Sports Law Ledger - Monday 27 April 2020


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



AUSTRALIA


Governance - The legal pitfalls of redesigning sports leagues on the run

Governance models are being stress-tested like never before as financial and legal relations between league administrations and clubs are reset at speed. Good faith decisions made today can be redundant tomorrow. Sporting “wars” such as Super League and World Series Cricket already look like minor hiccups compared to the societal and fiscal impact of the coronavirus, but these earlier upheavals foreshadow possible legal concerns that could be faced in the weeks ahead as leagues are redesigned on the run.

Read report



Governance - Rugby Union: Raelene Castle defended by Rugby Australia after stepping down as chief executive

Rugby Australia (RA) chairman Paul McLean has staunchly backed departed chief executive Raelene Castle, who he says was subjected to "abhorrent" bullying from "faceless people" during her time in the job.

Read report


Raelene Castle becomes latest casualty of Australia's flawed rugby system

But how much of Castle’s downfall was her own fault? How much was the product of a dysfunctional governance structure, which has never really made a full transition from the amateur era to the professional game?

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Castle's end a mix of poor judgment, fatal missteps and rotten luck

Raelene Castle's parting gift to Australian rugby was the appointment of the best Wallabies coaching team assembled since, arguably, Eddie Jones's 2003 World Cup line-up.

Read report



Governance - Cricket: Savage cuts save cricket only $3m as states question cash crisis

Cricket's state bodies believe Cricket Australia has created a storm in a teacup with dire warnings about a COVID-19 cash crisis as it emerged the governing body was saving only $3 million by standing down 80 per cent of its workforce on 20 per cent of their pay.

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Cricket Australia chief faces reckoning in bid to reunite game

Kevin Roberts faces arguably the most important week of his tenure as chief executive of Cricket Australia as the organisation tries to reunite the nation's cricket family amid pandemic-induced unrest.

Read report



Governance - Coronavirus-affected NRL season to restart on May 28 after reaching agreement with Foxtel and Channel Nine

On Friday evening, ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys confirmed to AAP that the NRL and broadcasters would finalise a competition structure early next week, as both parties want different outcomes. "We were all united on the 28th May start. But just the competition structure, we need a little more time — but we definitely announce it early next week," he said.

Read report


Rugby League: Federal government to look 'favourably' on NRL travel exemption for Warriors

Prime minister Scott Morrison says the federal government is open to granting the New Zealand Warriors an exemption to arrive in Australia to participate in the resumption of the NRL competition. One month after suspending its season because of the coronavirus pandemic, the NRL on Wednesday reaffirmed its commitment to get back on the field on 28 May.

Read report


Coronavirus update: NRL players to undergo environment checks

NRL players and staff will be subject to environment checks as well as a number of strict protocols laid out in an extensive biosecurity document sent to clubs on Sunday night. The 48-page draft document outlined a list of health and safety measures for clubs to abide by to return to training on May 4.

Read report


'We manage to eat our own in this game': Fittler takes aim at wasteful NRL clubs

Brad Fittler's comments come days after a News Corp report revealed NRL clubs had lost a combined $31 million in 2019 despite annual grants from the governing body from the lucrative broadcast agreement. A report had also claimed there had been 100 different CEOs and chairs in the last five years among the clubs, contributing to excessive spending.

Read report


Governance - Football/Soccer: Administrators should look at cutting administration costs', says Postecoglou

"My beef about sport has always been – when I’ve sat in boardrooms with the most impressive businessmen going around – never forget what your prime product is. And your product is the sport. So if you devalue the sport, you can save as much money as you want, eventually that devaluation is going to cost you."

Read report



Governance, Broadcasting - A-League future hangs in the balance as Foxtel could walk away from TV deal

Last week, the A-League broadcaster Foxtel effectively walked away halfway through a six-year deal, when it reportedly failed to transfer a scheduled payment of nearly $12 million to Football Federation Australia (FFA).

Read report



Governance, Broadcasting - Stokes plays hardball on $350m sports bill

Kerry Stokes’s Seven West Media is applying the blowtorch to sports bosses at it looks to slash the $350m it was to spend on rights this year, with a current market cap of only AU$130m.

Read report



Integrity - Australian Rules Football: Lachie Hunter of Western Bulldogs gives up vice-captaincy over alleged drink-driving crash

Western Bulldogs player Lachie Hunter has been fined, suspended for four games and has given up the club vice-captaincy following an alleged drink-driving crash in Melbourne.

Read report



Integrity - Rugby League: Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr busted camping, police to investigate NRL superstars

Test stars Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr are being investigated by NSW Police and have been condemned by the NRL after being sprung camping in a big group.

Read report



Integrity, Anti-Doping - Australian Rules Football: Essendon drugs saga "essentially wasted four years of my career"

Everything fell apart at Essendon when the supplement saga hit the club and Brendon Goddard was placed in an awkward situation, having only recently made the move from St Kilda.

Read report



Integrity, Anti-Doping - Swimming: Mack Horton's parents accuse Sun supporters of threats and harassment

The parents of Australian swimmer Mack Horton have claimed they have been threatened and harassed by supporters of controversial three-time Olympic champion Sun Yang at their family home in Melbourne.

Read report



Integrity, Match Fixing - In a fix - how match fixing became sport’s biggest threat

The new national agency Sport Integrity Australia is expected to strengthen Australia’s world leading position on anti-corruption in sport.  But experts believe it still won’t be enough to rid sport of match fixing, featuring Dr Catherine Ordway, Prof Jack Anderson, Declan Hill.

Listen to podcast



Concussion - Concussion in sport, interview with Dr Alexandra Veuthey

Concussion in sport is a highly topical issue. Not a day goes by without incidents being reported in the media. These incidents raise concerns regarding the health of professional athletes, but also the ability of sports governing bodies and governments to take adequate measures, with insights by Dr Alexandra Veuthey.

Read report

Buy Dr Veuthey's book



Broadcasting - Horse racing: Sky Racing, Seven enjoy racing ratings boost

Sky Racing's average home Foxtel audience rose by 38 per cent over the past eight weeks, reaching almost 300,000 viewers on each of the two days of the Championships, making it the most popular program on the entire pay TV network for the past four Saturdays.

Read report



Commercial, Fan Engagement - Australian Rules football: Tax refunds for AFL club members?

Clubs are waiting on a ruling from the Australian Taxation Office, which would benefit members who continue to financially support their clubs despite the likelihood of being prevented from attending the remainder of the season's games due to coronavirus restrictions.

Read report



Procedure - Witnessing of court documents (NSW)

On 22 April 2020 the Electronic Transactions Amendment (COVID-19 Witnessing of Documents) Regulation 2020 (NSW) commenced and introduced processes for witnessing the signing of documents by audio visual link, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read legal alert



Sports Betting - As online betting booms, even old-school bookmakers are keeping pace

In the midst of this pandemic, which saw his entire cashflow wiped out, bookmaker David Dwyer launched a new digital wagering platform which has proven to be a winner, but experts worry it could create more losers among the gambling public.

Read report



Sports Betting - Sportsbet to absorb BetEasy brand in Australia

Australian operator BetEasy will be absorbed and replaced by rival firm Sportsbet as a result of the $10bn merger between respective parent groups The Stars Group (TSG) and Flutter. The move represents a backtrack on strategy from Flutter and TSG, which had planned to run a dual brand operation in Australia.

Read report



Sports Betting - Court scraps debt of man who lost $575k in 'scissors, paper, rock' game

Under Quebec law, for a bet to be valid it must "require only skill or bodily exertion on the part of the parties", rather than luck, and the amount wagered must not be excessive.

Read report




GLOBAL


Governance - Rugby Union: Scrum time for Beaumont and Pichot: the dinosaur v the dynamo

Voting starts as Bill Beaumont and Agustín Pichot battle to control World Rugby, and their backstories are just as contrasting as their visions for the sport

Read report


Fiji’s Kean resigns from World Rugby council following allegations

The Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) has withdrawn its nomination of Francis Kean from World Rugby’s executive committee and he has stood down from the international federation’s council ahead of the World Rugby chairman vote. Following details of a manslaughter conviction and allegations of homophobia, Kean has immediately stepped down from his role. Kean cannot now be replaced on the World Rugby executive committee, the game’s global board, as the deadline for nominations has passed.

Read report



Governance - Rugby Union: Premiership rugby clubs in danger due to funding shortfall from paused season

Premiership clubs face losing out on millions in central funding because of a clause in the longstanding agreement with the Rugby Football Union which will become active at the end of the coronavirus pandemic-interrupted season. A significant shortfall could prove fatal for some clubs, with at least one thought to be in danger of going bust if the lockdown extends through the summer.

Read report



Governance - Rugby Union: European clubs on collision course with World Rugby over 'unacceptable' plans

European rugby’s governing body has told World Rugby it intends to stage the Champions Cup final in October and says it is “unacceptable” to shoehorn extra autumn Tests into the calendar on weekends reserved for top-level club rugby when the sport resumes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read report



Governance - Tennis: King, Federer, Nadal call for ATP, WTA merger

WTA founder Billie Jean King joined Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on Wednesday in suggesting "now is the time" to merge the men's ATP and women's body into one umbrella organisation to oversee the two professional tennis tours.

Read report



Governance - Football/Soccer: FIFA member associations to receive advance payments to cover coronavirus costs

FIFA is set to release advance payments of $500,000 (£404,000/€462,000) to member associations to help ease financial concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. World football's governing body said the money, which will cover operational costs during the coronavirus crisis, would be sent to each of its 211 members within the coming days. Each association receives $6 million (£4.9 million/€5.5 million) from FIFA during the four-year World Cup cycle as part of its development programme.

Read report



Governance - Football/Soccer: Eredivisie season abandoned with no champion, relegation or promotion

A premature conclusion of the 2019-20 campaign was effectively confirmed on Tuesday when the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) announced its intention "not to continue" with any action. That came after Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte announced a government ban on public events, including professional sports, until September 1.

Read report



Governance - Football/Soccer: Serie A edges towards resumption but La Liga may not return before summer

The Italian top flight edged closer to resuming behind closed doors on Sunday after the country’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, gave the go-ahead for professional sports teams to resume training in May.

Read report



Governance - Football/Soccer: Premier League needs 300 people per match to end lockdown and reboot season

Some clubs will not play home matches in their own grounds if authorities believe that is safest approach to completing fixtures.

Read report



Governance - Football/Soccer: Bundesliga return in May now looks inevitable but fans are far from happy

The Bundesliga is set to become the first elite European league to restart following the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown, and the chief executive of the German league (DFL), Christian Seifert, has said the league is ready to get going as soon as 9 May.Though it seems the governing body’s preference was to begin a week or two later, it has made it clear it will be guided by “what the politicians decide”.

Read report



Governance - Football/Soccer: South Korean Soccer League Will Resume on May 8–With Modifications

Players, coaches and fans have two weeks to get used to new rules around soccer in South Korea after the K-League announced Friday that the delayed season will kick off on May 8. Jeonbuk Motors will take on Suwon Bluewings in the opening game, which was originally scheduled for Feb. 29.

Read report



Governance - Football/Soccer: Convincing footballers to take pay cuts is a matter of trust

Hard to ignore the very strong flavour of the standout line in Chelsea’s statement this weekend on the subject euphemistically referred to by the club in these unusual times as “contributing financially” – and known to the rest of us as pay cuts for footballers.

Read report

Read Chelsea FC club statement



Governance, Integrity - Baseball: MLB punishes Red Sox for 2018 sign-stealing deemed 'more limited' than Astros' scandal

Major League Baseball, terming the Boston Red Sox's 2018 sign-stealing violations "far more limited in scope and impact" than the Houston Astros' malfeasance, suspended a video replay monitor for the 2020 season and barred him from serving in that role in 2021 and docked the club a 2020 second-round draft pick. 

Read report

Read Commissioner's report


Red Sox escape major punishment following MLB sign-stealing investigation

It’s official: The teams that beat the Dodgers in back-to-back World Series have been branded as cheaters by Major League Baseball On Wednesday, three months after sanctioning the 2017 Houston Astros as cheaters, the league cited the Boston Red Sox for the same offense: the illegal use of technology to steal signs.

Read report



Governance, Disputes, Integrity - Football/Soccer: Swiss trial over 2006 FIFA World Cup fraud case delayed until April 27

The trial of three former high-ranking German Football Association (DFB) officials and ex-FIFA general secretary Urs Linsi has been delayed until April 27, the date the statute of limitations in the fraud case will expire.

Read report



Governance, Athlete Relations - Global Athlete report criticises IOC revenue distribution to athletes and calls for collective bargaining

Competitor-led movement Global Athlete has published an explosive report into the way the International Olympic Committee distributes its revenues, accusing the organisation of a lack of financial transparency and claiming that it spends just 0.5 per cent per cent of its income directly on Olympic athletes. The report, Olympic Commercialization and Player Compensation, also estimates that, when taking into account money distributed to National Olympic Committees which is then passed on to competitors, 4.1 per cent of IOC revenues “end up directly in the pockets of athletes”.

Read report

Read Global Athlete report



Governance, Athlete Relations - Basketball: NBA G-League players to vote on potential unionization

The NBA’s players association will assist in the formation of the union, with at least 50 per cent of G League players needing to vote in favour of the motion in order for it to pass. The G-League union would be separate from the NBA players union and would assist with creative bargaining with the NBA on topics such as travel, salary and housing.

Read report



Governance, Athlete Relations - Tennis: 'They're not going to starve': Thiem will not chip in for struggling tennis players

“No tennis player is fighting to survive, even those who are much lower-ranked. None of them are going to starve,” Dominic Thiem told Austrian newspaper Krone. “I don’t really see why I should give such players money,” he added. “I would rather give money to people or organisations that really need it,” he added.

Read report



Governance, Athlete Relations, Commercial - NCAA moves toward allowing athletes to be paid sponsors

Recommended rule changes that would clear the way for athletes to earn money from their names, images and likeness are being reviewed by college sports administrators this week before being sent to the NCAA Board of Governors, which meets Monday and Tuesday.

Read report



Governance, Commercial - Formula One: Red Bull's £60m solution to save F1 that could transform the sport forever – yet faces fierce opposition

Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner has called on Formula One to allow teams to buy cars from their rivals as it would slash their costs to just £63m ($80m) and help to keep their wheels turning during the coronavirus shutdown.

Read report



Governance, Commercial - Former Head of XFL Sues Its Controlling Owner

The lawsuit, filed by Oliver Luck last Thursday in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, contends that McMahon breached the terms of Luck’s contract when McMahon’s company, Alpha Entertainment, fired him on April 9.

Read report



Integrity - Football/Soccer: Rare win for Swiss prosecutors as court rules they can still proceed in Al-Khelaifi case

beIN Sports boss and Paris St Germain supremo Nasser al-Khelaifi has failed in a bid to have three prosecutors recused from a case against him in Switzerland that is part of a wider bribery investigation of FIFA.

Read report



Integrity - Tennis: Corruption fears for unofficial matches

The ATP Tour has warned of a greater risk of corruption around a number of unofficial events popping up around the globe.

Read report



Integrity, Anti-Doping - Rugby Union: James Cronin bears at least some fault for doping mistake while our French cousins walk away scot-free

Fact that Cronin has a record of a failed test shows inconsistency with some high-profile cases in France

Read report



Integrity, Anti-Doping - Steroid use for ideal body a 'time bomb' for Welsh NHS

An increase in men using steroids in a bid to get the perfect body is creating a "time bomb" for the NHS, an expert has warned.

Read report



Major Events - Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games: Japan Won’t Let IOC Off the Hook Over Olympic Cost

Japan and the International Olympic Committee need further discussion over the financial burden of the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, a senior Japanese official said, highlighting tension over who shoulders several hundred million dollars in expected costs from the delay.

Read report



Major Events - Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games: UIPM to announce revised Tokyo 2020 qualification system next month

The International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) is set to announce its updated qualification system for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games next month. A UIPM spokesperson said the worldwide governing body had been in "advanced discussions" with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and is hopeful an agreement on its qualification for Tokyo 2020 will be reached by the end of April.

Read report



Commercial, Disputes, IP, Trade Marks - Kawhi Leonard Loses Copyright Lawsuit Against Nike Over Logo

Kawhi Leonard is closely identified with the Klaw logo. When you see the logo, you think of him. But as the Los Angeles Clippers star learned on Wednesday, the logo being about Leonard doesn’t make him its owner. According to a new ruling by a federal judge, the logo belongs to Nike.

Read report



Commercial - How will coronavirus impact women’s sport?

The impact of the pandemic on sport is already being widely discussed. But what of women’s sport, something which is already widely under-funded and under-represented? It is likely to be hit even harder by the current situation. This is indeed what is suggested in a FIFPro paper entitled “Covid-19: Implications for Professional Women’s Football.”

Read report



Commercial - Premier League will survive lockdown – it's the rest of sport we should worry about

Whatever happens next in these discombobulating times it is probably safe to assume that the Premier League will emerge relatively unscathed. True, players might end up a touch less remunerated. And, yes, transfer fees and TV rights will come down. But when the circus cranks up again, it will still be swimming in money and attention. It’s the rest of sport that we should be worried about. Because right now the darkest economic cloud in our lifetime is fast looming into view, and I am not sure we have grasped the potential consequences for sport – and for us.

Read report



Commercial - Sport should not apologise for wanting clarity - livelihoods depend on it

You would never guess that hundreds of thousands of livelihoods depend on the government and scientists providing clarity on when gatherings may be possible again.

Read report



Commercial, Fan Engagement - Baseball: Why Won't MLB Teams Issue Refunds?

At what point must a sports organization offer to refund money for a ticket to a game scheduled during the coronavirus pandemic? Is it when the pandemic started several months ago? Or when President Donald Trump proclaimed a national emergency on March 13? Or when states began to issue gathering restrictions and similar measures? Or when a game is formally postponed? Or when a game is either cancelled or played without spectators? Or is no refund required at all—can the organization simply credit the money for a future game to be played when life returns to normal?

Read report



Esports - From billionaire owners to superstar players – inside the crazy world of esports

With traditional live events still in hibernation, demand for sporting fix is growing online.

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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