Monday, December 22, 2008

2009: Sports Law Predictions

Readers of World Sports Law Report will know that the journal features insightful - and sometimes exclusive - news articles, plus features examining current issues in sports law written by expert lawyers. However, at Christmas time - after a few mince pies and a glass of sherry - we decide to do something different and ask the esteemed members of our editorial board to make predictions about what the main issues facing sports lawyers will be during the coming year.

This year, I decided to have a go myself, however as our editorial board supplied more than enough predictions to include in the print journal, I decided to omit mine. So here they are:

The global recession will hit expensive luxury products especially hard, and for many, football is an expensive luxury product. We have already seen empty seats and blank jerseys this season, as the financial supporters of the beautiful game cut back on luxuries. However, football fans are loyal and will find new, cheaper, methods of consumption. 2009 is perhaps a bit early for the Premier League to adjust its tried and tested rights model to accommodate the increasing threat that free (illegal) internet coverage presents, however it is expected that smaller sporting clubs and organisations will adopt increasingly innovative methods of getting bums on seats and cash in banks.

Sport is already considering how it can generate revenue from betting – which is predicted to be less affected by the economic downturn than other economic areas – and much debate will ensue over whether event organisers can sell a ‘right to bet’ to operators keen to offer odds on events. Corruption in sport will continue to follow the same road as doping in sport, and whether an organisation similar to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) should be set up to police this area will attract serious debate.

The protection of the privacy of athletes under the revised WADA Code will also attract further examination at a regulatory level. Finally, I predict - and hope - that World Sports Law Report will continue to stay ahead of the pack in reporting on all of these developments.

I think that about sums it up, however it was interesting to note that Gareth Southgate made similar predictions about a recession hitting football following my considerations on what the major issues would be. As manager of a club in an industrial city without a rich overseas benefactor, Southgate should be acutely aware of any approaching ‘football recession’.

December’s edition of World Sports Law Report – which is now available on our internet site – contains predictions from Luca Ferrari of Studio LCA in Milan; Richard McLaren of the University of Western Ontario; Mike Morgan of Hammonds; David Zeffman of Olswang; and Michael Stirling of Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP. They provide an interesting insight into where sport may be heading in 2009. One thing that is certain – recession or boom – is that people will continue to play and support sport and with that thought in mind, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Andy Brown

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