Got, got, need! Football trading cards meet blockchain

Football and blockchain: It may not be the most obvious of pairings, but stakeholders in the football world are beginning to dip their toes in the water, when it comes to using blockchain technology in their commercial operations.

Readers of Sports Shorts may have fond memories of schooldays spent collecting trading cards or stickers depicting their favourite footballers. The perceived value of these trading cards fluctuated depending on the player, the scarcity of the card and, in some cases, whether it was a “shiny” or “foil” card. The inherently tradeable nature of the cards made playground entrepreneurs out of those skilled enough to judge the value of cards to their classmates as well as providing hours of fun. For many people, that love of collecting trading cards or stickers continued well into adulthood.

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A Time to Celebrate Women in Sport

Last Friday was International Women’s Day – a day where women are celebrated in countries around the world. In March alone, UK sportswomen have more than earned recognition for their achievements. Laura Muir retained her European 1,500m and 3,000m titles, beating the 31-year-old British indoor mile record by 5 seconds at the European Indoor Championships, the England Women’s Football Team won the SheBelievesCup, and, after crushing victories, England Women’s Rugby are on track for a Six Nations win.

I hope I am not getting too carried away when I say that there is currently a real momentum behind women’s sport, and importantly, women’s achievements are being recognised in the media. I am increasingly seeing the triumphs of sportswomen decorating the headlines. The live coverage of female sport is also increasing. For example, the BBC will show every England game in the run up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer. I am slowly seeing more female presenters appear in mainstream sports programmes, such as Alex Scott, who made history as the first female pundit on Sky Sports’ Super Sunday. Continue Reading

A ‘Nations Championship’ for Rugby Union – One for the TMO to Review?

World Rugby intends to tinker with the international fixture list by creating a Nations Championship competition, as confirmed in their recent statement. The launch is rumoured to be planned for early next year, however this latest proposal might be kicked into touch quicker than an Englishman can bring up Jonny Wilkinson’s left boot to an Aussie counterpart.

According to a report in the New Zealand Herald, the blueprint envisages that a 12-team annual league will spearhead the revival of test matches worldwide. The league would be comprised of the Northern Hemisphere Six Nations teams and the Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championship teams, with the addition of emerging rugby nations Japan and the USA. The format would see the teams playing each other once during the year, with the semi-finals and a final to be contested in the Northern Hemisphere in November or December. Continue Reading

VAR Reaching Consequences? The £9.2 Million Refereeing Decision and Changes to the Laws of the Beautiful Game

Refereeing decisions are frequently the subject of debate in the world of football; these decisions generate such interest because they can often be interpreted in different ways. This is one factor, which contributes to the game’s unpredictability.

A prime example of this occurred last night. During Manchester United’s last 16 Champions League match against PSG, the referee, Damir Skovina, awarded a last minute penalty to United for a handball by PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe, following a referral from the video assistant referee (“VAR”). All four of the former players in the BT Sport studio (host Gary Lineker, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen and Owen Hargreaves) thought the penalty was incorrectly awarded; however, Peter Walton, a former Premier League referee retained by BT Sport to give his expert opinion on refereeing incidents, was in agreement with Skovina and thought the award of the penalty was correct.

Marcus Rashford stepped up to score the resulting penalty, meaning United won the tie and in doing so became the first team in Champions League history to overcome a 2-0 or greater home first-leg deficit in the knock out stages of the competition. United will now progress to the quarter-final, for which they will receive an additional £9.2 million in prize money.

Following the AGM of the International Football Association Board (“IFAB”), which was held in Aberdeen on 2 March 2019, a change to the handball law, together with a number of other law changes, will take effect in June 2019.

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Not illegal, not specified, not described, not restrained – Leeds United, utmost good faith and the EFL Regulations

On 18 February, the English Football League (“EFL”) handed Leeds United a sizeable fine of £200,000 as well as issuing a formal reprimand and warning for sending staff to ‘spy’ on opposition training before matches. This was an initiative instigated by the Head Coach, Marcelo Bielsa. The decision followed Bielsa’s comprehensive PowerPoint presentation in January that demonstrated the full extent of his game preparation, which included watching videos of every single opposition game and populating a document with tactical notes.

Contrary to obligation to act in utmost good faith

One interesting element is that Bielsa’s practice was (and is) not contrary to a specific prohibition under the EFL Regulations. In this way the manager was right to say that what he had done was “not illegal…not specified…not described…not restrained.” The sanctions were imposed and accepted pursuant to EFL Regulation 3.4 in Section 2 – Membership:

“In all matters and transactions relating to The League each Club shall behave towards each other Club and The League with the utmost good faith. Further, each Club shall deliver to the League a copy of the Club Charter signed by the appropriate Relevant Person for and on behalf of the Club. The League shall be entitled to publish the Club Charter.”

This is similar to the wording of the Premier League Chairmen’s Charter which has been in force in the Premier League for roughly a decade and is aimed at ensuring integrity in Clubs conduct with each other. The Chairmen’s Charter is incorporated into the Premier League Handbook and provides that:

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Public Funding of Spanish professional football clubs: a game worth playing?

The saga involving Spain’s public funding of certain Spanish football clubs took a new turn on 26 February 2019, as the General Court of the European Union overturned the European Commission’s (“EC”) ruling that FC Barcelona had received unlawful state aid from Spain.

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NBA Enforces Respect for Match Officials

Basketball RefereeGolden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was fined $25,000 before the All-Star break for “verbally abusing and confronting a game official”.

Last year’s NBA champions found themselves trailing the Portland Trail Blazers in the fourth quarter of a heated matchup. Draymond Green was called for what would usually be considered a common foul, but the officials upgraded his violation to a ‘flagrant foul 1’ upon review. A flagrant foul 1 involves excessive or severe contact during a live ball, such as swinging an elbow.

Steve Kerr slammed his clipboard onto the courtside scorers’ table in response, earning his first technical foul of the game. The officials then gave Kerr his second technical foul shortly after as he colourfully approached the officials. He eventually had to be restrained by two time All-Star MVP and two time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant and was ejected from the game.

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Investigation into the equestrian show-jumping federation resulted in a welcomed settlement

The Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) has closed the ongoing investigation into the international governing body of equestrian sports, Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI). The investigation was instigated after the competition prosecutor general at the BCA received complaints in 2015.

In 2015, the Global Champions League (GCL) accused the FEI of imposing “exclusivity clauses” that prevented riders from competing in events not approved by the FEI and filed a complaint with the BCA. The GCL believed that the FEI foreclosed competitors from the market for the organisation and commercial operation of 5* competitions. These complaints included: (i) certain provisions of the FEI General Regulations stipulate that the participation of athletes, horses or officials in events not approved by the FEI could be subject to a penalty of six months renewable; (ii) the lack of transparency of the FEI approval process; and (iii) the severity on the sanctions imposed on athletes, horses and official participating in competitions not approved by the FEI.

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Rugby on the back foot – but have the Lawes gone far enough?

Rugby passWhen Courtney Lawes charged down that box kick in the dying minutes of the England v New Zealand game last Autumn, every English fan thought their team had snatched a rare victory against the All Blacks.  The charge down set up a mesmerising side-step and thrilling try from an unlikely source in flanker Sam Underhill.

But no.  As rugby fans are now all too well-accustomed, even when the referee awards a try on the pitch, it is best not to celebrate too early.  The TMO checked (and re-checked) the footage and eventually ruled that Lawes was offside.  The try was disallowed, and England lost 15-16.

This controversial offside decision divided the rugby community and has attracted much debate.

Laws after Lawes

In the wake of the Lawes decision and ahead of this year’s Six Nations, World Rugby has amended the Laws of the Game (“Laws”).

The change affects Law 15.4, with the definition of offside at a ruck now the hindmost ‘point’ rather the hindmost ‘foot’.  The offside line:

runs parallel to the goal line through the hindmost point of any ruck participant.’

Previously, the Laws stated that the offside line:

‘runs parallel to the goal line through the ruck participants’ hindmost foot.’

There is also a subtle change in specifying ‘any ruck participant’.  This seeks to clarify that offside at a ruck is determined by the player furthest back on the defensive side.  It does not matter whether that player is from the defending or attacking team.

The changes to the definition will make the offside line more distinct for officials and players.  There will be no need to assess which defender’s foot is furthest back.  This can only be a positive step.

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“Football’s Coming Home”…but to which country? FIFA’s National Team Eligibility Rules Explained

Representing one’s country on the international stage has long been reported as the pinnacle of a footballer’s ambition. In present times, the development of international club competitions has challenged that notion. For fans of the English national representative team, the FIFA World Cup 2018 was a fantastic event, capturing mass national support for international football, as the Three Lions’ fourth place heroics restored national pride in the country’s ability at national representative level, whilst also uniting the nation during a period of political uncertainty.

The subject of international football, like any other international team sport, brings into play the issue of national team eligibility, with international stars such Diego Costa, Wilfried Zaha and the Boateng brothers (to name a few) considering the rules issued by FIFA to determine which nation or nations they are entitled to seek to represent.

Very recently, West Ham United’s newest prodigy, Declan Rice, has committed his future to seeking to represent England at full international level, despite having made several appearances for the Republic of Ireland at underage level, and having a few caps for the senior side  – This case will be discussed in more detail below.

When it comes to eligibility for a national team, many may think that this is a straightforward process i.e. play for one team and one team only – the country of birth. However, these recent cases have highlighted that the situation is more complicated than that, taking account of, inter alia, differing circumstances of geography and citizenship, and on occasion can prove controversial.

The rules governing a player’s eligibility for a national representative team are summarised below.

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