This is a well-researched Book on an important and highly lucrative branch of Sports Law. Indeed, the English FA Premier League – the world’s most popular and most financially successful football league – have recently sold their live rights to their matches for the seasons 2013 – 2016 for a record sum of £3.018bn. The sale of additional rights, including other platforms, is expected to increase this amount to a staggering sum of £5bn! Also, sport and broadcasting have been described as ‘a marriage made in Heaven’ and the Author quite rightly refers to their ‘symbiotic relationship’.
This Book, in line with its sub-title, deals with the international legal aspects of the subject, with particular emphasis on new media platforms, such as the Internet and 3G and the new 4G mobile phones currently being rolled out. Such platforms are increasingly being used and accessed to provide a wide range of sports content on demand on a 24/7 basis to, what the Author calls, the ‘prosumer’. Indeed, as the Author points out:
“In the digital media landscape, the content and information available continue to grow every day.”
And this, in turn, of course, gives rise to a variety of legal issues, which the Book tackles.
The Author, who is In-house Counsel to a Media Company, is well qualified, therefore, to guide the reader through the maze of complex legal provisions and case law, which go to make up traditional and new media law, and their application to the world of sport, especially that of the European Union (EU) and, in particular, its highly developed Competition Law Rules, on the acquisition, sale and commercial exploitation of sports broadcasting rights. In this connection, the Author deals with the vexed question of the joint selling and buying arrangements of sports broadcasting rights on an exclusive basis and the possibilities of the European Commission exempting them from their anti-competitive effects under the so-called ‘gateway’ provisions of Article 101(3) of the TFEU. This aspect of EU is continuing to impact more and more on the commercialisation of sports broadcasting rights within the single European market.
The Book also deals with the equally important issue of the public’s right of access, as consumers and citizens, to sports content and coverage (part of the societal function of sport) of major sporting events pursuant to the so-called ‘Television Without Frontiers’ Directive of the EU, and the important provisions of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which safeguard the freedom of expression and the right to information, without interference from any Public Authority. Indeed, an important landmark Decision of the European Court of Justice on this subject – the so-called ‘crown jewels’ of sport – is pending in an appeal by FIFA and UEFA, which looks as though they may lose, if the Advocate General’s Opinion rendered in December 2012 is followed by the Court, as it often is – but not always – in each case. The final outcome of this case is expected to affect the value of sports broadcasting rights!
However, the Book, surprisingly, does not cover the legal aspects of the development and increasing use of so-called ‘social media’ platforms, such as ‘face book’ and ‘twitter’, in the sporting context, especially by sports ‘stars’ wishing to promote and enhance their valuable image rights and also to comment on their sports.
Each Chapter of the Book is completed with copious and useful references to relevant legislation and policy documents; official reports; opinions and speeches; as well as EU and National case law, learned articles and books – indeed, this is a veritable treasure-house of resource materials to be followed up and consulted by readers and researchers alike. There is also a basic, but adequate, Index.
This is a Book that your reviewer can wholeheartedly recommend to Sports Lawyers and others with an interest in the subject of sport and new media. It is also a very welcome addition to the International Sports Law Literature and another useful title in the highly-respected Asser International Sports Law Series.
Professor Dr Ian Blackshaw is an International Sports Lawyer and Academic and may be contacted by e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’