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A Summer of Sport - Top 5 Legal Considerations

As we continue into a new summer of sport, with events such as the Women’s Football World Cup, the Rugby World Cup the Ryder Cup; and with the return of the Premier League and more still to come on the horizon, event organisers in the sports industry need to ensure that they have all of the necessary legal documentation in place to deliver a successful event.

Here's our list of the top 5 areas to consider when looking at a successful sports event:

Hosting

Organisers of the sporting event need to consider hosting responsibilities. For example, will a third party be engaged to host the event? If so, the event organisers need to ensure that their event is delivered in line with any specific criteria and, most importantly, within the correct timeframe and budget.

Should hosts be seeking to have third parties assist in the delivery of events, thought ought to be given as to whether the appropriate arrangements have been put in place.  The use of third-party suppliers is accompanied by a fair share of issues, so it is particularly important to consider who will be engaging with those third parties, and where liabilities and responsibilities lie if things don’t go to plan.  Unsurprisingly, in the post-COVID era, there has been much more focus on the risks and consequences of cancellations, with many taking steps to ensure that this is fully addressed in contract negotiations.

Sponsorship

Sponsorship is essential for a successful event, both in its ability to generate publicity and revenue.   That said, it’s always wise to look into the sponsors that may be engaged to support the event, including the sectors that they operate in and to tread carefully to avoid any overlap (which sponsors tend to dislike!). Taking steps to clearly define the type of exclusivity being granted to sponsors (if any) and what exactly these parameters look like can help to mitigate any risk of complications later down the line. 

Sponsorship tends to come hand in hand with branding, so it’s essential to have clear wording around the licensing of this branding, as well as on the repercussions should the sponsor fail to comply with any restrictions. In order to ensure that any branding being licensed is being used as the licensor intends, brand guidelines and approvals processes are often deployed to great effect.

When a sponsor misuses a brand or behaves in a way that carries with it the risk of reputational damage, we often see concerns over the impact this has on the public profile of the rights holder and relevant sporting event.  As such, it’s important for event organisers to have the necessary termination rights in place to avoid being locked into an agreement with the offending sponsor; a precautionary measure that allows organisers to quickly cut ties and avoid suffering reputational damage by association. Of course, the sponsor may require a reciprocal right.

Data

With big events comes the collection and use of an equivocal quantity of data. Whether that be data associated with players and the statistics gathered during the event, or with individuals who have opted-in to receive marketing communications when signing up to purchase tickets.

Data like this can be highly valuable, and should event organisers seek access to that information, then there should be applicable documentation in place, such as data processing and data sharing agreements (respectively). In any event, it is essential for all relevant parties to ensure that there is a proper legal basis for any processing of personal data; that the requisite consents and permissions are obtained from those individuals; and that their personal data continues to be adequately safeguarded, to avoid the costly consequences of getting it wrong.

Broadcasting

Rights holders must ensure that they have gathered the relevant broadcasters and provide a licence so that such broadcasters can ‘broadcast’ the feed on their channels. After all, how else are people going to watch or listen to the event?

When licensing rights such as these, attention needs to be given to what rights are granted and where: rights holders don’t want to grant exclusive rights in one territory, only to start negotiating with another broadcaster for the same rights in the same territory (and broadcasters don’t tend to like this either!).

In a similar vein, it is important to clearly set out the parameters of a broadcast licence, including the types of rights being granted (e.g. pay per view, free, paid etc), as well as the channels and platforms permitted (e.g. live feed only, on-demand services). Consideration also needs to be given to host broadcast obligations – i.e. who will actually film, produce the footage, and pay the bill for doing so.

Brand Protection

 Successful brands are often plagued by ‘copycat’ brands misusing their marks. In such instances, brands can negate the risk of reputational damage by registering trade marks in applicable territories. Owners of registered trade marks can then enforce their rights, rather than relying on the common law concept of passing-off for unregistered marks, for example by sending a cease-and-desist letter requiring the offending third party to stop using the mark immediately.

Conclusion

That is our whistle-stop tour of the top 5 areas to consider when looking at a successful sports event. Preparing a significant event of any kind is no easy feat, but with the requisite strength of support in the lead up to the implementation of agreements (and making sure that they work together seamlessly), those involved stand themselves in excellent stead for executing a successful event.

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