Andrew Nixon at Thomas Eggar
We spoke with Andrew Nixon at Thomas Eggar to find out a little bit about him and his views on the legal issues facing the sports sector. Read more below about how he became involved in sports law, what type of work he does, what he thinks are the biggest legal challenges facing the sport sector and where he feels sports lawyers can add the most value to the sector.
What firm do you work for?
Thomas Eggar LLP
What is your role in the firm?
I am a Senior Associate in the Sports Group
How did you become interested and then involved in Sports Law?
Firstly, like most sports lawyers, I am passionate about a wide range of sports and I have also competed internationally in one or two! I also grew up with sport and the law as my Dad, also a lawyer, is and remains heavily involved in the sports sector in Northern Ireland, so it is fair to say it is in the blood!
I have been pretty lucky to have had the opportunity to develop a practice in the sports sector here at Thomas Eggar and also undertake a PGC in sports law at Coventry University two years ago. Like a lot of sports lawyers, the big break comes with a big piece of work and for me that was acting on the highest value arbitration ever to come before the Football League's Disciplinary Commission. Before and since then I have acted for numerous sports clubs, governing bodies, sports organisations and individual athletes across a wide range of matters.
What type of clients do you work for?
A wide and varied range. As a firm, we have acted for a number of Premiership and League Football Clubs as well as Premiership Rugby and County Cricket Clubs, a number of governing bodies and private sports clubs as well as individual athletes. We also do a lot of work in the Leisure sector, and in particular for not for profit cooperatives than run public leisure and fitness sectors.
What type of work do you help them with?
We have advised Premiership and League Football Clubs on their tax and commercial and IP affairs, as well as good governance at board level and corporate and investment strategies and contractual and transfer disputes before the Fifa Dispute Resolution Chamber. We have also advised Premiership Rugby and County Cricket Clubs on matters ranging from commercial contracts, dispute resolution and planning.
On the governing body side we have acted on Olympic selection disputes and disciplinary matters, as well as providing advice on the constitutional structure of sports, equity and child protection policies, agreements between UK NGBs and Regional NGBs in relation to the World Class Performance Programme, governance and corporate status (including charitable and CASC status) and general commercial advice. The firm also has strong private client group and we act for a number of athletes, in particular footballers and cricketers, dealing with their personal and tax affairs.
What do you see as the biggest legal challenges facing the sector?
On the global scale, the spectre of corruption in sport and doping remain an ongoing challenge for sports. Both doping and match fixing destroy the essence of sporting spectacle - uncertainty of outcome - by allowing the result to be determined by a secret and malign influence. Sports must continue to work with intelligence units, international governing bodies and governments to monitor and, crucially, educate.
Education is also key in the pursuit of good sporting governance and well run, efficient governing bodies and clubs. This is a challenge that remains ongoing. This is vitally important as it is NGBs that develop our elite athletes and increase participation in sport; however, those sports are often reliant on the generosity and time given by volunteers and it is more than ever a real challenge to navigate the regulatory burdens facing sport and recreation.
On the commercial side, for the larger sports who are event organisers and holders of valuable rights packages, the challenge is very much to protect the sport's interests and the value of their sporting 'product' and brand as much as possible in light of the advent of new media streaming and those seeking to 'ambush' by associating their brands with an event. This challenge is increased when one considers the impact of the Karen Murphy case on sports media rights and broadcasting agreements.
Finally, there is the increasing importance of social media in the sports sector. On the one hand, it opens up another avenue for sports to promote themselves and their athletes. On the other hand, it comes with a whole host of legal and PR issues that sports now need to actively manage, both as part of their own PR strategies and as part of the sport's rules and regulations.
Where do you feel lawyers could add the most value to the sports sector?
I have always been of the view that those with legal expertise, especially legal expertise in the sports sector (and therefore possess a real understanding of the challenges) can add considerable value.
For me, the key word is education. Yes, lawyers can step in and sort out issues when they go wrong, or provide specific advice on certain matters, but I am firm believer in lawyers understanding, becoming immersed in and sometimes helping define the strategy of a sport. That way, lawyers can play a key role in the development of a sport and indeed the sports sector as a whole.
One of the ways lawyers can do this is to sit on boards of sports clubs or governing bodies and provide their knowledge and expertise and the Sport and Recreation Alliance Board Members for Sport initiative is I think a brilliant idea. Ultimately, governing bodies, and clubs, are the trustees of the public asset that is sport - if as a lawyer you can help an NGB improve how it operates ; improve its general governance ; improve its policies you will be improving the sport from the inside, and that will inevitably make the sport more attractive on the outside.
What is your biggest success in your current role?
First things first, like pretty much every sports lawyer I have met, I feel privileged to able to work in a sector I am passionate about. It is a competitive sector but competition is a good thing and means that success is even more rewarding.
I have been lucky enough to have successfully led a number of high profile sports arbitrations, and to have advised numerous sports clubs, governing bodies and individual athletes on matters that are of crucial importance to those sports and hopefully making a difference to those sports a long the way. Equally, I feel just as proud of the advice I have been able to provide to smaller sports where you can immediately see the benefits of your involvement and the improvements within the sport. All that said, the success we have had at TE, the practice we have developed in this sector and the role I have played in that is what I am most proud of.
Where would you like to be in five years’ time?
This is a question that could get me sacked! Joking aside, I would like to have further developed our sports practice here at TE and at the same time combining that with board and advisory roles within the not for profit sports sector. As I said above, I firmly believe that sports lawyers can play a crucial role in helping individual sports, and the wider not for profit sports sector, develop and I would hope that I will be in a position to offer my experience and expertise in order to play my (small) part in shaping the future of sport.
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