Sports Law Ledger - Monday 11 May 2020


‪Catchup on the latest news, updates, and alerts in our wonderful wide world of sports law:



AUSTRALIA


Integrity - ANZSLA interview with inaugural CEO National Sports Tribunal

Prof Jack Anderson interviews John Boultbee, CEO, National Sports Tribunal.

View ANZSLA webinar



Integrity - Rugby League: Dragons defend de Belin selection

St George Illawarra defend their decision to include Jack de Belin in their COVID-19 bubble of top-30 players’ squad. The future of the stood-down player is in doubt as coronavirus pandemic delayed his rape trial until early next month.

Read report

Integrity - Cricket: Allow bowlers to ball-tamper, says former Australia captain Ian Chappell

The former Australia captain Ian Chappell has suggested that certain forms of ball-tampering could be allowed to help preserve the balance between bat and ball when cricket returns. Amid discussions over the ways in which bowlers could improve the condition of the ball, with the use of saliva potentially posing a health risk during the Covid-19 pandemic, Chappell, 76, believes that the time is right to allow certain agreed “natural substances” to be used on the ball.

Read report



Governance - Re-opening a COVID-safe Australia and economy

The Australian National Cabinet has finalised the three-step plan to gradually remove baseline restrictions and make Australia COVID-safe.

Read media statement

Read the plan



Governance - Australian sport prepares to restart: how and when major competitions will resume

How and when major competitions will resume.

Read report



Governance - What needs to happen before crowds are allowed back at the footy?

Federal Sports Minster Richard Colbeck has urged people to download the CovidSafe app, saying it’s the quickest way fans will be allowed back into sporting stadiums. The Government-endorsed app has the ability to quickly alert those who have come into contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Read report



Governance - Country towns' sports struggle, as revenue and traditional sources of funding disappear

As elite sports grapple with their financial futures, the Australian Sports Foundation said thousands of much smaller clubs across the country are at risk of closure. "We've had clubs write to us and say, 'Literally, we'll be out of business in three months, if we don't get any financial help'. It's that serious," chief executive Patrick Walker said.

Read report



Governance - Rugby Union: Rugby Australia descends into chaos after familiar boardroom turmoil

At Rugby Australia the more things change the more they stay the same. In 2012 RA, then known as the Australian Rugby Union, adopted a so-called new independent governance model based on the recommendations of a report by the former Labor politician Mark Arbib. But given the backroom dramas of the current RA board, it seems not much has changed over the last eight years. Instead of a brand-new governance structure to match the likes of the AFL, rugby has really just seen more of the same.

Read report



Governance - Rugby Union: What is revealed in Rugby Australia's 2019 financial results

Rugby Australia and Raelene Castle tried to keep the organisation's financial results for last year under wraps but the irony is there was little need to do so.

Read report

Governance - Rugby Union: KPMG raises question over Rugby Australia solvency after sour hedge deal

Concerns over Rugby Australia’s solvency have been raised by its accountants KPMG due to an additional $7 million owed to former sponsor HSBC, as a result of a currency hedging strategy. The Australian understands RA has liabilities in excess of $20m and KPMG have yet to sign off on the 2019 annual report. There are questions about whether any funding available from World Rugby will be enough to meet all the organisation's’s known liabilities plus the hedge.

Read report



Governance - Australian Rules Football: AFL opts against mandatory flu shots amid coronavirus pandemic, leaving decision with players and club doctors

The AFL won't mandate its players to have a flu vaccination ahead of the season resumption, leaving the decision up to footballers and club doctors. NRL players are required to either have the flu vaccination or sign waiver forms as rugby league works towards a planned May 28 season restart. But the AFL maintains flu shots will be at the discretion of players and club staff, not a league-wide policy.

Read report



Governance - Rugby League: NRL players excused from flu shot after league amends waiver

Despite pressure to adopt a “no jab, no play” policy, the ARL Commission has revised a vaccination waiver clause to allow NRL players to play if they refuse to get a flu shot. However, ARLC chairman Peter V’landys has warned players who do not sign the altered waiver will be banned.

Read report



Governance - Rugby League: Three Gold Coast Titans NRL players stood down amid coronavirus flu vaccine furore

Three Gold Coast Titans players, including Bryce Cartwright and Nathan Peats, have been stood down for refusing to have flu shots. Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young made the announcement on Friday afternoon after speaking with the NRL about its revised flu-vaccination approach.

Read report



Governance - Australian Rules Football: Adelaide Crows avoid police penalty over social distancing breach during Barossa training

The Adelaide Crows will not be penalised by police after a group of players broke coronavirus quarantine guidelines during a training session in the Barossa Valley. The AFL team has 16 players staying at a resort in the region north of Adelaide for two weeks, after returning from interstate on Monday to prepare for the recommencement of the season.

Read report



Governance - Athletics Australia launches virtual Australian challenge to keep Australians moving

The challenges, which was built with the assistance of Athletics New South Wales, will run from May 11 to July 3, and is open to a variety of ages groups, competing over four distances, 1km, 3km, 5km, and 10km.

Read report



Governance, Player Relations - NRL & RLPA agree to 20% pay reduction

The RLPA confirmed the players had agreed to a pay deal which will see players guaranteed 80 per cent of their contracted payments for the 2020 season. RLPA chief executive Clint Newton said the players were committed to the May 28 start date. "Our players are committed to bringing our sport back to the community. They have been asked to step up during these unprecedented times and their response shows their persistence and resilience," he said.

Read statement



Governance, Stakeholder Relations - Rugby League: 'Outrageous': One-referee plan for NRL sparks strike threat

Referees are considering strike action before the scheduled May 28 resumption of the NRL season in protest over plans to revert to one whistleblower per game. However, the match officials and their union, the Professional Rugby League Match Officials Incorporated (PRLMO), are livid about the lack of consultation, which they believe could be a breach of the enterprise bargaining agreement they recently signed with head office.

Read report



Governance, Media Rights - 'Really smart': FFA, clubs could take on production costs for A-League

The A-League is exploring the possibility of taking control of its broadcast production, a move that could see the sport emerge as an innovator among the football codes in Australia and provide greater flexibility in how it sells its rights. Football Federation Australia is locked in sensitive talks with Fox Sports over whether it will see out the remaining three seasons of the A-League's near-$60 million per year broadcast deal.

Read report



Governance, Media Rights - NRL close to finalising $2.3 billion broadcast deal

The revamped contract would cover the remaining three years of the NRL’s existing deal — which is $1.8 billion for 2018-2022 — plus a four-season extension until the end of 2026.

Read report



Broadcasting - Kayo loses 136,000 paying subscribers amid COVID-19

News Corp has released their most recent financial results, indicating the cancellation of live sport has seen Kayo lose roughly 136,000 paying subscribers. As of May 2, 2020, there were over 272,000 paying Kayo subscribers, indicating a drop of 136,000 as a result of the cancellation and postponement of almost every major sport in the entire world due to COVID-19.

Read report



Major Events - Tennis: Next year's Australian Open under threat, admits chief executive

Craig Tiley, the Tennis Australia chief executive, told Australian Associated Press that the tournament, due to begin in January 2021, “will be compromised” as his team prepare a series of contingency plans amid the uncertainty of coronavirus. The organisation is modelling and preparing for four possible scenarios in their contingency plans, which are said to include the possibility of playing the tournament behind closed doors. “Worst-case scenario is no AO,” Tiley said. “Our best-case scenario at this point is having an AO with players that we can get in here with quarantining techniques and Australian-only fans.”

Read report



Major Events, Esports - IEM Melbourne rescheduled to August 21-22, 2021

Due to the current global health situation, ESL and TEG have rescheduled IEM Melbourne 2020, and the Melbourne Esports Open to August 21-22, 2021

Read report



Ethics - Labor raises questions over emails from Prime Minister's office to Bridget McKenzie's over sports grants

Labor has seized on fresh details of emails between the offices of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and now-former cabinet minister Bridget McKenzie to argue Mr Morrison had personal involvement in approving a list of successful clubs under the much maligned community sports grants scheme. Answers to questions taken on notice by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) provide new detail about emails flying between Mr Morrison's office and then sports minister Senator McKenzie's staff between October 2018 and April 2019.

Read report




GLOBAL


Integrity, Anti-Doping - WADA updates its COVID-19 guidance for Anti-Doping Organizations

Following on from its COVID-19 guidance of 20 March, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) issued updated guidance for Anti-Doping Organizations (ADOs) focused on the resumption of athlete testing as deconfinement leads to the restart or return to normal of doping control programs in a number of countries around the world.

Read report

Read guidance



Integrity, Anti-Doping - Chinese swimmer Sun Yang appeals to Swiss court against eight-year ban

Three-time Olympic champion Sun Yang has lodged an appeal with Switzerland's highest court against his eight-year ban for missing a doping test. The Chinese swimmer, 28, was initially cleared of wrongdoing by Fina, the world swimming federation. But the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) and the decision was overturned. An eight-year ban was imposed on Sun because this was his second offence.

Read report



Integrity, Match Fixing - Tennis: Egyptian Youssef Hossam banned for match-fixing

Youssef Hossam has been banned for life by the Tennis Integrity Unit after being found guilty of multiple match-fixing and other corruption offences. The TIU found that the Egyptian, 21, had committed 21 breaches of anti-corruption rules between 2015 and 2019. It also ruled he conspired with others to carry out betting-related corruption at the lower levels of the sport.

Read report



Integrity, Corruption - Cricket: Afghanistan cricketer Shafiqullah Shafaq gets six-year ban for corruption

The Afghanistan wicketkeeper-batsman Shafiqullah Shafaq has been given a six-year ban after he accepted four charges of breaching their anti-corruption code. The charges relate to offences during the first edition of the Afghanistan Premier League T20 in 2018 when Shafaq played for the Nangarhar Leopards, and the 2019 Bangladesh Premier League when he represented Sylhet Thunder. The 30-year-old, who made his Afghanistan debut in 2009 and has played 24 one-day internationals and 46 Twenty20 internationals, will be banned from all forms of cricket.

Read report



Integrity, Member protection - Football/Soccer: Barry Bennell sex abuse: Eight men sue Man City

Eight men sexually abused by paedophile football coach Barry Bennell are set for a High Court trial of their damages claims against Manchester City. They were abused by Bennell while he is said to have worked as the Premier League club's scout and coached at "feeder teams". They are claiming for "very serious psychiatric injuries" due to his abuse.

Read report



Integrity, Esports - Sportradar tapped for Activision Blizzard’s franchised leagues

Activision Blizzard has partnered with Sportradar to protect the integrity of its Call of Duty League and Overwatch League. The multi-year deal will see Sportradar implement a “comprehensive” integrity in both leagues to battle betting-related corruption.

Read report



Governance, Disputes - Claims by clubs in the event of a cancelled season

In this short piece, Andrew Nixon and Alex Harvey of Sheridans Sports Group, and David Reade QC and Nick Siddall QC of the Littleton Sports Group consider some of the potential claims which may arise from league seasons being cancelled, with a particular focus on the Premier League. The authors also look at how any losses may be assessed.

Read report



Governance - Rugby Union: World Rugby condemned as 'old boys club' with more men called Brett on newly-selected executive than women

For the second successive term, Angela Ruggiero remains the only woman on the 12-strong executive committee. Prominent figures in women’s sport have launched a scathing attack on the “dire” lack of female representation on World Rugby’s new executive committee, with one drawing similarities to how the sport is still “an old boys’ club.”

Read report



Governance - Athletics/Track & Field: 'It couldn’t get any worse' – review into UK Athletics demands sweeping change

An independent review into UK Athletics has found the crisis-hit organisation “couldn’t get any worse” – and demanded changes to its structures, culture and ethical approach. Dame Sue Street, who led the review commissioned by UK Sport, says many of her 50 interviewees had “experienced poor behaviours within the sport and also referred to a general culture of mistrust”.

Read report



Governance: Football/Soccer: Inverness say they made clear bullying allegations to SPFL during key vote

Inverness have contradicted a claim by the Scottish Professional Football League’s chief executive, Neil Doncaster, that no club had made allegations of bullying over the key vote which led to the three divisions below the Premiership being curtailed. In a lengthy statement that amounted to a scathing attack on the SPFL’s handling of the process, Inverness said they were willing to testify to an allegation they insist was reported on the day it occurred.

Read report



Governance - Football/Soccer: Premier League begins crunch talks with no help from Boris Johnson

The Premier League faces a week of chaos after hopes of government direction on Project Restart were dashed by the prime minister. A week ago expectations for a green light had been high after positive noises from senior politicians on the return of sport. But as the league convenes another extraordinary meeting of its 20 clubs on Monday morning, it is no closer to being given clearance to resume playing.

Read report



Governance - Football/Soccer: Bundesliga CEO adamant season will restart despite positive tests at Dresden

The Bundesliga is keen to press ahead with plans to restart the season for the top two tiers next weekend, despite Dynamo Dresden’s squad being quarantined for two weeks. However, speaking to ZDF, the Bundesliga chief executive, Christian Seifert, said that what had happened in Dresden, where the local authorities told the club the players had to be quarantined, did not mean the top two divisions could not kick off on Saturday 16 May.

Read report



Governance - Tennis makes tentative resumption with some exhibition stuff

On Thursday afternoon in Minsk, elite international athletes returned to competition. Two Belarusians kicked tennis off as the world No 11, Aryna Sabalenka, and the No 50, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, took to the court. Even in Belarus, where the country has relentlessly carried on as much of the world around it has come to a halt, the scene underlined the new normal.

Read report



Governance - Rugby Union: Premiership players and clubs face hard choice over waivers on rugby's return

Premiership players face having to sign disclaimers before returning to training due to fears clubs and their doctors will not have the necessary insurance policies in place to cover against coronavirus claims, a leading sports lawyer has warned. World Rugby has issued guidelines urging clubs and unions to ensure they are “adequately insured” but there is considerable doubt as to whether insurance companies would offer that level of indemnity before players return to their clubs.

Read report



Governance - Motor Sport: F1 on track for July resumption after drivers' association backs safety plan

The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association is confident the precautions being taken by Formula One mean the sport stands every chance of resuming as planned in Austria on 5 July. Alex Wurz, chairman of the GPDA, will reassure his members that Formula One has put the safety of everyone involved at the forefront of its plans to return to racing after attending a meeting with F1 and the FIA on Friday.

Read report



Governance - Motor Sport: The Missing Contract That Holds The Keys To F1's Future

F1's contracts with the ten squads which are currently on the grid all expire at the end of this year. None of them have signed new agreements meaning that, as things stand, no teams will be racing in F1 after the end of this year. This significant speed bump has been overlooked in all the chaos surrounding the coronavirus but it has been a hot topic for the past few years.

Read report



Governance, Player Relations, Discrimination, Disputes - The USWNT's Lengthy Appeal Process and What Comes Next After Legal Setback

U.S. Soccer was awarded a massive legal victory against gender discrimination claims brought by U.S. women's national team players, but that is far from the end of the fight between the two sides. Here's what will happen next.

Read report



Governance, Player Relations - Football/Soccer: Using players as guinea pigs would wipe out Premier League's integrity

The final league table will merit the biggest asterisk in history if teams are full of footballers who don’t want to be on the pitch. The Premier League may want the season concluded for contractual reasons, the clubs quite naturally need to know where they stand and whether seeking legal advice might be a wise precaution, but the players are at the pointy end of all the deliberations. Though their opinions have not yet been canvassed or conveyed, there is at least a suspicion that not everyone is happy with being rushed back at the earliest opportunity.

Read report



Governance, Player Relations - Rugby Union: Salary ‘reductions’ under way from May onwards

In response to the widespread impact of the coronavirus pandemic, industry stakeholders – SA Rugby, the players, employers and administrative staff – have collectively agreed to an extensive joint-rescue plan to tackle the financial setbacks.

Read report



Governance, Disputes - Lawsuit claims former USOPC chief executive misled donor over funding for US Center for SafeSport

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) is being sued by the Foundation for Global Sport Development (GSD) over alleged fraud, breach of contract and breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

Read report



Governance, Broadcasting - Baseball restarts in South Korea behind closed doors with virtual fans

South Korea's professional baseball league has officially restarted. A full schedule of games was played behind closed doors, with pictures of fans painted on the seats. Viewers could watch via video conference apps and some of the games were broadcast on ESPN.

View video



Commercial, IP - Puma see request to trademark Puma Tokyo 2021 turned down

German sportswear giant Puma has seen an application to register "Puma Tokyo 2021" as a trademark turned down by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, who said it may falsely suggest a connection to the Olympics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC). The application to register the trademark was made on March 24, the same date the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the postponement of Tokyo 2020 to next year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Puma SE attempted to register both "Puma Tokyo 2021" and "Puma Tokyo 2022" as a trademark for apparel, footwear, accessories and sporting goods.

Read report



Commercial, IP - Group Licensing Is the Key to the Return of NCAA Video Games—So What's the Holdup?

Retailers are ready to strike group licensing deals with college sports to resurrect the NCAA Football game, create trading cards and more. What’s missing? “The NCAA allowing it.” How its fear of athlete employment is costing millions.

Read report



Commercial, Disputes - Former agent alleges Zion received impermissible benefits

Zion Williamson's lawsuit with Prime Sports Marketing's Gina Ford, his former agent, has taken an interesting twist. According to court papers published early Sunday afternoon by Wallach Legal, LLC founder and gaming law and sports betting attorney Daniel Wallach, Ford served Williamson with requests for admission that he received impermissible benefits to attend Duke and wear or use Nike or choose an Adidas-sponsored school.

Read report



Commercial - CVC and Blackstone in talks to invest in Italian football league

Private equity firms in separate discussions to back coronavirus-hit Serie A. CVC is in talks to acquire a 20 per cent stake in Serie A for €2bn, valuing the League at €10bn, according to two people briefed on the discussions which began at the end of last year. The move could give CVC, which has a long history of sports franchise deals including Formula One, MotoGP and England’s Premiership Rugby, a role in selling broadcasting rights for ten years from 2021, the people said. However, one person with knowledge of the proposal said talks are at an early stage and there is a potential legal hurdle.

Read report



Commercial - Rugby Union: 'The Hollywood of rugby: Bold plan to make new US league game's IPL

The National Rugby Football League, which has ties to the NFL, is set to be launched in 2022 with a salary cap equivalent to England's top-tier Premiership.

Read report



Commercial, Venues - Madison Square Garden Spun Off Its Sport And Entertainment Businesses; Here’s Why Both Stocks Are Undervalued, Investors Say

With Madison Square Garden successfully completing the separation of its sports and entertainment businesses last month, the spinoff created two separate stocks that are both currently undervalued, according to market experts.

Read report



Major Events - Cycling: No guarantee Tour de France will go ahead, says French sports minister

The French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu has delivered a stark warning to cycling, declaring that there is “no guarantee” that the Tour de France will go ahead this year. The Tour has already been rescheduled from June to a 29 August start because of the Covid-19 crisis, but the minister could offer little assurance that the race would be given the green light. With crowd-drawing events banned in France until the end of August, special arrangements might have to be made for the start of the Tour in Nice.

Read report





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Contact us to discuss these issues further and how they may apply to your sport, or email Mat Jessep at: mat @ wegotgame.com.au


Many thanks, as always, to Prof. Jack Anderson for continually bringing important sports law topics, from near and far, and brilliant insights and analysis to our attention.



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