Kicking Off the Discussion on the Future of Women’s Football

Football in the middle of a stadium.

Women’s football is firmly in the spotlight this summer.  Following a record-breaking domestic season, where viewership and live audiences for the Women’s Super League (WSL) hit an all time high, the expanded World Cup format is showcasing the ever-increasing quality and strength in depth of the women’s game.  Despite a faltering build up for the Lionesses, not least with knee injuries ruling the captain, Leah Williamson, and star players Beth Mead and Fran Kirby out of the tournament, the European champions are showing good promise on the pitch after progressing to the knock-out stages with an emphatic win against China. 

While all signs point towards a bright future for women’s football in England and beyond, the sport is still at a nascent stage.  There remain clear opportunities for improvement and growth. 

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Women’s Sports on the Rise

Basketball arena

The 2023 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball national championship averaged 9.9 million viewers, becoming the most-watched women’s college basketball game and ESPN platforms’ most-viewed college basketball game (men’s or women’s) on record, and it was not even playing in a prime-time slot. This shows a tidal shift in the interest and growing opportunity in women’s sports, and portends ensuing attention on the governing bodies who oversee them. 

How we got here

Women’s sports have historically not been treated equally compared to their male counterparts, and the findings have been well documented. For one prominent example, the USA Women’s National Soccer Team filed a discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation for paying their male counterparts more than them on the basis that the men’s game “requires a higher level of skill.” …

To view the full article please visit Global Investigations and Compliance Review, where this post was originally published.

On icy ground: Kamila Valieva and the challenge of pleading “no fault or negligence” in anti-doping cases


On 21 February 2023, the World Anti-Doping Agency (“WADA”) issued a statement confirming that it was appealing the decision of the disciplinary tribunal of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (“RUSADA”) in the case of Kamila Valieva to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”). Although the full decision has not been published, the RUSADA tribunal found that the teenage figure skater bore ‘no fault or negligence’ (“NFON”) in testing positive for a banned heart drug, Trimetazidine, in December 2021 and, as such, no period of ineligibility was imposed.

Based on information in the public domain relating to the sample in question, and the explanation reportedly provided on behalf of Valieva (discussed below), WADA’s decision to appeal is unsurprising. Indeed, pleading NFON is notoriously difficult under the WADA regime and, whilst WADA does not provide specific data of the incidence of inadvertent doping, statistics for 2017 showed that only 4% of positive tests resulted in no sanction at all.[1] As well as looking at the background of the Valieva case, I examine below:

  • the requisite legal hurdles that an athlete must overcome to establish NFON;
  • the types of cases where the threshold has been deemed to be met;
  • why ‘no significant fault or negligence’ (“NSFON”) awards are more commonplace for inadvertent anti-doping rule violations (“ADRVs”); and
  • what other factors might enable an athlete to eliminate their sanction.

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How The UAE Is Legislating To Promote Grassroots Sports

This article was written for and first published by LawInSport. The original version is available to view here

The UAE government has always placed a strong emphasis on physical education for Emirati and expat youth and as early as 2010, the government started introducing binding regulations 1 in that space. In time, this also started trickling down to numerous school sports programs and initiatives that are aimed at healthy living. Practicing organized sports has proven benefits in reducing the risk of child-obesity and combating historically high rates of Type 2 Diabetes not to mention mental health and well-being benefits, by promoting socialization, self-esteem and self-confidence.

The sports industry and parents are no doubt glad to see that the UAE is not resting on its laurels and is seeking to do more by legislating for further development and maturity. The 2021-2022 UAE legislative agenda was the busiest in some years, with progressive and wide-ranging new legislation that includes promising developments for sports. This momentum shows little signs of slowing down, including in the sports sector.

This article examines the latest developments in grassroots sport in the UAE, looking at:

  • Scouting local talent
  • New sports law
  • New synergies (and oversight)?
  • The role of organized youth sports in the development of professional sports and national sports teams

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On-field Negligence in Sport: The English High Court rules in Czernuszka v King

Two females playing rugby

On 23 February 2023, the English High Court ruled that amateur rugby player Natasha King had been negligent when she executed a “tackle” on opponent Dani Czernuszka “without any regard for the well-being or safety of the [latter] and intent only on exacting revenge” during a women’s developmental match.[1]  As such, Ms King (the Defendant) was deemed liable for the life-changing injuries that Ms Czernuszka (the Claimant) sustained in October 2017 – a T11/12 fracture, resulting in paraplegia. Liability and quantum were bifurcated so there will now be an assessment of the applicable damages, which could be considerable.

Aside from the impact on the parties involved, this case raises legal issues regarding expert evidence, the relevant standard of care owed between sportspersons, premeditation, and distinguishing between a dangerous act and one that is legally negligent (a distinction that counsel for the Claimant asserted is “paper thin[2]).  There is also a wider question: should this finding of on-field negligence be a cause of concern (or, conversely, provide some comfort) for sports participants in England and Wales?

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Gambling on Top Flight Footballers: ASA Ruling

Sad football fans

The Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) has issued its first ruling under the new rules that prohibit gambling ads with “strong appeal” to under-18s, providing a useful example as to how the new rules will be applied.

Updated Gambling Ad Rules

As covered in more detail in a previous article for this blog, on 1 October 2022 new rules in the UK advertising codes came into effect that restrict the content of gambling ads. The rules of both the UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (“CAP Code”) and the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (“BCAP Code”) were updated to prohibit all gambling ads that are “likely to be of strong appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture”.

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Improving Diversity, Equity & Inclusion In Sport – Lessons From Australia & UAE

This article was written for and first published by LawInSport. The original version is available to view here

During Australia’s 2022 National Rugby League season, seven players from the Manly Sea Eagles, a team in the National Rugby League competition, refused to play in a jersey that featured rainbow trim. The design, called the “Everyone in League” kit, was intended to be worn by the team as a one-off to celebrate inclusivity, but it became known as a “pride jersey”, supporting the LGBTIQ+ community, due to the use of the rainbow palette. The seven players cited religious and cultural objections to wearing the jersey and, because the rules of the National Rugby League require all players in a team to wear a “distinctive” (seemingly interpreted as “identical”) jersey1, opted not to play the match in which the jersey was worn.

The story made international headlines2 and was widely talked about across Australia. Instead of uniting the rugby league community to promote inclusivity, the issue divided the Manly Sea Eagles team, rugby league fans and the general population. While some argued that a sporting club has no right to force a particular ideology on its players, others argued that wearing the jersey was just part of their “job”.

The “pride jersey” controversy highlights an important message for all organisations that want to foster diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) – even initiatives implemented with the best of intentions can have unintended consequences. With that in mind, and taking inspiration from other events in the world of sport, this article examines some interesting examples from Australia and the UAE, before suggesting some “rules of play” for organisations to follow to lessen the risk of inadvertent outcomes.

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How Schools and Private Entities Have Engaged in NIL Activity

Now that a regulatory framework is in place, either by way of the NCAA’s interim policy or through the various state laws discussed in the second iteration of this blog series, academic institutions and private entities, such as alumni and companies, have quickly engaged in the NIL space. This final post of our three-part blog series explores some of the ways these entities and individuals have interacted with NIL in the world of college athletics.

How Schools and Their Athletes Are Entering the Mix

Recognizing that NIL deals are now a significant factor in recruitment and that NIL is here to stay, schools are getting involved in the process. This is primarily accomplished in two ways: through school-specific NIL policies, and NIL departments aimed at facilitating and educating players.

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How US Federal and State Legislatures Have Addressed NIL

As discussed in part one of this blog series, the landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court in the Alston case effectively paved the way for collegiate athletes to profit from their own name, image, and likeness (“NIL”). While many states quickly enacted legislation addressing NIL, it remains to be seen whether and how NIL will be legislated at the federal level.

State Law Addressing NIL

As of July 8, 2022, 29 states have passed legislation regulating or otherwise addressing how student-athletes can profit from their name, image, and likeness. Of those, 24 such laws are currently in effect[1]. Those that are not yet in place are slated to take effect by July 2023 at the latest[2]. An additional 10 states have proposed legislation currently pending in various stages of the legislative process[3].

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Name, Image, and Likeness in US College Athletics: One Year Later

In the United States, college athletics are as popular as professional sports, generating revenues of over $1 billion for the 2021 fiscal year. Despite this popularity, college athletes have long been classified by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) as having amateur status.

The NCAA—which promulgates the rules and regulations pertaining to student-athletes’ participation and eligibility in college sports—defines an amateur as “someone who does not have a written or verbal agreement with an agent, has not profited above his/her actual and necessary expenses or gained a competitive advantage in his/her sport.”   

Throughout the history of the NCAA, student-athletes were prohibited from making money from their name, image, or likeness—a concept commonly referred to as “NIL”. They could not be paid for signing autographs or entering into sponsorship deals, nor could they profit from the sales of jerseys bearing their name. Put differently, many of the ways in which professional athletes make their money were strictly off-limits to college players. But on July 1, 2021, the world of college sports transitioned into a new era, as the NCAA lifted the ban on player compensation and instituted an Interim NIL Policy.

This is the first of a three-part blog series that examines how, one year later, the various entities that operate within the world of college athletics, such as the players, businesses, and the academic institutions themselves, have adapted to the new reality and the dawn of NIL.

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