The development and professionalization of sport have led to the multiplication of situations of conflicts in sport. This has become an economic sector on its own. Actors in sport (players, sport federations, clubs, professional leagues, sponsors, sport agents, coaches, sport betting companies, etc) are confronted with a number of issues which require strong legal competence, only possessed by lawyers.
Setting up a sport society (SAOS – Anonymous society with a sports objective), SASP (Anonymous professional sport society) or EURSL (Individual company with limited sport responsibility), the circulation of a professional sportsman, the status of player agents, the funding of sports unions, access for sportspersons to competitions, doping issues, the exploitation of image rights of sportspeople, the financial aspects of clubs, rights of retransmissions, sponsoring contracts, transfer contracts, etc are all areas which require a good legal grasp and understanding, which justifies the need for specialist lawyers.
Formation – a sports lawyer is first and foremost a multi- disciplined lawyer who masters and possesses abilities and skills in most of the domains of private law and in public law, while keeping in mind the specificity of sports law. The sports lawyer has a strong knowledge of sport and of their environment and particularities. Often, in addition to their normal law degrees, these lawyers have usually followed a course on sports law; although often there are also lawyers with specialties in company law, tax and finance law, social law, public law, etc.
The lawyer informs athletes, coaches, sport federations, clubs, sport agents, sponsors, etc of their rights and their obligations and these lawyers advise and consult their clients on legal matters while taking into consideration the specificities of sport. The lawyer informs the actors in sport about the procedural paths that are possible in sport law in order to resolve any conflicts in the courts or through arbitration.
The sports lawyer will advise sport clubs, sport federations and sport professionals in the drafting of employment contracts and on their modification as and implementation. The lawyer will also assist in the event of the rupture of an employment contract between a professional football player and his club, for example concerning a short term specific employment contract (in France, called a Contrat d’usage).
The sports lawyer will assist the athlete with the administration and exploitation of the collective image of his or her team and of his or her individual image particularly with regards to publicity and sponsoring contracts.
The lawyer may assist their clients with negotiations for exclusive sponsoring rights with a sports federation, a sporting event, sports clubs or with the sports player, using ‘naming’ techniques allowing the association of the sponsor’s name with a competition or sports installation (i.e. a stadium).
The lawyer may also be involved in matters concerning the protection of the sponsor’s image and of their brand against counterfeits or disloyal competition.
The sports lawyer is qualified to advise sport federations in the drafting of their statutes (particularly if they wish to obtain a delegation and public service mission from the state or a state-approved authorisation, as is the case in France). The lawyer can provide advice on the drafting of the federation’s internal regulations as well, their financial, sporting, disciplinary, medical, etc regulations and measures and ensure that all these regulations are in compliance with the national and international laws in force.
The sports lawyer will represent the client in conflicts which could concern the organization of competitions, the responsibility of sports players or organisers, private funding of sport (betting, sponsoring contracts, etc), sports employment contracts, television rights, etc.
The sports lawyer acts as a guarantor as he or she is qualified and bound by moral and professional codes of conduct. The lawyer acts in respect of his or her independence, loyalty, professional confidentiality, all of which result in an atmosphere of trust and confidence in their relations with their clients.
Lawyers have become a privileged partner of sports players and actors in the sports domain.