Winter Olympics, Shaun White & Judging in sports: does perfection exist?

In the context of sports, should it be possible to attain a “perfect” score? Put differently, is a judge or panel of judges ever justified in awarding the maximum score possible? Such questions are relevant to a great many sports: gymnastics, diving, and ice skating, to name just a few. With this in mind, Sports Shorts turns its attention to the sport of snowboarding in the light of recent events.

The legacy of Shaun White

Last week at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Shaun White, by all accounts the greatest snowboarder in the sport’s history and certainly its most recognisable name, secured the halfpipe gold medal for a record third time.

Like Federer on the court, Phelps in the pool, and Bolt on the track, White has transcended his sport. Amidst daily headlines that youngsters are dominating the slopes, at 31 years of age White is proof that, for some, age is just a number as he continues not so much to defy the odds as rewrite them.

Controversially, however, a few weeks before the Olympics, at the U.S. Grand Prix of Snowmass in Colorado, White executed a run for which he received a score of 100, the highest possible. On only one other occasion has a 100 score been awarded, which also went to White at the 2012 Winter X Games.

This did not sit comfortably with some, least of all his competition, some of whom clearly felt that the judges erred in their assessment. Perhaps because White executed the very trick which in October had landed him in intensive care requiring 62 stitches to his face, the judges couldn’t resist this perfect denouement.

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Sun, sand and… collective bargaining? Beach volleyballers form players’ association

Most professional sports have players’ unions that are charged with representing the interests of the people who play the sport at the highest level. Until recently this was not the case for individuals who play that ever-popular Olympic sport, beach volleyball, but now almost 100 professional beach volleyball players have united to form the International Beach Volleyball Players Association (“IBVPA”).

Player unions and collective bargaining may not be the first things that comes to mind when you think of beach volleyball. For many, the sport has become known more for the players’ outfits than their ability to spike a ball with incredible ferocity or elude the opponents’ block with a deft cut-shot, but the establishment of the IBVPA could signal a fundamental change to the way in which professionals are remunerated and may result in more changes to the way in which the sport is run.

Collective bargaining and player unions have long been a feature of professional sport, with the Professional Footballers’ Association (“PFA”) being formed in 1907 to represent the interests of England’s footballers. Continuing in that tradition, the IBVPA cited concerns around “cancelled tournaments, a significant drop in prize money and changes to the structure of tournaments” as just some of the reasons for the association’s establishment.

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PyeongChang 2018: no thaw in frosty relationship between the NHL and the IOC

The XXIII Winter Olympics in PyeongChang are now well underway in what are reported to be some of the coldest and most treacherous conditions yet for a Games to be held in.

Great Britain’s darling of short track speed skating and current World Champion, Elise Christie, agonisingly crashed out of the 500m final today meaning Great Britain’s wait for its first medal continues.

The Winter Olympics has often been seen as the poorer (in sporting terms) sibling of the Summer Games, not least because the majority of sports are not considered ‘main stream’ on the wider Global stage.

This is unquestionably changing, with the Winter Olympics arguably catering more for the younger generation than the Summer Games’ more traditional sports, by showcasing events such as snowboarding and freestyle skiing in all their guises – Half-Pipe, Slopestyle, Snowboard Cross and Big Air to name but a few.

Of the sports that have been in the Winter Olympics for some time, perhaps the most mainstream/recognisable is ice hockey. However, in PyeongChang the sport will be unable to showcase its stars due to an ongoing dispute between the NHL, the World’s largest and most high profile ice hockey league, and the IOC.

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Luxury tax in football, what can the NBA teach us?

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has suggested that the governing body of European football is ready to impose a luxury tax aimed at curbing the power of the largest, most successful clubs in the continent.

UEFA has before attempted to achieve a balanced playing field with its introduction of the Financial Fair Play regulations (the “FFP”). The FFP encourages clubs to spend within their means. However, clear and obvious issues have arisen from this. For example, Manchester United live within a much greater means than a newly promoted club. This club may wish to compete for Champions League football by investing considerably in its squad and infrastructure. The FFP will then penalise this team for spending beyond its means – as in, it is spending more than what it earns. The question begs whether this team can even dream of competing with the likes of Manchester United when it is not supposed to spend more than it earns. This fails to address the imbalance that exists in football and could actually make it more difficult for smaller clubs to compete and improve without the risk of penalty.

By exploring other ways to bring fairness and balance to European football, Ceferin’s observations are very welcome, and indeed a luxury tax system may be the more appropriate mechanism to achieve this.

Luxury tax in the NBA

The NBA has adopted a luxury tax system for some time. Franchises have salary caps that they must consider when selecting their rosters. If a team exceeds its salary cap, a luxury tax is imposed on them for doing so. The resulting total is then distributed evenly to the other teams that did not exceed the cap. Simply put, there are penalties for teams who exceed the threshold and benefits for those that do not. The NBA’s system can be difficult to grasp, but it is generally made up of three components: the salary cap, exceptions and the luxury tax.

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Intermediaries in Football: an Update on CAS Jurisprudence

This article sets out a summary of several recent cases involving intermediaries and seeks to distill the lessons that can be adopted by intermediaries in what is, two years after the changes to the regulatory landscape, still an uncertain time for intermediaries.


Football intermediaries (or football agents, as they were formerly known) are of ever-increasing prevalence in the world of football. They perform a central role in ensuring that the merry-go-round of transfer activity continues apace and, in many cases, the intermediaries are extremely well remunerated for so doing. By way of example, the English Football Association has confirmed that the Premier League clubs paid a total of GBP 174 million (approx. EUR 196 million) to agents in the period February 2016 to January 2017. In the same period, the clubs in the Championship (i.e. England’s second tier of football) spent GBP 42.4 million (approx. EUR 48 million) on intermediaries’ fees.

Yet at a time when intermediaries are playing such a central role in the sport, the regulatory and legal background against which they act has shifted to an area of uncertainty:

  • From 1 April 2015, the old FIFA Players Agents Regulations (FIFA PAR) were abandoned. They were replaced by the FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries (Intermediaries Regulations). In short, the Intermediaries Regulations did away with the previously established licensing system, which required agents to have passed an examination and to have in place professional indemnity insurance. Instead, it has been replaced with a system in which any natural or legal person can act as an intermediary, provided they have first registered at national level. It also advises players and clubs to adopt certain “benchmarks” regarding remuneration payable in each transaction.
  • Following the introduction of the Intermediaries Regulations, the relevant agent regulations at national level were revised or replaced, ensuring that the mandatory changes set out in the Intermediaries Regulations were transposed and reflected at a national level. In short, the changes to the Intermediaries Regulations completely transformed the regulatory landscape applicable to intermediaries, both on a national and on an international level.
  • The changes also led to uncertainty regarding the correct forum for the resolution of disputes involving intermediaries. Previously, under the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, any disputes involving agents would be resolved by the FIFA Players’ Status Committee. However, on 23 January 2015, FIFA issued Circular no. 1468, which confirmed that FIFA will no longer be competent to hear disputes involving intermediaries. This leaves a lacuna.

Following these changes, it is a time of flux for intermediaries. Many will have unanswered questions: Will the “benchmarks” set out in the Intermediaries Regulations be enforced? Will it make doing business easier or harder? Will there be more disputes involving intermediaries as a result of the changes? When a dispute does arise, which dispute resolution body will resolve it? Continue Reading

A war of ticket prices

Having won its group in the Champions League this season, Manchester United meet Sevilla in the last 16 stage of the Champions League. This round will be made up of two legs: the first match will be played at Sevilla’s Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium whilst the return leg will be played at Old Trafford. However, we need not wait until 21 February to see these two clubs clash, after Sevilla incited a war off the pitch by increasing the ticket prices for travelling Manchester United fans to £89.

Manchester United fans responded with frustration and anger at the increased ticket prices. By comparison, Liverpool fans, who travelled to Sevilla during the Champions League group stage in November, were only charged £54 per ticket.

Manchester United has made attempts to negotiate with Sevilla, statingthis has been raised with Sevilla, and internally, but ultimately Sevilla have not agreed to significantly lower the price of tickets for our fans to what we view as a reasonable level”. The club further responded that it will not only subsidise each ticket by £35 (so a travelling Manchester United fan will pay the same as a travelling Liverpool fan did), but travelling Sevilla fans will also be charged £89 for tickets for the return leg at Old Trafford. United has only allocated 2,995 tickets to visiting fans for this match.

In response, Sevilla insisted that the club would also subsidise its travelling fans and it would contact UEFA over this dispute: “Sevilla will be in contact with UEFA over both Manchester United’s failure to make five per cent of tickets available to away fans, as well as the club’s price increase after a formal application for an away allocation”. Continue Reading

Concussion protocol in sport: is sport doing enough?

The immediate as well as long-term risks of concussion are an ever-topical point of discussion within sport, and one that Sports Shorts has considered previously. Player welfare is regularly called into question, with concerns often voiced as to the quality and thoroughness of head injury assessments and concussion protocols.

Ever since the death of Australian batsman Phil Hughes from being hit by a cricket ball, cricket has come under increased criticism for failing to protect players from concussion – despite new regulations brought in last year. Incidents are all too frequent, particularly in Twenty20 due to the more powerful and risky approach batsman take to innings. Two days after Hughes’ death, umpire and ex-captain of Israel’s cricket team, Hillel Oscar, died after being hit by a cricket ball to the jaw.

Of course, some sports are decidedly safer than others – for example, most people would probably agree that F1 drivers are exposed to far greater risks and dangers than, say, badminton players. It won’t come as any surprise that concussions tend to occur relatively frequently in rugby, hence World Rugby changed its rules last year on tackling to reduce the chance of head injuries (as Sports Shorts discussed here). Continue Reading

Nike’s “City Edition” NBA uniforms: a sign of things to come?

In 2015, it was announced that Nike had agreed an apparel deal with the NBA, beginning with the 2017-2018 season.  At the time, Adam Silver, the NBA Commissioner, stated that:

“This partnership with Nike represents a new paradigm in the structure of our global merchandising business.  As our exclusive oncourt apparel provider, Nike will be instrumental in our collective efforts to grow the game globally while applying the latest in technology to the design of our uniforms and oncourt products.”

The deal was reported to have been worth approximately $1 billion, with Nike securing the role as the league’s sole on-court apparel provider for an eight year period.

Since the start of the 2017-2018 season (its first under the present deal with the NBA), Nike has taken various steps to shake up the on-court apparel status quo.  As part of its efforts to expand the global appeal of the NBA, it has introduced a series of alternate jerseys for the NBA teams to wear throughout the 2017-2018 season.  In August, Nike unveiled the “Association” and “Icon” editions for each team, while the “Statement” editions were revealed in early December 2017.  On Wednesday 27 December 2017, Nike announced the release of its “City Edition” uniforms for 26 of its teams, with the remainder of the jerseys for the remainder of the league’s teams to be released at a later date.    Continue Reading

North Korea, South Korea and the Olympic Games

Despite increased tension and growing hostility in the region, an agreement has been reached in respect of North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

On 9 January, the two countries met in their first high-level meeting in over two years to discuss North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics. South Korea made the offer after Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, proposed immediate talks over North Korea’s inclusion in the games during his New Year speech. The meeting was productive and led to a number of proposals:

  • North Korea proposed dispatching a high-level delegation, National Olympic Committee delegation, athletes, supporters, art performers, observers, a taekwondo demonstration team and journalists to the games;
  • South Korea proposed that the competing athletes from both sides march together during the opening ceremony, reminiscent of what happened in the 2006 Winter Olympics;
  • The South also proposed for the reunion of family members separated during the Korean War whilst the games take place; and
  • The South will consider relieving North Korea of relevant sanctions in order to ensure the North’s participation in the games.

The head of the North Korean delegation, Ri Son-gwon, believed the meeting would provide a “good gift” and that the North entered into discussions with a “serious and sincere stance”. Meanwhile, South Korea’s vice unification minister Chun Hae-sung stated: “starting is half the trip, but we can’t expect to be full with just the first spoonful”, hoping for more productive meetings.

In response, Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee president, said “this is a great step forward in the Olympic spirit and in the spirit of the Olympic Truce Resolution passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations. Now the IOC must take the decisions to make this political commitment a reality”.

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UEFA follows in Premier League’s footsteps by securing live blocking injunction

Last year, Sports Shorts covered the emergence of the first “live blocking injunctions”, which were obtained by the Premier League both in respect of the final portion of the 2016/17 season (in a test case before the High Court in March 2017) and subsequently in respect of the entire 2017/18 season.

The blocking injunctions require UK internet service providers (“ISPs”, such as Sky, BT, etc.) to block specified providers of copyright infringing streams of Premier League matches effectively on a ‘live’ basis. This is achieved using relatively new technology developed specially for the purpose of detecting and blocking of infringing streams on a near-live basis, something that was not previously possible or practical.

In recent weeks, UEFA has followed in the footsteps of the Premier League, with a successful application to the High Court for a similar injunction requiring the same ISPs to block, or at least impede, access by their customers to streaming servers which deliver infringing live streams of UEFA Competition matches to UK consumers.

The application was heard by Mr Justice Arnold, the same judge who heard, and granted, the Premier League’s applications last year. In a brief judgment of only 15 paragraphs, the judge granted the injunction, reasoning as follows:

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