Premier League scores second ‘live’ blocking injunction

Pirate Key on a KeyboardIn May 2017, Sports Shorts covered the first ‘live’ blocking injunction ordered by the High Court in favour of the Premier League – a decision which represented a win not only for rightsholders but also, unusually, for the defendant ISPs in their capacity as Premier League rightsholders.  The order, which applied during the final weeks of the 2016/17 season – a ‘test period’ of sorts – required UK internet service providers (“ISPs”, such as Sky, BT, etc.) to block specified providers of copyright infringing streams of Premier League matches and (most importantly) to do so effectively on a ‘live’ basis.

This week, the Premier League announced that, following the “highly effective” first order, pursuant to which “more than 5,000 server IP addresses blocked that had previously been streaming illegal Premier League content”, it has secured a second live blocking order from the High Court.  The second order will apply for the entirety of the 2017/18 season.

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Keaton Jennings: a case study on cricket eligibility

Ahead of the start of the third test between England and South Africa on Thursday, many a column inch has been devoted to the apparent fragility of England’s batting line-up and discussion has inevitably turned to whether personnel changes are necessary.  In particular, questions have been asked about whether England should persevere with 25 year-old opener Keaton Jennings, whose run totals of 8330 and 3 in the first two tests have not convinced his critics that he is the right man to accompany Alastair Cook to the crease.

Jennings will know better than anyone else that he will have to improve his run tally in order to be certain of his place in the side.  Keeping that place will surely be incentive enough for Jennings to put in a strong performance against the Proteas but, if he needed any additional motivation, Jennings will surely wish to show the South Africans what they are missing.

Jennings was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on 19 June 1992.  He is the latest in a line of an impressive South African cricket dynasty – he is the son of Ray Jennings, the former South African test cricketer and coach, while his uncle (Kenneth Jennings) and brother (Dylan Jennings) both played first class cricket in South Africa.  Keaton himself has continued the family tradition, making his first-class debut for Gauteng in December 2011 against Free State, before captaining the South Africa Under-19 cricket team on its tour of England in 2011.

While Jennings could have made himself available for selection by South Africa at international level, in 2012 he took the decision to represent England instead.  Jennings has explained the decision as follows:

“I have always said since I was small that if I make it in cricket that is brilliant, if I don’t then I want to know I have given it my best shot.  At the time I sat down with my Dad and I felt it would be my best opportunity to live my dream in the UK and I’m very glad as I sit here now to have made that hard decision.”

While Jennings is certainly not the first South African-born cricketer to play for England, his route to international cricket represents an interesting case study on the application of the relevant eligibility criteria. Continue Reading

Safety in F1 – I can feel your halo (halo) halo

Following a meeting of the Formula One Strategy Group on Wednesday, the FIA has confirmed that the ‘halo’ cockpit safety device will become mandatory in F1 cars starting from next season. The halo device is a three pronged structure with a line directly in the middle of the drivers’ sight that rises and forms a halo around the drivers head. The FIA’s statement read:

“Having developed and evaluated a large number of devices over the past five years, it had become clear that the Halo presents the best overall safety performance.”

This move comes after another safety device, the ‘cockpit shield’, a poly-carbonate see through screen that covers the driver, was tested at Silverstone last weekend. Vettel was the first driver to test the ‘shield’ but reported that it made him feel dizzy.

The need for the halo

It is perhaps unsurprising that safety is high on the agenda in a sport that sees drivers reach speeds of over 200 mph, but at various stages in the sport’s history, the need for safety has been accentuated by unfortunate events.

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The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale: An open Open

The 146th Open Championship started today at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, Merseyside, which will be hosting the event for the 10th time, the second highest after St. Andrews (which, as the home of golf, hosts the event every 5 years).

The club was established in 1889 and first held the Open in 1954 an event won by Australian Peter Thomson who would go on to win 4 more Open titles.

The Open itself was first held in 1860, some 29 years before Royal Birkdale was established, at the Prestwick Golf Club where 8 professional golfers sought to be crowned the inaugural “Champion Golfer of the Year”.

Willie Park Snr. triumphed in this first competition seeing off Old Tom Morris to claim the Challenge Belt made of red Moroccan leather and said to be worth some £25. The Challenge Belt was retired in 1870 after Young Tom Morris had been crowned Champion Golfer for the third year in a row. At the next holding of the Open the winner received the Claret Jug which has since become one of the World’s most iconic sporting trophies.

The Open has seen many great battles with legendry names such as Palmer, Player and Woods all adorning the winner’s trophy. Others will claim to have got so close yet remain so far from being added to this list of names.

Who can forget Jean van de Velde throwing taking his shoes and socks off whilst throwing away a three shot lead down the last hole of the 1999 event held at Carnoustie – truly one of sport’s most uncomfortable viewing experiences. Or 1977’s “duel in the sun” at Turnberry between two of the game’s greats Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson who stood head and shoulders above the rest of the field.

Add to this Constantina Rocca’s 50 foot putt through the infamous “Valley of Sin” at St. Andrews to force a playoff in 1995 and Sergio Garcia’s 7 foot miss at the last hole at Carnoustie in 2007 to throw away a first Major Championship – something he finally remedied at this year’s Masters.

So who is the favourite to succeed this weekend?

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NBA off-season excitement: The Draft and the NBA Summer League

On 12 June 2017, the Golden State Warriors were crowned the winners of the NBA Championship for the 2016/2017 season following an arduous 82 game regular season, followed by seventeen play-off matches.  The Warriors’ victory marked the third consecutive year in which the franchise had won the Championship and the first time a team from the Bay Area had won a sports championship in their home city since the Oakland A’s beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1974 World Series.

The 2017/2018 NBA season does not commence until 17 October 2017.  As a result, thirsty basketball fans are only a month into the four month summer break between seasons.  Yet this does not mean that fans have been deprived of excitement in the intervening period. Continue Reading

Formula One: Testing the breaks at Silverstone

As we cruise into this weekend’s British Grand Prix the future of the event is in jeopardy. The British Grand Prix has been a feature of the F1 calendar since 1926 and has been held at Silverstone almost continuously since 1950. However, the circuit’s owner – the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) – announced late on Tuesday night that it has triggered a break clause in its contract to host the race until 2027. If negotiations with Liberty Media, F1’s ultimate owners since January 2017, are unsuccessful then the last GP to be held at Silverstone could be as early as 2019.

When the contract was signed in 2009 between BRDC and Formula One Group, F1’s then owners, it was not without controversy; the bid was originally won by Donington Park who terminated the contract soon after due to funding difficulties. In entering the contract, BRDC agreed to pay an annual hosting fee but has been stung by the reported 5% annual fee increase which has risen from around £11.5 million in 2010 to £16.2 million for this year’s race.  There is some perception that BRDC may be using its break clause option to publicly pressure Liberty Media into re-negotiating the 5% fee increase. Continue Reading

Sport England announce first suspension of funding for failure to comply with Governance Code

Table TennisTable Tennis England has become the first sport to lose access to public funding due to failure to comply with UK Sport and Sport England’s Code for Sports Governance (released in October last year and covered by Sports Shorts here).

The sport was due to receive a total of around £9 million from Sport England over the 2017-21 funding cycle, with the latest tranche being due this month.  As a body in receipt of more than £1 million, table tennis is a “Tier 3” organisation, required to comply with the most rigorous set of Mandatory Requirements (“MRs”) in the Code.  However, following its AGM on 8 July at which the members voted on some of the Board’s proposed governance reforms, the governing body has found itself in breach of its funding agreement with Sport England.

Sport England has suspended its funding of table tennis with immediate effect.

As Sports Shorts has commented previously, whilst the release of the Code saw the introduction of a ‘gold standard’ of governance principles for sport in the UK, at the time of the its publication there remained some questions relating to aspects such as the precise timeframe for compliance as well and the consequences of failure to comply with the Code’s requirements.  Against this background, the case of Table Tennis England is particularly interesting and will no doubt serve as a warning to other governing bodies and organisations in receipt of funds from Sport England or UK Sport.

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Cricket Australia v the Australian Cricketers’ Association – Picket lines at the Ashes?!

It has been rumbling on for some time, stories here and there in the press suggesting that negotiations regarding pay in a sporting context were going to come to a head and potentially turn into an ugly dispute.  It is not unusual to see such stories in sport, particularly given the salaries some sports stars can command and the high commercial stakes involved.

However, those who think of cricket as a genteel, sepia-tinged world may be surprised that it is Australian cricket currently embroiled in this story.  Cricket Australia (CA) is the governing body of cricket in Australia and effectively employs around 200 professional cricketers in the country, including the international stars like Steve Smith, David Warner and Mitchell Starc… or at least did employ…

Every five years, CA negotiates a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ with the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA), a representative body for the players. This MoU effectively acts as an employment contract and, importantly, sets out the provisions for how those professional cricketers in Australia under the MoU will be paid.

The main point in dispute is the payment model.  For 20 years, male players have received a share of the revenue generated by Australian cricket in addition to their annual retainer/salary.  CA argue that this model is unsustainable and that the revenue money should be redirected towards supporting the grass-roots of cricket in Australia.  So instead, they offered an increase to the fixed income for the domestic players, with no revenue share, and a smaller profit share arrangement for the international players in addition to their fixed income.

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Crime and Punishment: Violence in Sport – Part Two

Having surveyed in Part One some examples of violence in sport that led, or might have led, to the intervention of the law, attention turns in this second installment to why the law is perhaps not always an appropriate way of dealing with such situations.

The case against prosecuting 

Aside from the presence of implied consent, one of the main arguments against convicting sports players where their actions would otherwise constitute assault is that most sports have official rules and governing bodies empowered to bring disciplinary measures. What is more, such bodies tend to consist of individuals with expertise that allow them to make an informed assessment of an incident. Amongst the sanctions they can impose are bans as well as fines; that said, some might argue that oftentimes, financial penalties fail to hit sports players where it hurts (excuse the pun).

For what it’s worth, FIFA Rule 12 states, amongst other things, that “violent conduct is when a player uses or attempts to use excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball”, and that “a player who, when not challenging for the ball, deliberately strikes an opponent or any other person on the head or face with the hand or arm, is guilty of violent conduct unless the force used was negligible.” Excessive force is adjudged to be “when a player exceeds the necessary use of force and endangers the safety of an opponent and must be sent off”. The Rule goes on to say that “a tackle or challenge that endangers the safety of an opponent or uses excessive force or brutality must be sanctioned as serious foul play”.

The issue is that the rules governing various sports are arguably immaterial to determining whether a player’s actions fall foul of the law of the land. If the officials don’t spot a foul, and even if the governing body doesn’t subsequently address it, the law still applies.

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Margin call: Vortex suits & Team Sky’s latest marginal gain

Sport - Road cyclistThe Tour de France 2017 began on 1 July 2017 and, in amongst the cyclists’ battle for the Un Maillot, the Green Jersey, the Polka-Dot Jersey and the White Jersey, a controversy began to emerge over Team Sky’s ‘Vortex’ skin suit.  The controversy arose as a result of the jersey worn by the Team Sky riders bearing small pellets built into the fabric that create minuscule vortexes when the cyclist moves and therefore improving air flow.  In other words, the pellets make the rider more aerodynamic.  Team Sky’s opponents claim that such a fabric is a clear infringement of the clothing regulations of the sports’ governing body, Union Cycliste Internationale. Team Sky state that the outfits have been validated by the UCI.

So is the Vortex an example of ‘technical’ doping: the use of technology to create or obtain an unfair advantage over others?  Or is it simply Team Sky doing what they have consistently stated they will do: searching for 1 percent improvements everywhere that push the limits of the Regulations but never breach them? Continue Reading