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Tuesday 25th September 2018

A new third tier European club competition looks to be on the horizon, with UEFA recently providing its initial approval for the new tournament, filling the gap left by the dissolution of Europe’s previous third tier continental tournament, the Cup Winners’ Cup, back in 1999.

Under the current proposal an additional 16 teams will have the opportunity to participate in UEFA club football, with the Europa League being reduced from 48 to 32 teams and the new tournament likewise featuring 32 teams. UEFA are also currently proposing that the new tournament be broadcast and sold online, a change that will no doubt concern television broadcasters given the current trend for greater online media consumption and the increasing competition from online companies in sports broadcasting.

For Clubs currently on the cusp of European football, a new tournament could provide not only the chance for European silverware, but potential commercial and brand building opportunities. Similarly for players and their representatives there may be possibilities to create additional value within players’ future playing and commercial arrangements. The following sets out some initial thoughts on the potential opportunities and issues a new tournament may bring:

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Friday 14th September 2018

Centrefield has again demonstrated its position as one of the leading professional advisors in world football, acting on a range of high profile transfers, loans, contract renewals and managerial and coaching staff appointments and departures throughout the 2018 summer transfer window.

Whilst the earlier than normal closure of the English Premier League’s summer transfer window may have led to a slight fall in total transfer spend in England, due to the firm’s international client base, Centrefield still acted on approximately one hundred transactions globally with total deal values in excess of £500 million, including many of the summer’s highest profile moves.

The firm demonstrated its broad industry expertise through its representation of clubs, players and intermediaries from around the globe on a range of issues including regulatory, transactional, commercial, contentious and immigration matters.

For further information about Centrefield’s football services please contact info@centrefield.law

Thursday 24th May 2018

The long awaited and much discussed EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enters into force across the EU and the UK on 25 May 2018, bringing with it a range of new and extensive requirements for organisations involved in the collection, processing and management of personal data. Additionally, from 25 May 2018, the new Data Protection Act 2018 replaces the Data Protection Act 1998 and will sit alongside the GDPR as the UK’s new data protection laws.

Our earlier article available here previously highlighted many of the broader issues under the GDPR which are still relevant, however, with the implementation of GDPR taking place, Centrefield has now provided some further thoughts for those involved in the sports industry to consider as they seek to address GDPR:

#1 The clock is ticking – whilst GDPR compliance should technically be completed by now, there remains some ‘added time’ and the ICO has made it clear that organisations are unlikely to face significant fines for non-compliance on day one, provided that their compliance plans are underway. However, for organisations that are yet to get to grips with GDPR, the clock is ticking so now is the time to consider and take advice on how best to comply with GDPR and accelerate the implementation process.

#2 Data mapping – have you carried out a data protection audit across your organisation? Organisations should now have a clear understanding of their data related operations, including how personal data is collected, processed, and transferred (whether within its organisational structure or to third parties). Understanding the flow of data within your organisation (sometimes known as ‘data mapping’) will be invaluable both during the implementation of data protection policies and when dealing with personal data on a day to day basis. As part of an audit/data mapping process, organisations should be clear what policies/procedures require updating and which contractual arrangements (mainly those with services providers acting as ‘data processors’) require amendment.

 #3 Commercial arrangements – sporting organisations, whether clubs, sports brands, agencies or companies involved in sport (such as ticketing agencies, CRM providers and event organisers) will need to consider any existing and future commercial arrangements in the context of GDPR. For sports organisations (particularly clubs and teams) their sponsorship arrangements, which may be heavily reliant on the value of access to fan data, will need be reviewed to ensure they have both the relevant consents to utilise such data and that any potential sponsors agree to and are able to implement any necessary data protection arrangements.

 #4 Fan / Customer data – consent to use personal data will now be harder to obtain particularly in relation to marketing communications. Silence, pre-ticked boxes/requirements to opt-out or non-specific/‘blanket’ consent requirements are no longer sufficient and consent must be “unambiguous”. Sports organisations should have clear processes and procedures to document how consent was obtained and for what purpose. Data protection laws do not exist in isolation and organisations are also required to comply with the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 which sets out rules about how you can contact fans/customers (e.g. whether by email and/or by phone etc.).

 #5 Rights of individuals – the new data protection laws enhance the rights of individuals and put individuals in control of their own data more than ever before. Further, personal data breaches by organisations have been significant news topics recently, meaning individuals are now more aware of their data rights than ever before. New rules around ‘subject access requests’ (i.e. the right for an individual to receive a copy of his/her personal data held by an organisation) will mean that organisations will need a clear system in place to respond to subject access requests within the required time period. A subject access request could arise in a number of scenarios in the form of a request to a national governing body, a club or a team (e.g. from an aggrieved athlete/player, a parent of a young athlete/player or an employee /former employee).

 If you would like any more information on any of the points raised above or any advice in connection with data protection matters, please contact David Bentham (Partner), Deirdre McCarthy (Associate) or David Anderson (Associate), or call 0161 672 5450.

 Please note the information contained in this briefing is intended as a general review of the subject featured and is not intended as specific legal advice.

Monday 29th January 2018

Whilst the global growth in football continues unabated, the continued boom in the industry has seen an associated growth in both the number and value of international disputes between clubs, players and intermediaries. Centrefield has experienced this growth first hand, advising a variety of participants on disputes across the sport. The firm recently published an article in the European Professional League Legal Newsletter summarising of the legal framework for dispute resolution within football and examining the international and domestic positions for participants in the industry. In particular the article emphasises the limitations football regulations place on the ability of participants to launch claims or resolve disputes outside of the football regulatory framework. Those involved in any dispute may be surprised to find the usual role of national courts for resolving disputes within football is considerably limited. The article also provides some useful considerations for industry participants on how to prepare for and protect against any issues arising when navigating the football landscape, including:

#1 Identifying mandatory pathways – both at the time of drafting a contractual agreement and when faced by an impending dispute, it is important to be aware of the mandatory dispute resolution pathways to which you are bound (in particular through the membership of a league, national association and ultimately FIFA).

#2 Getting the contract right – where possible you should seek to agree clear dispute resolution provisions at the outset of any contractual arrangements, noting that any arbitration provisions should be compatible with the mandatory dispute resolution pathways set out in the applicable rules and regulations. Such provisions should be clear on the nature of disputes to which they relate, the forum, and any relevant procedural considerations, including the language and timeframe of any proceedings.

#3 Seeking advice – the various forums available to participants can be a labyrinth to those with limited experience of such matters and getting the process wrong can be costly. It is therefore important to seek early advice on the options available in any dispute and where possible before committing to any proposed contractual arrangements.

The full article can be viewed here.

If you would like more information on any of the points raised above or any advice in connection with any potential or ongoing disputes, please contact Matthew Bennett (Partner) or Jennifer Norris (Associate), or call 0161 672 5450.

Please note the information contained in this briefing is intended as a general review of the subject featured and is not intended as specific legal advice.

Wednesday 22nd November 2017

Centrefield’s ranking for its work in Sport has risen in the recently published Chambers UK 2018 directory. In only its second year, Centrefield’s ranking has been elevated, placing it among the leading sports practices in the UK. This follows the firm’s recent promotion in the Legal 500 Rankings and reflects its success in establishing itself as one of the UK’s leading sports practices following its launch in December 2015. The firm was recognised by its clients for ‘their expertise in all areas of sports law and their approach’ and the partners were once again highlighted by clients for their work, with Matthew Bennett described as an ‘industry leader’ and Edward Canty being noted as ‘strong on the regulatory side… he has good experience dealing with governing bodies and understands that side of sport’. David Bentham was praised for his ‘extensive knowledge and expertise in sports law’, whilst Stuart Baird was also hailed as ‘brilliant with clients’, who also noted that he ‘knows the area inside-out.’

The praise and ranking underlines the specialist knowledge, experience and expertise Centrefield has within Sport and the firm’s ability to deliver industry specific advice, tailored to the need of its clients.

If you require any advice on any sports related matters or would like to discuss the services we can offer, you can contact the firm by Email or by phone on 0161 672 5450.

Thursday 19th October 2017

Centrefield has been ranked as a Top-Tier law firm for Sport within the Legal 500 2017 rankings. The firm was described by clients as being ‘among the best specialist sports practices by some distance, and undoubtedly one of the leading firm of solicitors for football’. In addition to its overall rankings, the firm’s partners have also been recognised, with Matthew Bennett is listed in the ‘Leading Individuals’ in UK Sport and noted as having ‘unparalleled knowledge and experience of regulatory law and is very popular with clients’.

David Bentham and Edward Canty are also recognised as leading lawyers within the industry, with David being described as ‘first-class and responsive’ and having ‘excellent industry knowledge and a superb commercial focus’, whilst Edward is noted as a ‘pre-eminent sports lawyer who is knowledgeable, skilful and user-friendly’. Stuart Baird is also listed in the leading ‘Next Generation Lawyers’ in UK Sport, being described as ‘very bright, calm and unflappable’ and someone who ‘knows the football industry inside out and commands respect’.

Having only established the practice in 2015, the firm’s top-tier rankings within the Legal 500 recognise the firm’s success in quickly establishing its position as one of the pre-eminent sports law practices within the UK.

Tuesday 26th September 2017

With the commencement of the Criminal Finances Act 2017 (the ‘Act’) imminent (30 September 2017), introducing long awaited corporate offences for organisations’ failure to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion, sporting organisations need to consider carefully the potential risks to their business. Sporting organisations, including football and rugby clubs in particular, should already be aware that they present high profile targets for HMRC and that their conduct will, undoubtedly, continue to face enhanced scrutiny following the commencement of the Act. Centrefield has set out below five headline thoughts for organisations to consider when assessing the impact of the new offences:

#1 International risks – the Act’s extra-territorial application means that sporting organisations will be liable not only for failing to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion in the UK, but tax evasion anywhere in the world. Organisations will therefore need to identify and consider the potential risk areas within their business both in the UK and internationally, whether through their fixed ground operations or the actions of intermediaries, professional advisors or other service providers.

#2 Identifying associates – the Act creates a broad liability for sporting organisations, capturing the acts of any person acting as an associate of that organisation. This extends not only to employees and those contractually tied to any organisation, but to any person who could be considered to be performing services for or on behalf of that organisation, including any intermediaries or representatives in any proposed transactions. Sporting organisations will therefore need to clearly identify the individuals and organisations who may be considered as performing services on their behalf and how their conduct can be monitored and managed.

#3 Internal procedures – sporting organisations will be able to raise a defence where they can demonstrate the presence of reasonable procedures to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion. Organisations should therefore consider a detailed review of their internal policies, procedures and relevant training, both to help reduce the risk of facilitating tax evasion and provide a potential defence should any breach occur.

#4 Top level commitment – when considering the reasonableness of an organisation’s internal procedures, investigating authorities will consider the conduct of senior management. Directors and senior individuals will need to demonstrate a clear commitment to preventing the facilitation of tax evasion. Even if not personally liable under the Act, directors should consider their conduct in the wider context of their legal duties to act in a company’s best interests and the potential for individual reputational damage in the event of a breach.

#5 Commercial transactions – sporting organisations will need to consider how they can mitigate the risk of facilitating tax evasion in future transactions, whether in respect of intermediary relations, player transfers, image rights arrangements, sponsorship agreements, business partnerships or other business service arrangements. Organisations should have a clear understanding of the relevant transaction and payment structures, and consider whether its existing and future contractual documentation provides adequate protections against the facilitation of tax evasion by any connected parties.

With the potential for unlimited fines and significant reputational damage to organisations found guilty of an offence, it is clear that the sports industry cannot afford to turn a blind eye to potential tax evasion.

The Criminal Finances Act commences on 30 September 2017. If you would like more information on any of the points raised above or any advice in connection with the Criminal Finances Act 2017, please contact David Bentham (Partner), Stuart Baird (Partner) or David Anderson (Associate), or call 0161 672 5450.

Please note the information contained in this briefing is intended as a general review of the subject featured and is not intended as specific legal advice.

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Tuesday 18th April 2017

Major far-reaching changes are coming into effect in the area of data protection law on 25 May 2018 – resulting from the EU ‘General Data Protection Regulation’ (GDPR). Here are Centrefield’s “five thoughts” on the GDPR:

#1. Increased Fines – the GDPR will ‘raise the stakes’ in terms of the financial impact for failures to comply with data protections laws – increasing the maximum fines on a two-tier basis depending on the nature of the breach: up to 2% of annual worldwide turnover or €10 million (whichever is the greater) or up to 4% of annual worldwide turnover or €20 million (whichever is the greater).

#2. Tougher Obligations – as well as introducing statutory obligations on data processors for the first time, the GDPR also places more onerous accountability obligations on data controllers than the current regime, including requirements to carry out data protection impact assessments, implement data protection policies, report breaches within short timeframes and (where applicable) appoint a nominated ‘Data Protection Officer’.

#3. Rights of individuals – in line with the GDPR’s objective to put individuals ‘in control of their data’, it creates some new rights for individuals and strengthens some existing ones, for example: the right to be informed (typically through a privacy notice), the right of access to personal information (organisations will have less time to comply with a subject access request); the right to restrict and object to data processing; and the right to erasure (also known as ‘the right to be forgotten’).

#4. Consent – will be harder to obtain. Silence, pre-ticked boxes/requirements to opt-out or non-specific/‘blanket’ consent will no longer suffice as consent must be “unambiguous”. Importantly, consents already obtained from individuals may be sufficient but only if they meet the new requirements. If not, then you will need to obtain consent afresh – which could be a major task for many data controllers.

#5. Impact – the new regime is likely to have a significant impact on the sports and media world, particularly those entities which collect individuals’ personal information (whether through websites, apps, social networks or otherwise) for any purpose such as for ticketing/hospitality/events, creating a ‘fan’/‘member’ database and sending newsletters and updates etc. Whilst there is just over a year until the new rules go live, the nature and scope of the new regime means that now is clearly the time to review your organisation’s current data protection practices and procedures and to put in place an action plan to ensure you will be ‘GDPR ready’ on 25 May 2018.

If you would like any more information on any of the points raised above or any advice in connection with data protection matters, please contact David Bentham (Partner) or Deirdre McCarthy (Associate), or call 0161 672 5450.

Please note the information contained in this briefing is intended as a general review of the subject featured and is not intended as specific legal advice.

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Friday 24th March 2017

Following Manchester City announcing the Premier League’s first Official Sleeve Partnership (with Nexen Tire) since the Premier League introduced new rules for the 2017/18 season, here are  Centrefield’s thoughts on the introduction of sleeve sponsorship rights in the Premier League, and multi-sponsor kit branding in general:

#1. Value – rights holders will need to take a holistic view, considering aggregate revenues generated across all kit branding assets, taking into account the potential impact of each deal on the others. Whilst appointing a sleeve partner may well result in a short term boost to some Premier League Clubs’ sponsorship coffers, will the increase sustain itself over the longer term or will the values of and appetite for shirt sponsorship re-calibrate to take into account this multi-sponsor branding?

#2. Exclusivity – existing arrangements will be crucial in terms of the rights which may (or may not) be granted to a potential sleeve sponsor. The recent rule change also highlights the importance of rights holders’ making informed decisions in their contractual arrangements in terms of their ability to exploit other sponsorship assets and inventory – whether existing, or ones which may become available in the future.

#3. Related Arrangements – the position of a sleeve sponsor within a Club’s sponsorship hierarchy will be a very relevant issue for both the Club (and its other partners) and sponsor. In practical terms, the application of an additional brand to kit will be dictated by the rights holder’s technical partner / kit supply arrangements, particularly in relation to the relevant costs and time frames and the position around replicas.

#4. Scope of Rights – rights holders and sponsors will need to consider, both from a regulatory and commercial perspective, if and how inventory is to be ‘carved up’. Are rights being granted on all kits, or is there a differentiation, perhaps based on competitions or home/away/third kits? Do rights extend to training kit as well? Does the deal capture all rights holder teams?

#5. Sponsorship – all of the usual considerations for sports sponsorship deals will apply, including any requirements of applicable laws in the relevant product/service sectors. There will also be specific considerations to take into account in the event that inventory is sold on a collective basis (for example, an agency seeking to sell sleeve rights on behalf of a number of Clubs).

If you would like any more information on any of the points raised above or any advice in connection with sponsorship matters, please contact David Bentham (Partner) or Oliver Sadler (Associate), or call 0161 672 5450.

Please note the information contained in this briefing is intended as a general review of the subject featured and is not intended as specific legal advice.

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Monday 16th January 2017

Published in World Sports Advocate, Friday 18th November 2016

The opening panel session at the Player Contracts Conference in October, organised by World Sports Advocate, provided a useful insight into the views of stakeholders and practitioners on the question of whether the current football transfer system, introduced by FIFA some 15 years ago, requires reform. The panel comprised senior representatives from the World Players’ Union, FIFPro, the European Professional Football Leagues (‘EPFL’) and the European Club Association (‘ECA’) as well as lawyers acting for clubs, players and intermediaries. Matthew Bennett, Partner at Centrefield LLP, who was a member of the Panel, provides an overview of FIFPro’s complaint to the EU Commission and a detailed analysis of the discussion had at Player Contracts.

It was perhaps of no surprise that FIFPro’s Legal Director, Wil van Megen, re-iterated FIFPro’s view that the transfer system must be changed – indeed, there was a clue to FIFPro’s position in the title of Mr van Megen’s presentation: ‘Why the transfer system fails.’ In his presentation Mr van Megen made reference to the formal complaint that FIFPro lodged with the European Commission in 2015 into the transfer system.

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