Disputes in sport: more prevalent than you might think

Profession:Walsh Halligan Douglas

By Matthew McCormick

Legal disputes between parties involved in sporting activities are not new. However in the last 10 – 15 years, there has been a major increase in the willingness of those parties to turn to formal litigation to resolve disputes concerning organised sport.

The level of money now involved in professional sports today means that contracts concerning player employment, competition/team/athlete sponsorships, endorsements, playing arrangements, media distribution rights, agents – the list could go on and on –are now very significant and/or complex commercial agreements.

Equally (because of the size of the financial implications) there has been an increase in the awareness that losses and injuries sustained as a result of sporting activities can constitute the basis of a legal action for damages. The growing areas of litigation relating to sports include:

Negligence claims against fellow participants; Breaches of player and/or endorsement contracts; Claims against supervisory or regulatory bodies; Claims against or by clubs for early termination of player contracts; Claims against match officials; Medical negligence claims in respect of medical advice and/or treatment; Challenges to drug test results and/or penalties flowing from them; Claims against schools and/or organisational bodies; Disputes between professional athletes and their agents. A single blog that covered all of those topics adequately would be the length of a PhD thesis. In future posts, we will summarise particular aspects of more specific areas of "Sports Law" and relevant legal decisions, both from Australia and abroad.

However, many disputes arising out of sporting contracts and activities are not litigated, but are resolved in mediation, arbitration or other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Indeed, most (if not all) modern contracts contain specific clauses requiring any disputes to first be referred to informal ADR processes, before a party can commence formal court action. If ADR...

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