Saracens’ relegation and the knock-on effects

Saracens scraped through into the quarter-finals of European rugby’s Champions Cup after a win over Racing 92 this weekend.  However, even if the three-time European Champions were to retain their crown, the club will not be competing in the competition next season.  This is because, after reaching agreement with the governing body of Premiership Rugby, Premier Rugby Limited (“PRL”), to accept automatic relegation, Saracens will not be a Premiership club next season (a requirement for Champions Cup eligibility).  Instead, they will be playing the likes of Coventry, Jersey and Doncaster in the English Championship.  Continue Reading

New Year, New Deal in the WNBA

A new and historic agreement has been reached between the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA), which includes higher salaries, improved benefits and better work and travel conditions.

Following the 2018 season, the WNBPA exercised its option to opt out of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the WNBA. As discussed previously on Sports Shorts, the CBA is an agreement between the league and the players association. It governs the rules of the league and competition format as well as the revenue splits and benefits conferred onto the players.

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Questions Raised Over Marketing Restrictions on Olympic Athletes

It has been reported that the European Commission met with officials from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in November to discuss rules that restrict athletes’ marketing activities during a ‘blackout’ period around the Olympic Games.

The meeting follows a recent ruling in Germany, which found that certain IOC restrictions breached antitrust rules and unlawfully limited athletes’ ability to earn money from sponsors.  Following commitments given by the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) and the IOC to loosen the rules on German athletes, it is understood that the European Commission may consider extending this approach to the rest of the EU.

The European Commission meeting also comes shortly after a group of British athletes, including Mo Farah, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Laura Muir and Adam Gemili, sent a Letter Before Claim to the British Olympic Association threatening legal action over its blackout rules.

On the eve of next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, the ability of athletes to engage in their own marketing – and the right of event sponsors to protect their investment – will come under significant scrutiny.  National Olympic Committees, athletes and the companies that support them will all be watching carefully.

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The United Colours of Benelux: Belgian and Dutch Authorities Consider Proposals for Combined Football League

Ajax’s run to the 2019 UEFA Champions’ League semi-final – European football’s premier club-cup competition – provided a welcome dose of nostalgia for those who remember the glory-days of Johan Cruyff in the 1970s and the Champions’ League winning team of 1995. However, in recent years, football clubs with rich histories such as Ajax, Feyenoord, Anderlecht and Club Brugge have generally struggled to reach the latter stages of the Champions’ League. Clubs from the Belgian Pro League and the Dutch Eredivisie find it difficult to compete financially with their counterparts in European football’s biggest leagues where revenues from broadcast deals and other commercial channels are much higher. As a result, it has become common for many of the Benelux clubs’ best players to move abroad in order to fulfil their footballing and financial ambitions. Continue Reading

A slam-dunk? Sweeping and dramatic changes may be coming to the NBA

Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe dropped, what is known as a Woj Bomb, last week as they announced that the NBA is in high level discussions with the NBPA (the National Basketball Players Association) and broadcasting partners concerning “sweeping and dramatic changes to the league calendar that include a reseeding of the four conference finalists, a 30 team in-season tournament, and a postseason play-in”.

Reasons for change

There are a number of reasons why the NBA may consider changing the league format.

A culture of ‘load management’ has emerged in the league, which involves players opting to rest for certain matches, especially where teams play back-to-back games. Players are resting in the regular season so that they are fresh and healthy for the playoffs. The intense regular season takes its toll on players with a commitment of 82 games between October and April coupled with the demands of travel across North America.

TV viewing figures have dropped this season – broadcast audiences have declined by 18% compared to this point last season.

The Western Conference is also “stacked” when compared to the Eastern Conference. Teams in the West are perceived to have a large number of title contenders whereas the East is considered to have very few title contenders. The current format splits the 30 NBA teams into two conferences of 15 teams: East and West. At the end of the regular season, the top eight teams in each Conference qualify for the playoffs, where they compete against other teams within their Conference. The winners of the respective Conference playoffs meet in the NBA Finals. There is growing pressure on the NBA to change this format so the 16 best teams across the NBA compete in the playoffs, potentially skewing the playoffs so that more Western Conference teams qualify.

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Brands and Football – The Perfect Match

The pulling power of the Premier League has attracted a portfolio of sponsors targeting global markets. With clubs battling for market share in the Far East and in a unique position to benefit from GDPR, there appears to be only one direction for the value of commercial partnerships. We share our perspectives in this video.

Football finance: Factoring in cash flow

Although it is trite to say that modern football clubs are very much run as businesses, there is often little consideration paid to the nuts and bolts of how these businesses work. As businesses, football clubs are not immune from the challenge of poor cash flow, which is prevalent across many industries. As such, clubs need to consider how best to leverage the financial tools at their disposal to improve their cash flow in order to maximise output both on the pitch and off it. One such tool is debt finance. While debt-finance comes in many forms, such as an overdraft, receivables finance has become increasingly prevalent in English football over recent years. Continue Reading

Three NBA players suspended for drug violations

The NBA commenced its new season on 22 October with the battle for Los Angeles, as Kawhi’s Clippers edged the Lakers this time. But, less than three weeks into the new season, attention has turned to off-the-court matters; three NBA players who were active on rosters last season have been suspended for testing positive for banned substances.

Wilson Chandler of the Brooklyn Nets tested positive for Ipamorelin, a growth hormone during the summer. The number 1 pick of last year’s draft, DeAndre Ayton tested positive for a diuretic whilst the Atlanta Hawks’ John Collins tested positive for Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide-2, a synthetic drug found to increase appetite and food intake.

The three players have been suspended without pay for 25 games for violations of the NBA/National Basketball’s Player Association (NBPA) Anti-Drug Program.

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HANDBALL!!! I think…

Sunday saw one of the most anticipated games of the 19/20 Premier League season as Liverpool FC hosted Manchester City at Anfield. Liverpool came away with the three points, however the victory was not without controversy. There were a number of decisions, which left Manchester City fans feeling aggrieved and the general football community becoming increasingly frustrated, and confused, with VAR and the new handball rule.

 After careful consideration of the law, it appears that the reason for the confusion stems from Premier League Guidance, which on its face contradicts The International Football Association Board’s (IFAB) Laws of the Game. The Laws of the game suggest that it should have been a penalty to Manchester City, albeit some discretion is reserved for the referee. The Premier League Guidance suggests that no penalty should have been awarded consequent upon the deflection from a player close by (and not by virtue of any alleged prior handball).

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The LeBron Effect, Grand Slams and Record Sales: Matching Rights in Football Kit Sponsorship Deals

On 25 October 2019 Mr Justice Teare handed down his judgment in the kit sponsorship dispute between New Balance Athletics (“NB”) v Liverpool Football Club (“LFC”). The dispute concerned whether NB had validly exercised its matching right set out in the contract between the parties entered into on 3 June 2011 (the “NB Agreement”) in the context of a competing offer from Nike (the “Nike Offer”).

The Nike Offer contained, inter alia, commitments in respect of distribution (the “Distribution Obligation”) and marketing (the “Marketing Obligation”). The key issues for the Judge to consider were: (i) was the matched distribution obligation in NB’s revised offer made in good faith; (ii) what was the Marketing Obligation in the Nike Offer and was it measurable and matchable; and (iii) whether the Distribution Obligation and Marketing Obligation in the Nike Offer were matched by NB.

Although a substantial portion of the judgment considered whether NB had complied with an implied duty to act in good faith in making its offer, the case turned on the Judge’s finding that the offer from NB was less favourable than the Nike offer because of the failure to name global stars “of the calibre of LeBron James, Serena Williams, Drake etc.” This decision is interesting, since the Judge accepted that the term in question did not commit Nike to using those specific celebrities. Rather, the Judge found that since the influence of those individuals could be measured, the clause contained a specific commitment which was not matched by NB. LFC was therefore free to enter into a new agreement with Nike.

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