For the first time in 128 years, cricket returns to the Olympics when it will feature at the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games (“LA28“). It has been a long leave of absence for the sport, which last featured at the 1900 Olympics in Paris, when Great Britain secured the gold medal against the host nation in the only match of the Games.
As announced by the International Olympic Committee (“IOC“) last month, baseball/softball, flag football, lacrosse and squash will join cricket as the approved “additional sports” for LA 28. But how exactly are new sports added to the programme for the Olympic Games and what considerations does the IOC take into account?
After years in the making, the Online Safety Act (the “OSA”) has come into force after receiving Royal Assent on 26 October 2023 (as discussed in our blog here).
Amidst the proliferation of social media use, there has been a worrying increase in the levels of abuse that players, athletes, officials, managers, coaches and other individuals connected with the sports industry are facing. Notably, for the 2022/2023 football season, Kick it Out, an organisation which campaigns against discrimination in football, reported a 279% increase in reports of online abuse. To give a sense of the scale of and spikes in the abuse that those connected with the sports industry can face, the abusive comments on Bruno Fernandes’ social media pages following a penalty miss, increased 3,000% that day and he continued to receive hateful messages every hour for two weeks following the miss.
Given this context, it comes as little surprise that sports organisations such as the English Football Association (“FA”), Kick it Out, English Football League (EFL), Premier League and the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) worked closely with the Government on the OSA to help tackle discrimination against individuals online. Whilst online abuse of footballers often hits the headlines given the sports’ widespread popularity, the issues are unfortunately commonplace across the sporting landscape. The recent Rugby World Cup highlighted incidents of abuse not only targeted at players, such as Tom Curry in the wake of England’s semi-final with South Africa, but also abuse of, and threats to, a number of officials. A further example includes reports of female tennis players facing online threats on social media from gamblers.
If enforced effectively, it is hoped the OSA could be a significant step forward in improving the online protection of those in sport as well as society more broadly. However, as the joint statement issued by the FA warns, there is still a lot to be done before real change is likely to be seen. Despite the OSA being over 250 pages long, the majority of its substantive provisions are not yet in force and require implementation via codes and secondary legislation.
It has been over two years since the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) lifted its prohibition on college athletes being able to profit from their name, image, and likeness (“NIL”). When people traditionally think of NIL, they think of student athletes at the collegiate level receiving payment for their likeness. However, collegiate athletes are not the only student athletes able to avail themselves of the burgeoning world of NIL.
To date, thirty-three states have enacted some form of legislation or executive order permitting high school athletes to profit from their NIL. As the NIL landscape continues to develop, one of the more interesting questions posed as a result of these new policies is whether or how a student athlete’s engagement in NIL at the high school level might affect their NCAA eligibility. A new lawsuit of first impression could address this very issue.
The men’s Rugby World Cup (“RWC”) 2023 will be remembered for its nail-biting knockout games, not least the heavyweight quarter-final clashes between the northern and southern hemisphere. The tournament also saw the emergence of Tier 2 teams, such as Portugal and Uruguay.
Amidst this backdrop and four days prior to South Africa being crowned World Champions for a record fourth time, on 24 October 2023, World Rugby announced a transformational reform to the men’s and women’s global calendars. This aims to grow the game and align the international and club game. World Rugby Chair Sir Bill Beaumont described the reform as “the most significant development to the sport since the game went professional [in 1995]”.
Much of the reform is centred around adjustments to World Rugby Regulation 9. These adjustments will clarify windows of player release for international duties and develop so-called “Player Load Guidelines”.
This article will outline the changes World Rugby announced on 24 October.
Flag football is a variant of American football. The major difference is, instead of the crunching tackles or sacks you’ll see on a National Football League (NFL) field, the sport is noncontact. Tackles are made by pulling off an opponent’s flag, which all players have to wear round their waist.
In February 2023, as discussed in a previous blog article, an amateur rugby player was held liable by the English civil courts for injuring an opposition player “without any regard for [their] wellbeing or safety… and intent only on exactly revenge”. Given the nature of the offending ‘tackle’ (which rendered the claimant paraplegic and was described by the judge as “deliberate”, “gratuitous” and “obviously dangerous”), it begs the question of when conduct on the field of play could (or should) constitute a criminal act and be prosecuted accordingly?
There have been various instances over the last 3-4 years where on-field actions have prompted allegations of criminality. For instance, during the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, former Welsh international Jamie Roberts suggested that Sebastien Vahaamahina’s red card (for elbowing Aaron Wainwright in the face during a maul) in the France vs Wales quarter-final “belonged in a criminal court, let alone in front of a rugby judiciary”. Meanwhile, a sickening crash in the 2020 Tour de Pologne prompted the General Manager of Dutch Deceunick-Quick-Step (“DQS”) to publicly state that Dylan Groenewegen should be “thrown in jail” for deviating into Fabio Jakobsen’s line, causing him to collide with external barriers, and leaving the DQS rider with life-threatening injuries.
It is worth noting that neither of the above resulted in criminal prosecutions and, where incidents occur outside the UK (such as those), they would be handled under local law in any event. That said, there is a bar – albeit a high one in England and Wales – whereby law enforcement will be obliged to intervene in relation to acts committed on the sports field. In this article, Henry Goldschmidt examines the uneasy relationship between sport and criminality under English law and how internal disciplinary, civil and criminal proceedings can overlap in respect of on-field violence.
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.
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.” …
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. 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.