Bridging the gap – the highs and lows of the salary landscape in women’s sport

SportswomanIn recent weeks, salaries in women’s sports have been featuring frequently in the headlines.

In the US, female ice hockey players are locked in heated negotiations with USA Hockey (the IOC-recognised governing body of organised amateur ice hockey in the USA) over wages, with the players threatening to boycott the upcoming wold championship if an acceptable agreement cannot be reached.  This follows a similar dispute between the US Women’s Soccer Team and US Soccer, which culminated in US Soccer filing a lawsuit against the US Women’s National Players’ Association (covered by Sports Shorts here).

On the other side of the globe, Cricket Australia has just offered a massive 125% pay increase for elite female players.

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Loi Évin: How Law Makers in France Have Forced a Divide Between Alcohol & Sport

Recently, rugby legend Dan Carter made the headlines for all the wrong reasons. After being pulled over by the police on Avenue des Champs-Élysées for speeding, police discovered that he was over the alcohol limit. He was subsequently dropped by his sponsor Land Rover for what seems to be a breach of a morality clause, similar to those covered by Sports Shorts previously in relation to Maria Sharapova and Sergio Pérez. Days after the incident, Carter recognised his “massive error” in an honest statement:

“Over the last few days my management and I have had to front up to my sponsors. Not surprisingly, Land Rover, who for good reason have zero tolerance towards drink driving, have ended their relationship with me. I understand this completely and am disappointed I put them in this position.”

At the age of 34, the rugby star is currently seeing out the twilight years of his career at Racing Metro in Paris with whom he won the Top 14 last year, putting in a man of the match performance.

Morality clauses aside, this incident has inspired Sports Shorts to consider an interesting legal space within the context of France; the relationship between advertisement, alcohol and sport. It is a curious fact that the country that is perhaps most renowned worldwide for its alcoholic exports, has the most stringent rules on advertising alcoholic beverages. Consequently, alcohol and sport do not go hand in hand to the extent they do in the UK.

This is down to ‘La Loi Évin’, or Évin’s Law – passed by the French government in 1991 (which is now integrated in the public Health Code under Article L3323-1 and subsequent provisions). It operates to prohibit any sponsorship activity which has, as its object or its effect, the publicity, directly or indirectly, in favour of alcoholic beverages (French Public Health Code art. L. 3323-2). Article L. 3321-1 of the French Public Health Code defines alcoholic beverages as those that contain more than 1.2% of alcohol.

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From whites to reds: the introduction of red cards into cricket

Yellow and Red Referee CardsIn recent weeks, Sports Shorts has considered a number of forthcoming, or potential, rule changes in football, including the planned introduction of Video Assistant Referees from the third round onwards of the 2017-2018 FA Cup and the possible introduction of sin bins.

Without wishing to be outdone by their footballing counterparts, similar changes are afoot in cricket. Earlier this month, the Marylebone Cricket Club (“MCC“), announced that a new code of laws would come into effect from 1 October 2017, the first time this has occurred since 2000.

Some Sports Shorts readers may, quite understandably, ask who or what the MCC is. The MCC is a cricket club which owns, and is based at, Lord’s cricket ground in North West London, commonly regarded as the spiritual home of cricket in England and Wales.

But the MCC also holds another important role, that of the custodian and copyright holder of the Laws of Cricket (the “Laws“), which set out the worldwide laws of the game. The Laws, which apply from the village green to the Test arena, outline all aspects of how cricket is played, ranging from how a team wins to how a batsman is dismissed.

And why does the MCC hold this important role, despite the fact that the International Cricket Council (“ICC“) is the global governing body? This is largely a legacy of the MCC’s former dual role as both the governing body of the worldwide game and cricket in England and Wales. Whilst many of its former functions as global governing body were transferred to the ICC in 1993, the MCC did not relinquish control of its coveted role as custodian of the Laws.

Changes to the Laws

In order to address concerns that a private members club in London was acting as the sole arbiter of how a global game is played, the MCC established the World Cricket Committee (“WCC“) in April 2006. The WCC is an independent body, made up of current and former international cricketers and umpires from across the globe, who meet twice a year in order to discuss pertinent issues in the game and, where necessary, make recommendations to the main MCC Committee that new laws should be promulgated or that existing Laws should be amended.

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Update: Racing 92 and Stade Français merger is OFF. But what did the proposal say about the finances of European club rugby?

Rugby PlayerOn Friday 17 March 2017, Sports Shorts posted about the unlikely proposed merger of two of France’s largest and most prestigious club rugby sides: Racing 92 and Stade Français.  The announcement, made by the Racing 92 Chief, Jacky Lorenzetti and the Stade Français President, Thomas Savare, on 13 March 2017 sent shockwaves through the rugby world. Commentators struggled to comprehend the move calling it ‘… an utterly incredible story… unprecedented and bizarre’; players also reacted poorly to the shock move with one taking to social media to call it ‘scandalous’.

And it seems that the leaders of the two Parisian giants have bowed to public pressure: less than a week later, on Sunday 19 March 2017, it was announced that the merger was off.  With the Stade Français players beginning an open-ended strike following the announcement together with the teams’ matches being postponed at the weekend amidst reports that the French rugby federation (LNR) and the Mayor of Paris opposed the move, perhaps the climb-down is no surprise.

However, in a statement on the Racing 92 website, Mr Lorenzetti said that he had ‘…decided to give this beautiful project up… Perhaps we were right too soon… The future of Stade Français will be written without us and I wish them the best’. Those words are difficult to reconcile with a person who considers that they have made a grave mistake. Similarly, Mr Savare stated that he had ‘… heard the emotion, the surprise and the incomprehension of the fans, the players and members of our association’ but stopped short of saying that he considered the proposal to have been a mistake. Continue Reading

Racing 92 and Stade Francais: Merging Rugby Clubs – what happens next?

Rugby PostsThe Six Nations provides rugby fans with a couple of months every year packed to the rafters of rugby-related issues to talk about. This year in particular provides even more analysis fodder with a group of the best British and Irish players touring New Zealand to take on the mighty All Blacks in the summer.  Debate will rage for months as to who should get a place in the Lions squad.

In fact, there are so many stories and analysis pieces flying round at this time of year that some can stray under the radar in terms of headline space. However, an interesting story has arisen in France this week that will no doubt gain some traction.

It has been announced that two of the major rugby union clubs in France’s top division (the Top 14) are to merge from next season.  Racing 92 and Stade Francais, both based in Paris, are the winners of the last two seasons of the Top 14 and competed for the first ever French Championship in 1892.  They are now aiming to combine forces and resources next season, subject to the approval of the French National Rugby League (the LNR).

Racing and Stade are two of the oldest and most successful clubs in French rugby history, with playing squads liberally sprinkled with star attractions (particularly Racing’s, currently home to Dan Carter). In French rugby terms, it is a little like news breaking in England that Manchester United and Manchester City are deciding to merge and become Manchester Athletic!  Oddly enough, it is said that this was suggested back in the 60’s although the Athletic moniker was creative licence on my part.

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Breaking the ice: the risks behind repetitive head trauma in Ice Hockey

Ice Hockey GameSport can at times be so emotionally charged that there comes a time when suppressing the urge to pick a fight with your opponent can prove difficult (even in a World Cup Final).  Ice hockey is one of the few sports where players are allowed to settle their differences on the ice and the penalty which may or may not follow from the combat is usually a 5 minute cool-down on the bench.  As a spectator, it is nearly impossible to keep your calm when watching hockey players fight, whether you are at the pulsating stadium itself or sat instead at home in front of the television.

It is undeniable that the prospect of watching players fight is one of the elements that draws some spectators to the sport.  With famous names like Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, ice hockey has long been synonymous with strength, speed and brute power which are all part of the game. However, the highest scoring players are not usually the ones who transform the ice rink into a boxing ring.

Historically, fighting has long been a part of the 19th century Canadian sport and there are a number of theories why it has become part of the sport, a common one being that the relative lack of rules in the early history of hockey encouraged physical intimidation and control.  In ice hockey, fighting is unofficially governed by a complex system of unwritten rules with coaches and referees referring to the unwritten rules as “the Code”. Continue Reading

Should the EU introduce its own Governance Code for Sport?

FlagGovernance in sport has been a hot topic in the UK in recent months, with the release of Sport England and UK Sport’s “Code for Sports Governance” on 31 October 2016, followed by the inevitable media scrutiny on some of UK’s sports governance juggernauts, including (in particular) the FA and, most recently, the revelations and allegations in relation to British Cycling.

As Sports Shorts commented back in October, the UK has sought to lead the way by setting the ‘gold standard’ for sports governance.  The hope was, and remains, that the UK Code will be looked upon internationally as a model for good governance.  Unsurprisingly, given the high-profile scandals in sports governing bodies in recent years, the topic has indeed been in the spotlight on the international stage, including at an EU policy level.

On 2 February 2017, the European Parliament (“EP”) adopted a Resolution “on an integrated approach to Sport Policy: good governance, accessibility and integrity”. The resolution was adopted by 522 to 76, with 37 abstentions, and follows an evaluation of the EU’s existing sports policy drafted by Finnish MEP, Hannu Takkula.

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Girls Allowed – A historic day for Muirfield despite the Equality Act 2010

With 80.2% of votes in favour (498 of 621 votes cast) Muirfield has today announced that it will, for the first time, admit women as members of the historic golf club.

Founded in 1744, the famous East Lothian links course, considered one of the best in the World, and home to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, claims to be the oldest golf club in the World.  However until today, whilst women could play as guests or visitors, they were not allowed to be members of the club.

In May 2016 a controversial vote resulted in the two-thirds majority required for a change in the membership rules not being met, with only 64% of those voting in favour of the proposed change. Those who campaigned against allowing women members pointed to concerns about slow-play and, perhaps surprisingly, that women may feel uncomfortable in the Clubhouse, suggesting a “lady friendly” second course and clubhouse as alternatives.

This vote led the R&A, the body which governs the sport of golf worldwide with the USGA, to announce that it would no longer allow the Open Championship, the oldest of the 4 Major Championships, to be held at the course which had been the host on 16 previous occasions, the second highest in the modern era behind only St. Andrews. As such it looked like Phil Mickelson’s triumph in 2013 would be the last time the Open Championship was held at Muirfield.

Following the outcome of the May 2016 vote, the membership policy was described as “simply indefensible” by Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, a view shared by many. So how legally was Muirfield able to justify it membership policy?

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A selection of the biggest sporting defeats in history: a little light relief for Scottish sport fans

Scottish Rugby PlayerIn an attempt to move on from the nightmare Calcutta Cup fixture on 11 March 2017 (in which Scotland lost to England 61-21, a score line that equalled Scotland’s greatest margin of loss against its old rivals), this author went on the hunt for some of the biggest sporting defeats in history.

A little background to life as a Scottish sports fan: it is never smooth and frequently involves a roller coaster of emotion.  In this author’s opinion, that roller coaster is never more violent (and sometimes never more cruel – see the results of the 2015 Rugby World Cup Quarter Final match and, just over a year later, the Autumn International, each against Australia) than when one of our national sides are playing.

The range of emotions we Scots experience will, naturally, be affected by the specific circumstances of each match or event but will, in general, include:

  1. Anticipation
  2. Excitement
  3. Cautious hope that we may win
  4. Certain belief that we will win
  5. Disbelief and fury at the referee’s decision/coach’s decision/player’s decision or error (delete as applicable)
  6. Certain belief that the referee has it in for us/the coach doesn’t know what he’s doing/the player needs to get his eyes checked (delete as applicable)
  7. Disbelief that we lost…
  8. … Followed rapidly by pure devastation that we lost (often termed ‘gutted’)
  9. Conciliation with fellow fans that at least we are Scottish, we will always have the Tartan Army and that we will definitely get them the next time
  10. Anticipation for the next match…

With that in mind and in a brazen attempt to move this author from 8 to 9, the following are three of the largest losing margins in sporting history (that don’t involve Scotland):

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Your guide to the introduction of Video Assistant Referees

assistant-referee-in-actionOn 14 February 2017, Sports Shorts discussed the then upcoming AGM of the International Football Association Board (“IFAB”), the body that determines the rules of football.  That article focused on the issues that were up for discussion at the AGM, in particular the possible introduction of sin-bins at certain levels of the sport.

The AGM took place at Wembley on 3 March 2017 and the introduction of sin-bins was unanimously backed, together with the implementation of varying match durations in respect of disability, grassroots and youth football matches.

While the introduction of sin-bins will undoubtedly represent an intriguing change to the fundamental nature of the sport, it is not the change which has garnered the most column-inches.  That award goes to the news that the Football Association (the “FA”) intends to introduce Video Assistant Referees (“VARs”) from the third round onward of the 2017-2018 FA Cup. Continue Reading

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