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This May sees the publication of the first comprehensive guide to legal issues in football in the world as well as a ‘Football Law’ themed seminar in central London.

The new book, Football and the Law (Bloomsbury Professional, 2018) features 29 chapters of discussion and analysis of just about every legal issue and dispute arising in football. It is written by over 50 of the leading experts in the field: QCs, barristers and specialist solicitors from around the world, but most practising in England. It covers everything from the regulatory scheme and rules of international and domestic football, the structure of the playing contract and football transfers, disciplinary issues, the regulation of football intermediaries, and the role of European law to commercial issues such as image rights, sponsorship and broadcasting – as well as many other important topics. It will no doubt be a valuable asset to anyone practising in sports law, involved in the football business or simply interested in learning about the legal issues in football.

Also in May, LawInSport is organising the first of its ‘Football Law’ seminars, with three expert panels focussing on the legal issues arising in relation to Player Transfers, Agents and Politics in football. The event is followed by a talk given by in-house football lawyers about the issues they face organised by British Association of Sort and the Law (BASL) and finally by a book launch party for Football and the Law.

In the Introduction to Football and the Law, I argue that we may now be able to describe the body of law explained in the book as ‘football law’ in the same way that others have coined the term ‘sports law’ for the wider field of legal issues across many sports. There remains a debate about whether there is such a thing as sports law. Beloff et al have argued there is a sports law because it has “many of the incidents of an autonomous legal area”: there are specialist sports tribunals, nationally and internationally which deliver judgments sometimes reported in specialist law reports; professional bodies whose members proclaim themselves to be sport lawyers; books and journals devoted to the subject; courses in sports law taught at an increasing number of universities; sports specific legislation; sporting regulators, both national and international, that make rules to which those who participate in sport are subject which again must be interpreted by regulatory bodies and may be subject to challenge in sports tribunals.

These things arise in football too. There are specialist football tribunals, in England, for example, the FA Regulatory Commissions or Rule K arbitral tribunals, as well as League panels; internationally the FIFA Dispute Resolution Commission and the Court of Arbitration in Sport’s specialist ‘football list’. It is these bodies that deliver judgments on disputes in football – and indeed the FIFA Statutes themselves make it mandatory for football disputes to be determined by these bodies and not by domestic courts. An increasing number of sports lawyers work primarily or exclusively in football. There is now, with our book, at least one book devoted only to the subject of football law, and there will no doubt be many more in the future. An increasing number of courses on sports law taught internationally are focussed on football. There is football specific legislation – in England for example the legislation relating to safe stadia exists because of and is focussed on football. There exist a number of football regulators, both national and international, that make rules applying to all those involved in football, that are in turn subject to interpretation and challenge in football specific tribunals. If we can properly speak of sports law, we can also now speak of ‘football law’.

This is important not just from a terminological or an academic point of view. It is of practical importance. Football is the world’s biggest and richest sport by a long way. The development of sports law has been driven by the increasing commercialisation of sport – the more money in sport the more scope for legal disputes, specialist legal advice, and the development of a specialist sector of lawyers and other professionals to service the market. And so it is with the world’s biggest sport, football. There is an increasing demand for people with specialist knowledge of the nature and type of legal issues that arise specifically in football and with expertise in resolving disputes that arise. Just as the game is international, so are many of the legal issues that arise – and as many of the fundamental legal rules applying to football, such as those regulating the transfer of players, are international in character, the football lawyer is as able to act for a player or club in Asia one day as she or he is able to act for one in South America or Scotland the next day.

Ultimately it probably matters little whether football law is a properly distinct area of law at all or a description of the application of a number of different areas of law (commercial and contract law, tort, regulatory and employment law, EU law, fiduciary duties and the law of agency, discrimination and human rights, privacy and defamation, personal injury, intellectual property and the law of arbitration, for example) to a highly specialised football industry. What matters is for those involved in the area, or those seeking to become more involved or simply to better understand it, to have a knowledge of the specialist legal issues that arise football, or, in shorthand, to understand football law. The new book shall be essential for this.

Football and the Law is published by Bloomsbury Professional and is available for order here.

The Football Law seminar takes place on 23 May in central London and is organised by LawInSport in partnership with Blackstone Chambers, British Association for Sport and Law, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP. More details are available here.

NickDe Marco QC of Blackstone Chambers is the General Editor as well as one of the authors of Football and the Law.

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