Sports Law Ledger - Monday 30 March 2020

Welcome to another week,

Here's a rundown of the latest news, updates, and alerts in our wonderful wide world of sports law, with a focus on more positive news (where possible):


Governance, Player Relations - Rugby League: RLPA and NRL aligned on pay talks

The National Rugby League and the Rugby League Players’ Association have taken a united first step in resolving the issue of the financial impact of the current season suspension will have on players. Agreement on player payment conditions is expected to be reached by end of week.

Read RLPA release

Governance, Player Relations - Aussie Rules: Pay cut deal ensures 'certainty' in AFL industry: AFLPA

The AFL and AFLPA reached agreement on a deal for players to take a reduction in their salary for the rest of the year of up to 70 per cent as a response to the COVID-19 crisis.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan praised the AFLPA and the AFL players for their willingness to help clubs and the wider football industry to limit the financial losses being faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read AFLPA release

Governance, Player Relations - Netball: Super Netball Players agree to five week payment reduction

The Suncorp Super Netball league and the Australian Netball Players’ Association (ANPA) have agreed on a reduction in total player payments for five weeks to assist the league to deal with the impact of COVID-19. Contracted players will take two weeks leave from all club duties from Monday 30 March and then remain at home on “active rest” for seven hours per week for the following three weeks at a 70% reduction in pay.

Read release

Governance, Player Relations - Rugby Union: Frustrated players accuse Rugby Australia of 'information vacuum' on game's future

RUPA chief executive Justin Harrison said Australia's professional players recognised the need for an overhaul given the coronavirus crisis that has brought a halt to Super Rugby and other sports around the world. But they wanted a voice in the process.

Read report

Governance - Rugby League: NSWRL cancels nine competitions for 2020 season

The New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) has announced the NSWRL Board has made the difficult decision to immediately cancel nine major competitions for 2020, including the state’s premier Canterbury Cup NSW in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read release

Governance, Integrity, Commercial - Shrunken leagues, virtual Olympics and simulated crowds: What sport might look like post-coronavirus

Opinion: Things thought impossible just one month ago are the sober reality. The AFL has stood down staff, with players agreeing to a pay cut until May. The NRL will try to sell players its own rescue package on Monday. Various commentators, including Game Legal Principal, Mat Jessep, give their thoughts on what sports may look like in a post-COVID-19 world.

Read report

Integrity - Cricket: Former Australian skipper Smith completes a 2-year leadership ban

Cricket's hangover from the Cape Town Test and ball-tampering saga has now all but cleared, with Steve Smith free to captain Australia again if called upon.

Read report

Player Relations - NRL club seeks legal advice over whether it can stop paying players

As the Rugby League Players Association attempts to negotiate a remuneration deal for its members, one club has been given legal advice it would be within its rights to stop payments to players. This would mean any agreement struck between Todd Greenberg and Clint Newton on player salaries could now be overturned by individual clubs, making current negotiations between the NRL and RLPA almost pointless.

Read report

Player Relations - A-League: PFA threatens legal action after Perth Glory stand down A-League players

Australia’s professional footballers’ union is demanding Perth Glory owner Tony Sage revoke the stand-down notices sent to the A-League club’s players. Less than a week after the FFA suspended the 2019-20 A-League season until at least April 22 due to the coronavirus outbreak, Sage has stood down all of the club’s players and staff. The outspoken club owner said the decision was “heartbreaking”.

Read release

Read report

Major events - Olympic Games: Athlete selection clarified

The Australian Olympic Committee advises that any athlete or team that has met the qualification requirements will not be required to requalify. Athletes selected remain subject to the terms of the Team Membership Agreement and related Australian Olympic Team policies. They may also be subject to on-going clauses in National Federation rules and/or Nomination Criteria which apply to the period between selection and the holding of the Games.

Read release

Read report

Top Olympic Athletes get funding guarantee

Our best Olympic athletes have had their funding fears allayed as they adjust to the news of the Tokyo Games’ postponement.

Read report

Major Events - Basketball: Sydney to Host 2022 FIBA Women's World Cup

FIBA has announced that Basketball Australia and the New South Wales Government has won the bid to host the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup at Sydney Olympic Park over ten days in September and October of 2022.

Read release

Commercial - Rugby Australia: World Rugby under pressure to bail out Australian game

Prominent Australian rugby figures have called on World Rugby to funnel its World Cup profits into struggling national unions as they face the loss of entire seasons of revenue amid the coronavirus emergency.

Read report

Commercial, Gaming - Rugby League players turn to gaming content

With the 2020 NRL season suspended indefinitely, the Wests Tigers' Round 3 clash against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will instead take place off the field and on the gaming consoles of players from Wests Tigers and the Bulldogs — streamed live on Facebook.

View video

Commercial, Fan Engagement - Questions remain of what happens to members' fees

Not refunding members might be a controversial call for sporting codes like the AFL and NRL, but legally they might be in the right.

Read report

Commercial, Media Rights - NRL: Channel Nine tells NRL it won't make its next payment

Channel Nine won't be making its quarterly broadcast payment to the NRL on April 1, but has outlined a desire to renegotiate its current rights deal to extend beyond 2022.

Read report

Commercial - AFL: AFL to seek $500m plus loan during unprecedented crisis

AFL sources said that the prospective loan or line of credit, which the league will need to effectively fund the shortfalls and keep the competition running without crowds and games, would be greater than $500 million and is a strong chance to exceed $600 million.

Read report

Media Rights - Foxtel opens up channels to customers for free

Foxtel's sporting streaming service Kayo had more than 370,000 paying subscribers as of February 5. This compared with more than 402,000 as of November 5, 2019. The suspension of the AFL, NRL and Super Rugby seasons will undoubedtly have an impact on subscriber additions during the coronavirus pandemic in Australia.

Read report


Governance, Commercial, Major Events - Tokyo 2020 Olympics sponsor agreements extended

IOC President Thomas Bach announces that IOC sponsors with expiring agreements will be extended, including General Electrics and Proctor & Gamble; "These Games are called the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Therefore, for me, it is a logical consequence that the sponsors of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 keep their rights, even if these Games are organised in 2021."

Read release

Tokyo Olympics Organizers Considering July 2021 for Opening Ceremony

The 2020 Summer Games, postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, would start July 23, 2021, under a plan organizers are considering.

Read report

IOC under fire after boxers at London event test positive for Covid-19

The International Olympic Committee has been accused of putting athletes’ health in jeopardy after two Turkish boxers and their head coach tested positive for coronavirus after returning home from an Olympic boxing tournament in London last week.

Read report

Team USA Chief Says Athletes’ Feedback Enabled Call for Delay of Olympics

U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland said athlete poll was crucial in pushing to postpone to 2021.

Read report Canada, Australia save the Olympic movement from itself

Opinion: the IOC should immediately strike gold and silver medals and bestow them on Canada and Australia, in that order. Specifically, they should go to the athletes of both countries.

Read report

Athletes' association says change of culture needed at IOC

World Players Association (WPA) executive director Brendan Schwab said that, while he was happy with the decision to postpone the Games, the delay in making it in the face of the growing coronavirus pandemic made the IOC look almost naive.

Read report

Ticket Buyers for Tokyo Games Remain in Limbo

The ticketing website indicates ‘all sales are final’ but officials say the policy may be relaxed.

Read report

Integrity, Anti-Doping - Cycling: WADA welcomes dismissal of Russian cyclists’ lawsuit

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) welcomes the recent decision by the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario, Canada, dismissing a lawsuit commenced by three Russian cyclists against WADA and Canadian Professor Richard McLaren. The cyclists claimed damages they alleged to have suffered as a result of their exclusion from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Read release

Integrity, Anti-Doping - Boxing: UK Anti-Doping could be powerless to ban Tyson Fury because he relinquished British licence before Deontay Wilder fight

An investigation launched by Ukad continues into claims Lancashire-based farmer Martin Carefoot lied to help Fury escape tougher doping sanctions in 2017.

Read report

Integrity - Football/Soccer: What 'bombshell action from Premier League rivals' means for Man City Champions League appeal

Eight of the top ten teams in the country - with the Blues and Sheffield United the exceptions - have made an application to CAS asking that City be unable to play in the Champions League while their appeal is heard.

Read report

Player Relations - Football/Soccer: Fifa suggests player contracts and transfer windows be changed

Current contracts for players and coaches should be extended until the end of the delayed domestic football seasons, according to an internal Fifa document presented to its Coronavirus Working Group. The confidential document, seen by Reuters, also recommends allowing transfer windows to be changed in accordance with new season dates and urges clubs and players to work together to find solutions to salary payments during stoppages.

Read report

Player Relations - Rugby Union: Premiership rugby clubs to receive multi-million pound coronavirus bailout after placing players on furlough - cricket to follow suit

County cricket clubs are also discussing following suit after being told doing so would also allow them to access funds made available under the coronavirus job retention scheme announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak just over a week ago.

Read report

Rugby Union: Row over 25% Premiership wage cut intensifies but England Coach, Eddie Jones accepts drop

The RPA’s lawyers advise the union’s members who do not want to accept the reduction to write to their clubs, informing them that the imposed cuts are “ a breach of contract and I reserve my rights in full to claim my full contractual entitlements. I will continue to honour my playing contract duties and will make a decision in due course, when I have sufficient information to allow me to make an informed decision."

Read report

Major Events, Commercial - Tennis: Wimbledon likely to be cancelled but All England Club eyeing corona insurance situation

Although the AELTC had originally wanted to leave their options open until the end of April – the stage at which they would have to start building stands – the rapid progress of the Covid-19 pandemic has forced them to call an emergency board meeting within days.

Read report

Concussion - Rugby must get radical over concussion

Trials show way forward — now rule changes are urgently needed.

Read report

Disputes, Discrimination - Football/Soccer: U.S. Soccer’s New Leaders Aim to Settle Lawsuit

The U.S. Soccer Federation’s new president and chief executive—both on the job less than two weeks—said Tuesday they hope to settle the U.S. women’s national team’s pay-discrimination case against it before the case goes to trial.

Read report

Commercial, Disputes - NBA: Sports Agency Sues NBA player Jimmy Butler For Almost US$1 Million In Marketing Fees

Jimmy Butler was sued by Independent Sports & Entertainment, LLC (ISE), a sports and entertainment agency based in Los Angeles, California. ISE, which was formerly known as Relativity Sports, LLC, claims that it is owed a 15% commission on the Nike contract and addendum that Butler signed with the shoe and apparel giant.

Read report

Read complaint

Commercial, Copyright, Disputes - NBA: Analyzing the Copyright Lawsuit Against LeBron James

The manner in which LeBron James used and promoted a cropped photo of himself is now the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Read report

Commercial - UK: Sky and BT will 'lose £1bn if sporting events stay shut until August'

Sky has stopped charging commercial clients such as pubs that carry Sky Sports, and pay-TV subscribers can “pause” their payments. BT has told customers to call to “discuss their contract or other options”, while some customers on its flexible pay-TV package can elect to drop sport.

Read report

Commercial, Gaming - Virtual race a real success for bored NASCAR

NASCAR is suspended until at least May 9 because of the COVID-19 pandemic so the series and iRacing created an invitational to give its drivers something to do. Fox Sports 1 jumped on board, 35 drivers agreed to participate and suddenly there was live sports programming on Sunday.

Read report

Discrimination - US: Justice Department sides with female athletes who do not want to compete against biological males

The U.S. Department of Justice has sided with three female high school athletes who do not believe they should be forced to compete against biological boys who identify as girls.

Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday signed a statement of interest that said the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference's policy allowing biological males who identify as females to compete in sports against biological females prevents females from being able to participate in single-sex athletics. 

Read report

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.

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






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