Covid-19 has created unprecedented commercial and legal challenges for sports rights-holders. In the last 18 months, sports bodies have had to adapt to a shifting market that has placed a new emphasis on digital rights, ancillary content and even virtual derivatives of tournaments. Added to this, powerful stakeholders and a new wave of private equity investors have tried to seize on the crisis to shake up the existing sports model.
In this recording of the first ever SportBusiness Legal Clinic, which took place on November 11, our panel of legal experts responds to some of the most urgent challenges confronting sports right-holders and offer practical guidance on the best way to mitigate risk in a post-pandemic world.
The panel included:
Caroline McGrory, chief legal officer, Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, former general counsel, Leicester City FC
Caroline McGrory brings an enormous understanding of strategic and commercial issues in sport having served in a number of in-house positions for major rights-holders. She was general counsel for Premier League side Leicester City Football Club between 2016 and 2019 and has held several senior advisory positions in Formula 1, most recently working as the director of legal and commercial affairs for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas team from 2013 to 2016. Prior to this she held in-house legal department positions with AstraZeneca Plc and the IMG sports marketing agency.
James Tobias, senior associate, Onside Law
James Tobias has broad experience advising sports clients on a range of sponsorship, endorsement, technology and software agreements. He has a particular focus on the acquisition, production, licensing and distribution of content on various traditional and digital media platforms, high-value sponsorship agreements, the exploitation of commercial and media rights and the establishment and delivery of new sports tournaments and competitions.
James advises a range of stakeholders across the sports, esports and media industries, including international federations, national governing bodies, clubs, brands, broadcasters, production companies, digital platform operators, technology start-ups, sponsorship agencies and influencers.
During the Covid lockdown, James helped brands and rights-holder clients to understand how they could replace lost sponsorship rights with digital alternatives and worked with broadcasters looking to develop their remote production capabilities.
Prior to joining Onside Law in 2019, James trained and worked in the Entertainment and Media Group at Reed Smith where he undertook multiple client secondments, including one with broadcaster ITV.
Trevor Watkins, partner and head of sports, Pinsent Masons and former chairman Bournemouth FC
Trevor Watkins is the global head of sport at top-15 multinational professional services firm Pinsent Masons where he leads a team of over 100 professionals drawn from law, accountancy, diversity consultancy and technology.
Trevor has worked on a vast number of projects involving the acquisition or disposal of football teams, including most recently advising American consortium ALK Capital in its acquisition of Premier League side Burnley FC. He also has a considerable track record in the bids and operations of multiple major sporting events, as well as in finance, investment and negotiating deals across sport and entertainment, and is well-known for his global network of contacts and unrivalled sports knowledge.
The Bournemouth native famously led the supporter campaign to rescue EFL Championship side Bournemouth FC from financial problems in 1997 and went on to serve as the club’s chairman for four years. After this he also served as a divisional director to the board of the English Football League. He joined Pinsent Masons in 2011 where he has worked for clients including many of the world’s top football clubs and on events including the Olympic Games and the Fifa World Cup.