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International sporting events have undergone a massive transformation in the last few years, and presently, it creates a voluminous amount of income globally.
The second-largest sports market in the world
The collaboration of the Middle East with various sporting events have yielded enormous success and hence it is of no surprise that EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) market is now touted as the second-largest sports market globally. The importance of the sporting event was further reiterated when the State of Qatar was given the opportunity of hosting the FIFA 2022 Football World Cup. However, amongst the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been an undisputed leader with regards to the promotion of various sporting events in the region. With the relentless support by the sovereign council, UAE has gained prominence as a sought-after venue for holding global sporting events.
UAE is a melting pot wherein there exists a mélange of distinct cultures and diverse businesses. For a progressive nation like the UAE, global sporting events have broadened its popularity as a sought-after tourist venue thereby increasing its status and panache.
The capital city Abu Dhabi and major tourist attraction city Dubai have amongst themselves hosted some of the most esteemed sporting events such as the richest horse race (Dubai World Cup), the only sunset Formula One circuit, PGA ranked golf tournaments, ATP tennis tournaments, international marathons and recently the Indian Premier League.
Some of the prestigious sports regulating bodies such as the International Cricket Council are headquartered in UAE.
As various UAE based organizations and individuals are investing in sports ventures including sponsorship of various prominent tournaments, sporting infrastructure, sporting teams etc, it is important to protect the interests of all involved.
Growth in UAE
Despite being a new territory UAE is growing fast in the field of sports law and dispute resolution. Considerable improvement and changes have occurred in the last 10 years. Various sports in UAE have transitioned from an amateur level to a highly competent and professional level thus following the regulation of international sports governing bodies. A classic example is the emergence and progression of Football in the UAE. It is worth mentioning that the commercial value of UAE Football leagues in on the rise each year thereby highlighting the importance of the sport in the country. Abu Dhabi Sports Council and the Dubai Sports Council are actively involved in organizing and holding various international sports events
What is the broadcasting of sporting events?
Broadcasting of sports events means providing live coverage of the sports event through various forms of media such as television, radio etc. Generally, there are one or more commentators who describe the sporting event as it happens.
Innovations in technology have transformed the broadcasting of sports events which has thus enabled billions around the world to enjoy and be a part of the thrill and spectacle of these events.
Copyright and other related rights especially those concerning the broadcasting organizations underline the association between sports, television and other forms of media.
Most sports organizations now look at the sale of these broadcasting and media rights as a major source of revenue which enables them to garner funds which are further used to finance sporting events, renovate or revamp the existing stadiums to make it more state of the art and also to develop various sports at grassroots levels.
Basics of Sports Law Practice
The legal domain of the sports industry is broadly classified into transaction and litigious. Transactional practice involves the inter-alia corporate-commercial work such as drafting, vetting, negotiating agreements. The litigation side to sports law mainly deals with resolving conflicts that arise between players, clubs, organisations etc.
Sports regulation in the UAE
UAE Football Association (“UAE FA”) was formed under Ministerial Resolution No. 17 of 1972.UAEFA is the governing body of football in UAE and has issued the Statute of the UAEFA which is considered as the predominant piece of legislation governing the rules and regulation of football in UAE. These regulations are consistent with the rules laid down by international bodies such as FIFA and world football leagues.
The National Media Council and TRA govern the broadcasting licenses in UAE. Broadcasting is governed under UAE Federal Law no 7 of 2002 which relates to Copyrights and Neighboring Rights.
The broadcasting organization has a right to give licenses for the exploitation of their recording and programs under Article 19(1).
The right to prohibit unauthorized broadcasting of their programs to the public, in general, is conferred to the Broadcasting organization under Article 19(2).
The Digital Content and Broadcasting regulations in the UAE and covered under the UAE Penal Code.
Federal Law Number 15 of 1980 Concerning Printing and Publishing encompasses television broadcasting.
Content distribution via the internet is governed under Federal Law Number 5 of 2012 on Combating Cyber Crimes (Cyber-Crimes Law).
CAS: Sports Dispute Resolution
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) which is an international quasi-judicial body was created in 1984 to resolve differences relating to sports using arbitration, as part of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
CAS has repeatedly, shown its popularity as the most preferred dispute resolution mechanism for resolving disputes in global sports.
CAS is headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, and has its courts in New York City and Sydney and has established temporary courts in current Olympic host cities.
Chamber for the CAS has been established in Abu Dhabi under Federal Law no 16 of 2016 which lays down the establishments, rules and functioning of the Dispute resolution committee. This puts UAE high in the list of countries that have high regards for professional and legal standards in the sporting arena.
A law for the establishment of Emirates Sports Association is also in a draft stage. This would certainly aid the view of UAE being a jurisdiction with state of the art facilities and expertise to look into complex legal issues arising in the field of sports.
Sponsorship and Broadcasting in UAE
As stated before, UAE is a large sports market which hosts and promotes numerous international sporting events. In such scenarios, sponsorship related opportunities and the unavoidable disputes or challenges associated with it can not be certainly avoided or overlooked.
Sponsoring the best team of the world or the best leagues or players puts UAE on a higher pedestal on the global stage. However, the flipside of the coin is the various sporting scandals which have in the past shaken the sports industry. The scandals can have a direct impact on the reputation or goodwill or brand of the individual or the organization that is sponsoring such a sportsman or a team or a league.
Such a dent in the reputation or goodwill cannot always be rectified or made good with a payment of money. Hence it is of utmost importance that such interests (present and future) of the sponsors are protected. A good amount of due diligence is required to be taken into consideration all possible scenarios before any commitment is made towards sponsoring any individual or team.
It is to be worth mentioning that the UAE does not distinguish between sponsorship and advertising. UAE considers sponsorship as a part of advertising and hence sponsorships need to conform with Emirati advertising laws. These laws are regulated by the National Media Council’s Advertising Regulations.
These regulations put forth various fundamental principles with regards to religion, cultural and social values and norms. Some of the regulations are:
- The advertising content must respect all religions and not offend Islamic of any other religious sentiments.
- The content must not disrespect the honourable government of the UAE, its symbols and political institutions.
- The content broadcasted or published by any media organization or outlet must not in any way disrespect the domestic and international policies and/or the cultural heritage of the UAE.
- Advertising of prohibited substances such as smoking, tobacco, alcohol or alcoholic beverages and any other banned products or services including banned narcotic substances is strictly prohibited.
- The content of the advertising needs to be relevant. Publication of words, pictures or graphics which breach the public morals or spread information that may influence children or women or any other member of the society shall be banned.
- Compliance with laws relating to consumer protection is mandatory.
- Advertising content relating to medicines must comply with rules set out in Resolution No. 7 of 2007 Regarding Health Advertisements Regulation.
Key Considerations for Sports sponsorship in the Middle East
The main contents of sponsorship agreements vetted and drafted in the GCC region usually mirror practices used globally and include many clauses that one may find in similar agreements used in other jurisdictions. This is due to globalization of sponsorship, in particular, the increase of sponsorship for big events held both in the GCC or elsewhere but sponsored by GCC based organizations.
Primarily, a sponsorship agreement will include inter-alia clauses such as recitals, definitions, representations and warranties, governing law and jurisdiction, termination, force majeure, notices, amongst other standard requirements. In cases where there exists a sporting event in the centre of the deal, the term of the contract may be amended to include a season, an event cycle rather than a general term of a calendar year. The IP clauses then shall be amended and drafted in a way to include specific considerations such as co-branding activities or limiting the scope of usage of any name, likeness etc.
Consequences of breach of the sponsorship agreement
Remedies for breach of a sponsorship agreement will vary depending on the agreed terms in each contract. Generally, a material breach will lead to termination of the agreement (either immediately or after serving a notice to cure the breach, if applicable). There may also exist an obligation of indemnification (i.e. to return the sponsorship fees and where possible to rectify or make good the losses sustained by the other party). In such scenarios, there is a difference of opinion in practical remedies as compared to common law jurisdictions.
As a rule, civil law jurisdictions will award only actual damages sustained. It is also important to understand that in cases where there has been a confidentiality breach or any other anticipatory or ongoing breach, it is unlikely that civil law jurisdiction will give injunctive relief.
The hope to reprise the role as a primary premier entrepôt and go global with its brand of economic liberalization, the enactment of sports law provides a chance to obtain a new outlook on the developments in the Emirates. Taking into account the structure and dynamism of sports organizations, UAE`s regulatory framework has supported significant developments thereby enabling a fast-developing sports industry.
A sports follower is the final stakeholder, whereas the broadcasters are mere middlemen between the fans and the sport. Broadcasting of the sports and the way the role of these broadcasters have changed have to a large extent transformed the operational structure of sport across the world. It is thus imperative that sports law must incentivize and aim to promote the prioritization of public interest through a reasonable mix of rules that are both free market as well as idealistic.
- Thomson Reuters
- UAE Ministry of Justice website
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