Sports is a multi-billion dollar global industry enjoying unprecedented growth. Its success brings a corresponding increase in both the range and complexity of legal issues that it faces.
An effective sports law practice can address such issues by combining a business orientation, versatility, and deep knowledge of industry practices with multidisciplinary legal expertise.
Clients primarily include leagues and other governing bodies; teams and their owners (both individual and corporate); related entities such as marketing, media, and intellectual property affiliates; media companies; financial institutions; and executives. Third-party investors are becoming active in the industry as well.
At a minimum, practitioners must be authorities on governance — they must know a sport’s rules and bylaws inside and out. These rules touch on everything from nuts-and-bolts operational procedures to litigation and the negotiation of commercial contracts, and thus can affect any party in a given matter.
The core legal disciplines involved in practicing sports law are:
Banking and finance. Leagues and teams regularly need financing, notably for facilities construction or renovation, team purchases and sales, and liquidity management.
Commercial transactions. These range from buying and selling teams to agreements for broadcasting, sponsorships, licensing, stadium events, facilities management, merchandise vending, technology services, etc.
Executive compensation. Compensation packages for coaches, general managers, and other top executives are increasingly complicated.
Intellectual property. Command of this area is vital as industry participants pursue digital and multimedia avenues for growth, and do so in multiple jurisdictions.
Labor and employment. Collective bargaining agreements are at the heart of the major sports. Labor and employment lawyers negotiate the agreements and advise on their compliance, implementation, and vast ramifications for doing business.
Litigation. Disputes are common in an industry as huge and popular as sports. Antitrust matters are especially relevant, given the competition-related issues that often arise.
Media/entertainment. Constant change in the development and distribution of sports content means that mastery of media/entertainment law is essential.
Real estate. Sites for playing facilities must be purchased, developed, and leased, frequently involving negotiations with state and local governments and regulatory bodies.
Tax. Tax considerations must be addressed in all aspects of the industry.