There is a huge interest in sports, both on and off the field. The growing media coverage of highly paid athletes, advertising endorsements and Jerry McGuire-style sports agents has led to various legal issues surrounding the sports industry.

Issues that range from selection disputes, sports club incorporation, doping tests to social media comments and privacy concerns. As a result, there is a need to have lawyers who deal with these specific sports-related matters.

If you are a sportsperson, a sporting club or a company involved in sports, it is important to seek advice from a sports lawyer. Our network of lawyers includes experienced sports lawyers that operate on a fixed-fee basis.

What is sports law?

Simply put, sports law is all about the laws, regulations and judicial decisions that govern sports and athletes. Sports law deals with a variety of matters:

Commercial Contracts

Forming and negotiating commercial contracts between sportspersons and clubs or between athletes and brand sponsors

It has become increasingly important to include contractual clauses concerning player’s movements, in particular contractual offers from rival clubs and sporting codes. In the competitive market of player drafts and swaps, it is important that all player contracts have clauses in place detailing the process of a club or code swap.

For example, in 2008 then Canterbury Bulldogs player Sonny Bill Williams made a mid-season exit from the NRL, as a result of salary cap concerns with the club. Williams left Australia to play for French Rugby side Toulon, however the clauses within his player’s contract resulted in an injunction. The case highlights the importance of watertight player’s contracts and terms dealing with similar actions by sportspersons.

A contract which details acceptable conduct and the consequences of breach becomes important in these circumstances.

Intellectual Property

Sportspersons as brand ambassadors endorsing different products, to branding and merchandising by sports clubs and the unauthorised use of images or trademarks

Sponsorships and endorsements can be a very lucrative area for players, sports clubs and sports goods companies. It is essential to understand who has the rights to the images, posters, jerseys and other such products sold and distributed by clubs, players and associations.

For example, in 2012, sports retailer Paul’s Warehouse was found to have infringed golf star Greg Norman’s trademark as a result of unauthorised importation. Similarly, Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell was in an intellectual property dispute about the unauthorised use of his image. These examples highlight the importance of intellectual property to sports clubs and distributors.

By using LawPath’s easy online application, you can register your trademark in Australia, USA and Europe and protect your brand.

Sports-related injury issues

Are coaches and clubs legally liable for the actions of their athletes or does a team doctor owe a duty of care to athletes or sports clubs?

Many sports pose serious dangers to participants. A person who suffers from a sports-related injury may recover medical expenses and other losses.

For example – Recently, former Newcastle Knights player Alex McKinnon suffered spinal injuries after a poorly executed tackle by players from the Melbourne Storm Team. As a result, McKinnon is currently seeking compensation.


Creating policies and procedures for sports clubs

Clubs and associations should have policies in place which promote the responsible use of alcohol, discrimination and social media guidelines, and the do’s and don’t’s for sportspersons. A well drafted policy not only eliminates risk but also helps in educating sportspersons about expectations and acceptable behaviour.

For example – For the recent Olympic Rio 2016 Games, the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) came up with the IOC Social and Digital Media Guidelines which each Country’s Olympic Team were required to sign. The Australian Olympic Committee also produced a ‘Useful Handbook for Athletes’.

At LawPath we have a number of policies including a Social Media Policy and Drug and Alcohol Policy that could assist your club or association.

Setting up a sports club

Legal requirements when setting up a sports club

Sports Clubs and associations have to comply with the regulations set out by sports governing bodies. Check out our legal guide to learn about the 5 legal requirements when setting up a sports club

Why do I need a Sports Lawyer?

A sports lawyer can help with all your sports-related legal matters and ensure you and your sports club are compliant. Without proper legal guidance, it can be difficult to understand your legal rights and responsibilities. Our sports lawyers provide expert legal advice on any sports-related legal matter. They will also equip you with the right legal documents for your needs. Covering everything from, commercial contracts, sports club incorporation, creating tailor-made policies and addressing any of your legal concerns.

Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800LAWPATH to learn more about customising legal documents, obtaining a fixed-fee quote from our network of 600+ expert lawyers or to get answers to your legal questions.

Nishita John

Nishita is a paralegal at LawPath working in our content team, which works to provide free legal guides to enhance public access to legal resources. With an Investment Banking background and a keen interest in Corporate and Commercial Law, her research focuses on small and medium businesses, and how to simplify complex legal procedures