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Ever-changing sports field poses legal challenge

Ever-changing sports field poses legal challenge

Stephen Meade, K&L Gates

Sports lawyers must keep up to date with developments in the sporting world if they want to remain at the top of their game, according to a K&L Gates partner.

K&L Gates litigation and dispute resolution partner Stephen Meade told Lawyers Weekly that sports law often isn't a full-time practice, as many of the sport organisations have in-house teams.

"Lots of bigger sporting organisations have well-resourced internal legal departments and those lawyers are really at the coalface day to day," Mr Meade said.

"So [private practice lawyers] need to work hard to see if we can assist when a particular opportunity arises."

He said those who wish to play in the sports law field need to stay updated in regards to sporting developments and changes, even when not acting on sporting matters.

"Sports and their rules and regulations are constantly evolving and changing," Mr Meade said.

"Lawyers need to very much keep on top of the particular challenges and issues that the sports are dealing with so that you can try to help them when the opportunity arises."

He continued: "That obviously presents challenges on our part to make sure that whilst we’re not acting for the sporting organisation every other day we are up to date on what’s going on within the sport."

Mr Meade said sport is an area in which there's been an upturn of work over the last several years, with cases ranging from straight commercial work, to the management of intellectual property, broadcasting rights and, more recently, integrity-based matters.

"A few years ago we really saw the increased focus on integrity in sport, whether that be anti-doping, the regulation of sports betting, the governance procedures in sports or corruption investigations," he said.

According to Mr Meade, most sports lawyers, including himself, practice primarily in a different practice area but apply their skills to sporting clients and cases.

"The skills I have as a litigator and dispute resolution lawyer can be utilised well in this space in acting for sporting clients, particularly in the integrity area."

Mr Meade recently acted in relation to the appeal by Besart Berisha to the Disciplinary Committee of the Football Federation Australia (FFA) in respect of the additional one-match suspension proposed by the FFA's Match Review Panel arising from an incident involving Mr Berisha in the match between Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix on 2 April.

A direct red card was shown to Mr Berisha after he kicked out at Wellington player Andrew Durante, who was in close proximity to Mr Berisha while he was receiving medical treatment.

Mr Meade and his team proved that exceptional circumstances existed in that Mr Berisha was injured and prone on the ground and was in the hands of Victory's medical team.

Ultimately the Disciplinary Committee found that Mr Durante's presence was "intimidating and uncalled for" and Mr Berisha's response "was, in his mind, committed to seek removal of Durante from the area", therefore removing the further suspension of an additional match.

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