Where does the sports industry go from here?

23rd June 2021

The sports industry, like many others, has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of our Investing in Success forum we hosted a sports roundtable event on 8 June with select guests involved in the world of sport to discuss how to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.

The purpose of the event was for Blake Morgan to act as a conduit and a connector in the centre of the sports industry, and it worked brilliantly. Thank you to everyone who attended, showing great teamwork in making valuable contributions to an enlightening session.

Blake Morgan Partner, Dov Katz, who specialises in representing sports professionals and agents as well as corporate law, was joined by guests from the world of football, rugby, sport manufacturing, as well as merchandising, energy supply and banking.

Presenter, commentator and sports broadcaster Jonathan Overend expertly steered the discussion and took it to another level. He managed to coax sporting tips out of the guests and kept it lively and engaging. We had representatives from Harlequins, Eastleigh FC, Kymira Sport, Barclays Bank, Utilita Energy, Event (Merchandising), Succession Wealth, Anytime Fitness as well as a former Scotland rugby international.

“With a fine mix of guests in the world of sport, ranging from advisers to international football players to CEOs of rugby and football teams, our inaugural sports roundtable was an overwhelming success, propelling Blake Morgan’s sports law team further into the limelight and raising our increasingly higher profile,” said Dov Katz.

“We were honoured and privileged to have renowned sports broadcaster Jonathan Overend facilitate the event. We look forward to hosting the next one.”

Grass roots

There was a real concern that grass roots clubs, the ones who have suffered greatly from the lack of participation during restricted times, will not be able to recover. This in turn would have very damaging consequences for their local communities.

Children lost out on sport provision at school and local clubs that either closed or shutdown temporarily. This lack of participation from children could have a knock-on effect for the industry long term as well if the younger generation lose interest in sport. The challenge may be to rekindle lost love with limited resources.

Positives for the sports industry

However, it is not all doom and gloom.

Sustainability isn’t just a buzz word but one that clubs at all levels are fully focused on now.

The sports industry has shown that it can make quick decisions when forced into them by the pandemic. The hope is that the ability to adapt, move dynamically and think quickly will remain as we exit the pandemic. One attendee said:

The pandemic made us take bigger and tougher decisions far quicker.

People have become more conscious of their physical and mental health during the pandemic. Sport can play a crucial part in your wellbeing, lots of people have taken up running and there will be a short term resurgence as supporters are allowed back to stadia, restrictions permitting. Perhaps absence has made the heart grow fonder as well? Fans have missed their teams, well unless they were considering joining a closed shop breakaway league!

Technology has also come to the rescue. As another guest pointed out: “Streaming has been great. Being able to stream has widened the audience. Selling those streams has been a real lifesaver.”

Key points:

  • Sustainability is critical
  • Think quickly and remain agile
  • Review your contracts – sponsorship, player, event, etc.
  • Flexibility is key for everything, from car parking and transport to looking at the work-life balance and offering an experience to your customers
  • Continue the collaboration, which was enhanced by the pandemic, work with stakeholders

How can Blake Morgan help?

From a legal perspective the pandemic has brought to the fore many legal issues, including in relation to contract documentation. In the past these signed documents might have sat untouched in the drawer. The impact of the pandemic has highlighted the importance of having well drafted contracts with appropriate legal protections.

Blake Morgan’s legal team has been very busy helping sportspersons with their wide-ranging legal needs. The firm has been involved in reviewing contractual documentation – whether player, event or sponsorship – particularly the legitimacy of any invoked force majeure clauses and those in relation to postponement and cancellation, notice provisions, obligations, representations, warranties and conditions. And of course our Immigration team has been busy helping sportspersons coming to the UK following Brexit.

Thank you once again to everyone who was able to attend and contribute to the discussion.

If you need assistance with any issues within the article, please do contact our sports industry lawyers.

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