Funding Sport and Fighting Corruption

The Irish Presidency of the European Union and the Irish Sports Council hosted a major EU Conference on Sport at Dublin Castle earlier this month.

One of the contributors was Benoit Keane, a graduate of University College Cork who now runs a legal practice in Brussels and has become one of the most respected voices in the field of sports law across the continent.

Challenging Issues

Benoit Keane, Keane Legal

“Sport has become one of the most popular common languages of the European Union.”

“As such it presents a very competitive battleground for commercial enterprises looking to benefit from the organisation and sponsorship of events that will attract many millions of fans and viewers across national boundaries.”

“The value of the right to broadcast those events is driven up by the attraction of rivalry on the field of play and the rivalry among brands to associate themselves with it.”

“Sport has overcome the reluctance of courts to provide a basis for copyright in the organisation of games or matches by concentrating instead on the trademarks, symbols, access rights and broadcast elements that surround the event and drawing many millions of revenue from them.”

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[ismember]”The creation of solidarity mechanisms to pool the value from the sale of rights has been vital.”

“Individual clubs within the Premier League might achieve more in the short term from the sale of individual broadcast rights but they recognise that the value of their own brand is interwoven with the value and the competitiveness of the competitions in which they participate.”

“In Spain there is no such collective mechanism and while Barcelona and Real Madrid have the financial power to dominate even at European level, the strength of the domestic league is becoming less and that will have an impact on the larger clubs.”

“A competitive season has to be about more than a handful of fixtures or in the case of Spain effectively only two.”

“UEFA has built a programme of collective rights that distributes money more evenly across the sport and so builds greater strength.”

“The Hat Trick programme that was launched in 2003 has now been extended to 2016 and will see the distribution of up to €9 million in funding over four years to each of 53 Football Associations across Europe.”

“€1.5 million of this each year is an incentive to invest in grassroots and specific programmes that will strengthen the game.  When looked at in the context of domestic funding for sport this is a very significant contribution, made possible for all by the collective pooling of value in events like the Euro 2012 Finals.”

“Soccer is moving now towards a greater collective approach to international soccer broadcasting rights and the same can be seen in the creation of the European Rugby Cups and in other sports.”

“Two major challenges which sport faces include the third party ownership of player contracts and the growing influence of betting.”

“The ownership of players came to prominence in England through the sale by West Ham United of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano.  Both players ultimate ‘ownership’ was held by third parties and the increasing prevalence of this means of extracting value from investment in the sport has reached a point where both UEFA and FIFA are considering bans.”

“Betting is an area that has greater influence and is one where there is much legal activity dating back over recent years and likely stretching some way into the future.”

“There appears to be a disconnect between the value of sport to betting providers and the financial benefit the organisers of sporting events gain from that value.”

“New laws in France created a sports organisers right which is supported in principle by the European Parliament and may form the basis of a long term solution to matching value and financial benefit.”

“Betting companies argue that sponsorship of teams and broadcast programmes among others does deliver value but this is very much on a one off basis for individuals and much as in TV rights, will be more effective and of greater benefit in an overall context when pooled.”

“Corruption is another area in which betting companies have sought to be clean through a variety of voluntary memoranda of understanding but which will need to be handled in a more legislative and effective way as concerns grow about the damage which betting can give rise to among participants and as a result on the integrity of competition.”[/ismember]


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