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Benoît Keane speaks at US Sports Lawyers Association conference


On 16 May, Benoît Keane spoke at the annual conference organised by the US Sports Lawyers Association (SLA).  The conference, which is the most important in the US sports law calendar, was attended by over 800 delegates in Chicago.  Benoît Keane spoke at the break-out session on international law developments together with Russian sports lawyer Georgy Sur.  Jeff Benz, the leading US sports lawyer and arbitrator, acted as moderator of the event.

In his presentation, Benoît Keane focussed on the European sports law issues that US investors need to take into account when investing in soccer in Europe.  In particular, he explained the background and scope of the UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations to address the debt crisis in European football.  He showed how the Financial Fair Play rules are giving new investors, especially those from the US, the confidence to invest in European football.

Benoît also highlighted the increased regulatory scrutiny by the European Commission of public subsidies for the construction or renovation of stadiums.  While the Commission is increasingly tackling allegations of illegal State aid in professional sport, it is also prepared to engage with sports organisations to ensure that any State aid granted is done in a manner that benefits society at large and does not unduly distort competition.

In the final section of his presentation, Benoît outlined the need to sell audiovisual and commercial rights in a manner that complies with EU antitrust law.  He explained the impact of seminal cases such as Murphy and Listed Events for the sale of audiovisual rights and drew comparisons with notable US antitrust cases.

In his presentation, Georgy Sur outlined the legal issues facing players who contract with Russian clubs.  He drew attention to important regulatory and legal requirements, including those relating to arbitration.  He also commented on the Russian experience of compliance with the Financial Fair Play rules.

The presentations by Benoît Keane and Georgy Sur were followed by lively questions and comments from the floor, which were skilfully moderated by Jeff Benz with his characteristic good humour.  The session showed that there is much that sports law practitioners from around the world can learn from each other even if different sports are involved.  With that said, Benoît joked that perhaps it was time for the Sports Lawyers Association to add a soccer ball to its logo (which currently features a baseball, American football and basketball) given the huge interest soccer now presents in the United States.

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