Agreement Not To Poach Footballers Could Be In Breach Of Competition Rules

The Portuguese Competition Authority (“PCA”) last week ordered the Portuguese Professional Football League (“LPFP”) to suspend no-poach agreements implemented between clubs.  This follows the adoption by the LPFP of a resolution whereby football clubs agreed not to hire football players from other clubs “who unilaterally terminated their employment contract due to issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic”.

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Leonard v Nike: Copyright in the Klaw

Kawhi Leonard has been in the headlines for all of the right reasons recently. He led the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first NBA championship and won the Finals MVP before leaving in free agency to play for the Los Angeles Clippers. Leonard became an internet sensation for his quiet and private demeanour with fans revealing certain nuances such as his motto “board man gets paid” and his hands that have been measured at 11.5 inches across.

Whilst at San Diego State University (between 2009 and 2011), Leonard designed a logo, which was a sketch of his hand, incorporating a “KL” and “2” within the sketch. Leonard entered the NBA Draft in 2011 and signed an endorsement contract with Nike. Leonard’s defensive prowess on the basketball court earnt him the nickname of the ‘Klaw’, which certainly fits in with the logo he originally designed.

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The NFL Approves New Measures To The “Rooney Rule”

The NFL recently introduced new measures to expand what is colloquially known as the “Rooney Rule,” which was instituted to promote and encourage diversity hiring.

Named after the late Dan Rooney – former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and chairperson of the National Football League’s (“NFL”) diversity committee – the Rooney Rule is a NFL policy that requires teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs (e.g., general manager). Notably, there is no hiring preference given to minority candidates; the Rooney Rule only requires that teams interview a certain amount of individuals.

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Women’s sport in lockdown: The W Series

In a pre-lockdown world, momentum was the watch-word for women’s sport.  2019 was a year to remember.  The FIFA Women’s World Cup in France saw a shift in perception of women’s football, with the level of skill and entertainment on the pitch gaining new levels of respect and interest.  In turn, the sponsorship, prize money and viewing figures were all record-breaking.

Other sports have taken the opportunity to ride on this wave of popularity.  Governing bodies have become more active in promoting women’s sport both at the grass roots and elite level.  There has been a notable increase in broadcasters and commercial sponsors investing in women’s sport.

The ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 was one of the last major events before Covid-19 put a halt to world sport.  The viewing and attendance figures were the highest ever enjoyed by women’s cricket and the 86,174-strong crowd for the final between Australia and India, taking place in Melbourne on International Women’s Day, holds the attendance record for a women’s sport match in Australia and is the second highest ever attendance for a women’s sport match globally.

The direction of travel for women’s sport was clear and stakeholders will be keen to prevent the global pandemic slowing the momentum in the long term.

Here we focus on the W Series and take a look at where the fledgling Series stands and how it is coping with the Coronavirus crisis.

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Are Digital Health Passports the Key to Unlocking UK Stadiums? The data privacy perspective

The ban on mass gatherings in order to combat the spread of COVID-19 resulted in the cancellation or postponement of sporting fixtures and live events globally. This includes the English Premier League that had to postpone all fixtures following the lockdown.

On 10 May 2020, Boris Johnson announced that, as part of the UK government’s three-stage strategy to lift the lockdown, sporting fixtures would be able to resume no earlier than 1 June 2020.  The outcome of the Premier League’s recent ‘Project Restart’ discussions is that (in line with many other sports) games will resume behind closed doors for the foreseeable future.

With sports clubs and other live event venues desperate to re-open the doors to stadiums in order to restore much needed revenue and with fans keen to return, the key question is how can they orchestrate a staged return to some form of normality, whilst maintaining safety for fans and the wider community? As with many other parts of the economy, technology is likely to play a key part in the solution to re-invigorate the sports and entertainment industry.

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K-League 1 strikes record broadcasting rights deals following league restart

Last week, Sports Shorts reported on how the top European football leagues were dealing with the completion of their 2019/2020 seasons as a result of Covid-19. Since then we have seen the much anticipated return of Germany’s Bundesliga (over the weekend just passed), which benefited from record viewership.

The K-League 1 (the “K-League”), South Korea’s top men’s professional football division, has also benefited from surging international interest. The K-League was the first professional football league to resume following a countrywide lock-down, with action resuming on 8 May 2020. Given that it was some of the only top flight football being played, it garnered significant and new interest from international broadcasters.

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How the top European football leagues are dealing with their 2019/20 seasons

Over the course of the last two months professional football across Europe has ground to a halt. In an attempt to lend some shape and certainty to the European football landscape, UEFA announced in April that all its European members had until 25 May to make a decision about their respective leagues. Some leagues have already called time on their seasons, while others are aiming for a restart in the near future.

This article looks at the path followed by some of Europe’s top football leagues to date.

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Opportunities and challenges faced by the NBA

On 12 March, the NBA announced its decision to suspend the current season. The COVID-19 crisis was escalating in the USA and a number of NBA stars had tested positive for the virus. It came at an unfortunate time, perhaps the most interesting period of the regular season, as teams battled for top spots and began increasing the intensity in anticipation for the playoffs. A certain Los Angeles Laker was activating “playoff mode” as the Lakers logged impressive consecutive wins over the 76ers, Bucks and Clippers.basketball

The NBA is no stranger to seasons being suspended ad cut short. As noted in previous Sports Shorts blogs, the league enters into Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) with its athletes. Continue Reading

Esports & the global pandemic

Esports arenaAs the world of traditional sports has ground to halt, esports has garnered much media attention, certainly in respect of those esports that operate within the purview of traditional sports. The esports industry was already thriving before the pandemic, attracting billions of pounds in revenues and huge viewing audiences. With the world on lockdown and most of us staying at home, many have turned to online gaming as a way to pass the time.

It is not entirely correct to say that simply because esports can be conducted online it is unaffected by the pandemic. While it is true that some competitions have found new life, and more people are themselves playing online, live events also form a big part of the professional esports sector and, in this way, esports is not immune from the effects of COVID-19.

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Partial Summary Judgment Granted to U.S Soccer

On Friday, May 1, 2020, Judge Gary Klausner of the United States District Court for the Central District of California granted partial summary judgment to U.S. Soccer in a pay equity class action lawsuit brought by members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team. In his ruling, Judge Klausner dismissed the U.S. women’s argument that U.S. Soccer systematically underpaid the women in relation to the earnings of the U.S. men’s national soccer team. This decision vitiated nearly $66 million in claimed damages on behalf of the women. Judge Klausner also dismissed a claim sounding in unsafe play as a result of training and playing on artificial turf. The women’s remaining claims include: (1) assorted personnel and support services issues (i.e. medical and training support), and (2) discriminatory working conditions based on travel accommodations (i.e. transportation via charter plane and lodging). The remaining claims will be tried in front of a jury, with a court date tentatively set for June 16, 2020. Although Klausner’s findings are a blow to the women’s soccer team, the players still have a right to appeal the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

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