Weekly Column: International Sports Comparison, Highlighting Differences and Issues for Practitioners Across the Globe

In his capacity as a Columnist for California Sports Lawyer®, Founder Jeremy Evans has written a column comparing the United States to international sports law and industry.

You can read the full column below.


Upon recently attending a wonderful joint international bar association event with the Barcelona Bar Association and California Lawyers Association, where yours truly serves as President (2021-2023), one of the panel discussions was focused on comparative sports law. Many lessons and ideas were shared and learned.

For one, sports in international markets outside of the United States are more highly regulated by the government. Often ministers of sport(s) are appointed by the controlling government party and serve at the pleasure of the prime minister or president of the country. These positions might be comparable to sports league commissioners in the United States. The position has the responsibility of overseeing sports in the country, regulation, and issuing discipline. Such a role would be unheard of the United States, but Congress and the President do often issue statements and subpoenas, respectively, when a sporting league is on strike through its players union or association or where important concerns like doping (steroids) and anti-trust activity are concerned.

Secondly, sports law in international markets is often codified by legislatures and parliaments. Whereas in the United States there is very little “sports law” on the books both federally, statewide, and locally, and is often referred to as an industry like Hollywood is to entertainment (although these two industries often collide and are combining on some fronts). In the United States, sports agents are regulated through the Miller-Ayala Act in California and the Secretary of State for application approval. Similar laws exist in other states. There are also now a set of name, image, and likeness (“NIL”) laws that affect college athletes to make a profit off-the-field. Lastly, there are now sports betting laws being introduced. The latter two regulations are recent phenomenon as state legislatures began to push the NCAA to make college NIL changes and the Murphy v. NCAA United States Supreme Court holding opened the proverbial floodgates by declaring PASPA (a prohibition against sports betting) unconstitutional. There has been some additional legislative discussion around forbidding taxpayer-funded investment in stadiums and of course antitrust law and sports is one of the larger issues in sports law in the United States and abroad.

In overseas markets, particularly in Europe and Asia, brand sponsorships are often most prevalent on jerseys and those unfamiliar with a particular sport might think the brand was the team name. In the United States sponsorships are often limited to “patches” on jerseys and stadium-naming, which also occurs overseas.

Back to the sports betting laws for a moment, in Europe, the legislative body will pass laws that deal directly with sports betting and players, owners, etc. for regulation and discipline, while in the United States it is through private associations and collective bargaining agreements (“CBA”) that regulate and discipline players and league business. It is interesting that in the United Kingdom for example, sports leagues like the Premier League are rolling back sports betting focused relationships, involvement, and prevalence. It is likely that the United States could roll back or regulate the sports betting business more in the coming years as issues of impropriety continue reach the free press.

Violence in sports in another difference where there are specific laws that guide unsportsmanlike conduct or what might be referred to as assault and battery outside of sports matches. In the United States, it is very rare to have a player charged with a crime for on-the-field/court conduct. Usually a suspension, fine, or dismissal is warranted. In the National Hockey League (NHL), for example, fist fighting is allowed and players receive a penalty box time out for two-minutes that results in a "power play" for the opposing team. In Europe, particularly in Spain, there is less tolerance for fighting through legal regulations.

Often agents and lawyers when practicing globally have to adhere to multiple jurisdictions and registration requirements. Arbitration in sport is used globally, but in the United States arbitration is done on a league level and controlled by the CBA where commissioners often have seemingly unlimited authority short of appeals and civil litigation in court. International sport’s arbitration and tribunals are some of the largest growing legal bodies and areas of practice.

Needless to say, there are many differences. Love of sport transcends though. Just different golf strokes for different folks.


About Jeremy M. Evans:

Jeremy M. Evans is the Chief Entrepreneur Officer, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clients in contractual, intellectual property, and dealmaking matters. Evans is an award-winning attorney and industry leader based in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, California. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com. www.CSLlegal.com.

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Jeremy M. Evans is the CEO, Founder & Managing Attorney of California Sports Lawyer® representing entertainment, media, and sports clients and is licensed to practice law in California.