Women In Sports Law London Breakfast Panel

Squire Patton Boggs and Women in Sports Law were delighted to co-host a breakfast panel event in London on 9 May 2024, showcasing four esteemed women working in the sports industry. The panellists included Edwina Haddon (Senior Counsel, Chelsea Football Club), Janice Shardlow (Director of Governance, Commonwealth Games Federation), Julia Lowis (Senior Legal Counsel, International Tennis Integrity Agency) and Catherine Ure (Legal Counsel, Red Bull Racing).

The thought-provoking and lively discussion included:

  • What initially attracted each panellist to sports law, and how they ultimately made it into the profession and their current role
  • Tips and tricks for women seeking to move into and upwards in sports law
  • Career challenges they have faced and how these were overcome
  • Current role and their typical working day
  • The dynamics of working in a male-dominated industry

Our panellists highlighted their differing professional backgrounds and career routes, and explained how they overcame various challenges in order to achieve their career goals (both personal and external hurdles). They also highlighted some key skills for success, how perseverance and resilience are vital, and the importance of a strong and intentional professional network. 

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Women’s Sport Round Up (UK)

On Leap Year Day 2024, Squire Patton Boggs held its inaugural women’s sport symposium, Leap into the Future of Women’s Sport.  Bringing together key figures from across the sports industry, the Symposium focussed on what is next for commercialisation, investment and growth, and maternity and parental policies.  For a flavour of the talking points, please see our recent blog on commercial rights in women’s sport.   

In the weeks following the Symposium, we have already seen some further leaps forward for this fast-moving industry.  The following is a round-up of some of the most recent developments in:

  • Women’s Rugby
  • Women’s Cricket
  • Women’s Football

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Women’s Sport Symposium: Panel Session – Commercialisation of Rights

Our dedicated Women’s Sport Group hosted its inaugural Women’s Sport Symposium on 29 February 2024 to discuss key issues across the women’s sporting landscape. Amongst other topics, a panel of key figures and experts, which was chaired by Sarah Butler (Founder of Sports Business Connected), discussed the pertinent issue of the commercialisation of women’s sports rights.

Key Opportunities and Challenges

Women’s sport, and the commercialisation of its rights, is at a crucial crossroads in its development. The exponential growth in the viewership and visibility of women’s sport in recent years has been widely reported and rightly celebrated. As covered in a previous Sports Shorts blog post, 2023 was another record-breaking year with 46.7m people tuning in to watch women’s sport on linear TV, surpassing the previous record set in 2019 by nearly a million.[1] Women’s elite sport is also predicted to break through the billion-dollar barrier and generate global revenues in excess of $1bn for the first time in 2024.[2] Whilst the numbers make for great reading and present numerous opportunities, they also bring with them certain challenges.

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Afghanistan Cricket: An ICC Conundrum

On 19 March 2024, Cricket Australia (“CA”) announced its decision to withdraw from their three-match men’s T20 series against Afghanistan because of the ongoing restrictions on women and girls in the country. This will be the third bilateral series that CA have declined to play against Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021. In March 2023, CA cited the “marked deterioration in human rights for women and girls” for not playing a scheduled ODI series, and the Australian Government has since advised that conditions are “getting worse”.[1] Once again, this has thrust the spotlight on Afghanistan’s continued status as a Full Member of the International Cricket Council (“ICC”) and whether more national cricket associations should be following CA’s lead by taking matters into their own hands.

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Olympic Games: New Social Media Guidance for 2024 Athletes

swimming

With the summer Olympic Games rapidly approaching, the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) recently announced new guidance for social and digital media at the 2024 games. Our colleagues at SPB’s Global IP & Tech blog took an interesting look at how social media guidelines are evolving and how athletes, brands and spectators will experience the games in more engaging ways than ever. Both athletes and brands will need to be mindful of the IOC’s guidelines and adapt their strategies accordingly. 

Check out the full post: New Social Media Guidance for 2024 Olympians | Global IP & Technology Law Blog (iptechblog.com)

NCAA Pauses NIL Investigations Following Court Order

Following the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee’s grant of a preliminary injunction in the recent case filed against the NCAA, captioned Tennessee and Virginia v. NCAA, the NCAA has decided to halt investigations into third-party involvement in name, image, and likeness (NIL) compensation deals with Division I college athletes. In granting the injunction, the Court opined that the NCAA’s rules prevent athletes from “obtaining full, fair market value for [their NIL] rights,” and opined that such restrictions were “anticompetitive.”[1]

While the NCAA maintains certain policies regarding NIL compensation, such as prohibiting schools from directly paying athletes or tying compensation to athletic performance, it has opted to pause investigations involving third-party participation, or groups that are commonly known as NIL collectives.[2]

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The NCAA and ESPN Sign $920 Million, Eight-Year Media Rights Agreement

Valued at roughly $115 million annually, the NCAA and ESPN have come to an eight-year media rights deal effective September 1st of this year and running through 2032. The introduction of this “multi-platform home” will include media rights to 40 NCAA championships along with international media rights to those same 40 championships and the Division I men’s basketball championship.[1]

More specifically, the agreement will include rights to 21 women’s and 19 men’s championships. Throughout a given year, over 800 hours of NCAA championships will be made available to viewers through ESPN linear networks, providing over “2,300 combined on linear and digital platforms.”[2] Although 24 of the sports were covered in ESPN and the NCAA’s previous agreement, NCAA Division I tennis championships and men’s gymnastics, among others, will now be included.   

This deal may also impact the everchanging NIL landscape. Among other opportunities, this deal, and the corresponding national media exposure, could significantly expand the platform for many student athletes to profit from their talents and performance on the court, field, or in the rink.  This is especially true for student athletes who compete in sports that heretofore did not have as much exposure on a national stage.

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Preserving Fair Competition in Esports: How Should We View the Lifetime Ban Handed Out to Shyshko?

Introduction and Background

In its statement published at the end of last year regarding the disciplinary action taken against Alexey Shyshko, the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) pronounced that Shyshko’s actions had “tarnished the reputation of esports as a whole” and “threatened the very foundation of fair competition in esports”.[1]  ESIC’s public statement accompanied a lifetime ban for Shyshko and additional sanctions on teams and individuals associated with him.

This article considers an overview of Shyshko’s activities leading to the sanctions meted out, the role of ESIC and what conclusions can be drawn from this case amidst the wider context of preserving the integrity of competition in esports.

As the commercial profile of esports has grown and betting markets for the sector have become more popular and expansive, it is not surprising that the industry has had to confront the risk of betting-related corruption and match-fixing, as traditional sports have had to do. Since the first major scandal in South Korea in 2010, which resulted in twelve StarCraft 2 professionals being arrested over charges of match-fixing and illegal betting, there have been various incidents of varying degrees of severity.  However, the lifetime ban handed down to Shyshko is an unprecedented sanction.

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Court Grants TRO in NIL Lawsuit

As discussed in a recent blog post, on January 21, 2024, the Attorneys General for Tennessee and Virginia filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, arguing that a new set of NCAA rules governing certain Name, Image, and Likeness activities in college athletics were violative of Section 1 of the Sherman Act.  In their complaint, the Plaintiff-states sought, among other forms of relief, “a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop the NCAA from enforcing the [rules].”[1]

On February 23, 2024, the Court granted the preliminary injunction.  The crux of the Court’s decision lies in its determination that the NCAA’s rules, which prohibit athletes and recruits from negotiating NIL compensation in certain circumstances[2], amount to price-fixing, stifling competition and depriving athletes of their rightful economic opportunities. In its 13-page memorandum, the Court remarked that:

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Inside the English Premier League’s latest media rights deal: What does it tell us about the current state of play of the market?

In the wake of the announcement by the English Premier League (EPL) of the “largest sports media rights deal ever concluded in the UK[1] at the end of last year, this article considers key takeaways, as well as how this latest EPL deal compares to previous deals and those of other major international sports leagues.

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