Malcolm Speed was carving out a niche for himself in sports law long before it was recognised as a discipline in itself.
He's now a director at Melbourne commercial firm Brian Ward & Partners, but his near on 40-year career has seen him in many senior sports administration roles, most recently as chief executive of the International Cricket Council.
Throughout his career Speed has seen sports law evolve to become a separate legal discipline - one now taught as a subject at a number of universities - which is rapidly gaining significance in line with the increasing sophistication of the sporting industry in Australia.
"Sport has become more professional, and the role of sport in society has grown," he explains. "There are now a significantly greater number of sporting clients who require, and are able to afford, specialist legal advice.
"There are something like 60 professional sporting franchises in Australia, many national sporting organisations and leagues, and many broadcasters now have huge sports portfolios. So I've seen sports law evolve over the years and I'm well aware ... of the importance of having outstanding, specialist legal advice on sporting issues."
He explains that sports law is essentially a mix of a number of legal disciplines, including contract, intellectual property, media law and industrial relations. "So it's a conglomeration of traditional legal disciplines, and over the last 20 years a number of major cases have given sports law its own unique flavour," he says, citing the well-known Super League-Australian Rugby League battle during the mid-1990s as an example.
Speed launched his legal career in 1971, practising first as a solicitor for about 11 years, before moving to the Victorian Bar to practise as a barrister for a further 12 years. A long-time sports enthusiast, he was also quick to jump on opportunities to get involved in sports administration, and in 1980 - at the age of 30 - he landed his first big sporting coup when he became the president of the Victorian Basketball Association.
He left the bar in 1994 to move into sports administration on a full-time basis, becoming the executive chairman of Basketball Australia, and establishing his own sports management consultancy, which consulted to about 30 different sports over a three-year period.
From there, he quickly rose up ranks of the sporting world and in 1997 was appointed the chief executive of the Australian Cricket Board. Then in 2001, he was appointed chief executive officer of the International Cricket Council (ICC) - the organisation governing cricket globally. He held the role for seven years - first based in London and then Monaco, and later relocating to Dubai. However, the role came to an abrupt end in 2008, after a highly publicised falling out with ICC president Ray Mali over Mali's decision not to take action against Zimbabwe after a KPMG audit uncovered irregularities in the finances of Zimbabwe Cricket.
This year Speed returned to the world of commercial law, becoming a director of Melbourne commercial law firm Brian Ward & Partners, a role which will primarily involve client development and mentoring younger lawyers. For Speed - as both lawyer and sports enthusiast - the firm was an obvious match. The move reunites him with managing partner Brian Ward, both founding members of the Australian and New Zealand Sports Law Association, and connects him with fellow directors Geoff Rees and Campbell Johnston, who together won gold for Australia in the 1974 World Rowing Championships. Not surprisingly, the firm has, over the years, developed a significant sports law practice.
However, despite rejoining law, Speed hasn'tstrayed too far from the sporting world. He continues to lecture on sports law at the University of Melbourne and holds positions with a range of sporting-related organisations: he is chairman of the Sports Management Advisory Committee at Deakin University and a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda for Sports in Society.
But for Speed, sport is not all about work: "I play golf three times a week, and like many lawyers, I read the back page of the newspaper before I read the front page," he says.
- Zoe Lyon
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