Bird & Bird’s International Sports Group includes a number of dedicated sports specialists who work exclusively on sports-related matters. Recognised as undisputed market leaders for several years, we have an unparalleled four partners listed in the top tier of individual sports lawyers complied by the Chambers legal directory, and we are currently the only law firm to feature in the top tier for Sports Law in the Legal 500 directory.
Bird & Bird has a strong and established blue-chip sports client base, consisting of international federations, national governing bodies, public agencies, event organisers and other sports rights-holders, providing a steady stream of cutting-edge instructions on all of the biggest commercial, regulatory, contentious and non-contentious issues in the Sports sector.
We work with numerous sporting disciplines, including football, rugby union, rugby league, cricket, tennis, motor-racing, golf, cycling, athletics, combat sports, basketball, snooker, darts, horse-racing, equestrian sports, and field hockey.
Our strength in depth and the reputation of individuals within our team is unmatched. We are specialists in:
- the exploitation of commercial rights, including in particular media, new media and marketing rights;
- brand management;
- event organisation;
- sports governance;
- the drafting of rules and regulations;
- disciplinary and anti-doping proceedings;
- bringing and defending challenges to the decisions and actions of governing bodies;
- dispute resolution (including mediation and expert determination).
We are also able to draw on advice and support from colleagues in the firm who are experts in corporate, competition, tax, employment, immigration, data protection and other areas of law, all of whom are experienced in the particular requirements of the sports sector.
Heads of Group: Jonathan Taylor in London and Dr Joseph Fesenmair in Munich.
Recent highlights of work
● Advising The Football Association on the tender and sale of the media rights to its sporting properties, including England senior team and FA Cup matches, both domestically and abroad. We have also advised The FA on its new England kit and ball supply/sponsorship Agreement with Nike.
● Helping Six Nations Rugby with its organisation of the RBS 6 Nations Championship, European Rugby Cup with its organisation of the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup, and Celtic Rugby with its organisation of the RaboDirect Pro 12, which included drafting detailed participation agreements for the teams involved, drafting venue agreements for the staging of the matches, and drafting the broadcasting, sponsorship and supplier contracts underpinning the commercial programmes for those events.
● Representing the International Cricket Council (ICC) in respect of the appeals filed with the Court of Arbitration for Sport by Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif against the 10 and 7 year bans (respectively) that Bird & Bird secured against those players before the ICC Anti-Corruption Tribunal in 2011, arising out of their conspiracy to fix aspects of the 2010 Lord’s Test match between England and Pakistan.
● Negotiating the renewal of the British Darts Organisation’s agreement with the BBC for the broadcasting of the annual BDO World Pro Championship.
● Acting for the World Anti-Doping Agency in its high profile dispute with the British Olympic Association over the compatibility of its doping bye-law with the World Anti-Doping Code.
● Negotiating the agreements for the British & Irish Lions with BSkyB for the broadcasting rights to the Lions’ June 2013 match against the Barbarians in Hong Kong as well as the ‘behind-the-scenes’ DVD of the 2013 tour to Hong Kong and Australia.
"Bird & Bird maintains a multidisciplinary sports team, working with market-leading sports clients across the full range of their legal needs. The group provides expert advice across managing commercial rights, dispute resolution, and disciplinary and regulatory issues, amongst many others. 'The lawyers they have are amongst the best I've ever worked with, in any sector – sports, corporate, whatever. They are just phenomenal lawyers.'"
"Clients are quick to acknowledge the group's commitment to excellent client service: 'They are always extremely willing and able to assist with any deadline, in any timeframe, at any time of the night.' Bird & Bird has become the go-to firm for the governing bodies of sport, and its client roster alone reveals the team's standing in the market, including the Football Association (FA), the International Cricket Council (ICC), the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the Premier League, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and British Cycling, amongst others."
"'Exceptional and versatile', Bird & Bird is 'extremely strong, covering both commercial and regulatory aspects of sport', be it contentious or non-contentious work. Its clients include governing bodies and event organisers across football, rugby union, cricket, tennis, golf, basketball, motor sport and equestrianism, and it also represents sponsors and broadcasters."
Legal 500 2012