

Andy Brown

Friday, February 09, 2007

Villiger Replaces Tännler as Head of FIFA’s Legal Division

Marco Villiger has replaced Heinz Tännler as Director of Legal Division at the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), as of 1 January. Tännler is pursuing a political career with the Schweizerische Volkspartei / Union Démocratique du Centre (Swiss People’s Party).

Tännler has written for World Sports Law Report (search for ‘Tännler’ on the internet site), and spoke at our Special Briefing: Club, Country & Players, which received coverage on the BBC. World Sports Law Report wishes Tännler and Villiger all the best in their new roles.
Andy Brown

Monday, February 05, 2007

BHB Court of Appeal victory against At The Races

The British Horseracing Board announced that the Court of Appeal has ‘completely overturned’ a December 2005 High Court judgment obtained by At The Races, which found that BHB’s business practices in the supply of pre-race data constituted an abuse of a dominant position.

For an analysis of the initial High Court judgment by Neil Baylis and Martin King of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham LLP (now K&L Gates), search for ‘Competition Law: At The Races v BHB: abusing a dominant position’ on World Sports Law Report’s internet site.

According to the BHB, ‘the Court of Appeal found that BHB’s business practices did not involve excessive or discriminatory pricing, nor did they amount to a refusal to supply and therefore were not abusive’.

‘If left unchallenged, the first instance judgment would have had far reaching implications beyond Racing, not least that organisations in a position similar to BHB’s would have had effectively had their prices regulated by the courts’, said BHB acting Chief Executive Chris Brand in a statement.

Arena Leisure, which owns television channel ATR, issued a statement confirming that At The Races plans to appeal to the House of Lords.

‘Given the emphatic nature of the ruling in ATR's favour back in December 2005 and following successful injunction proceedings before the Vice Chancellor earlier in 2005, we are very surprised and disappointed with the Court of Appeal's ruling today’, said Matthew Imi, Chief Executive of ATR. ‘We continue to believe that the BHB's treatment of ATR which triggered legal proceedings was unfair, discriminatory and abusive and, given the clear public interest element in this landmark case, we will be seeking leave to appeal to the House of Lords’.

Andy Brown

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

WADA Publishes Draft Revisions To Doping Code

The World Anti-Doping Agency has published a draft revision of the World Anti-Doping Code, following direct feedback and face-to-face meetings with stakeholders.

The rules recommend a mandatory one year ban for missed tests, the sanction imposed on Commonwealth 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu, however this ‘strict liability’ approach has been criticised by Gregory Ioannidis, a Barrister who acted as Counsel for Greek sprinters Mr Kenteris and Ms Thanou in their case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport last year, in an article in The Guardian.

The first draft revision of the Code marks a three-stage consultation process, before a final draft of the revised code is presented at the Third World Conference on Doping in Sport, which takes place in Madrid, 15-17 November. To view an outline of the consultation process, click here.
Andy Brown

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Beckham to move to LA Galaxy following rule change

The BBC reports that David Beckham has agreed to join Major League Soccer (MLS) club LA Galaxy following the conclusion of his contract with Primera División club Real Madrid at the end of the current season.

The US league, which operates a salary budget, changed its rules in November last year to allow one ‘designated player’ for each of its 13 clubs. ‘A Designated Player's salary charge will be capped at $400,000, but his salary could be higher’, said MLS in the November statement.

In accounts filed with Companies House, Footwork Productions Limited - which lists its principal activity as ‘the provision of the services of David Beckham’ – reported a Gross Profit of £15.5 million for the year ended 31 December, 2005. No revenue was listed in the accounts, however wages and salaries of £19.7 million were listed. The company Secretary is listed as ‘V C Beckham’, and directors are ‘A Adams’ and ‘A Thompson’.

Also involved with the deal were 19 Entertainment, which took on representation of Beckham and his wife Victoria in 2003, and Creative Artists Agency (CAA), which has a sports representation arm.
Andy Brown