Once again, it is our great pleasure to welcome readers to the September 2013 edition (citation: GSLTR 2013/3) of our ground-breaking journal and on-line database (www.gsltr.com): Global Sports Law and Taxation Reports (GSLTR).
Sport is such big business nowadays that it not only features on the back pages of newspapers, but also on the front pages, making news in its own right and generating widespread interest and comment. It is also widely covered digitally on the internet, with many websites dedicated to sport and sports law, including our own dedicated website at www.gsltr.com. Because of its huge financial importance, there is so much to play for not only on the field of play, but equally – and perhaps more significantly – off the field of play as well.
In fact, according to Sepp Blatter, the President of FIFA, sport is now a product in its own right, and the marketing and promotion of sport has become a discrete industry. An important segment of the sports marketing mix is the commercialisation and exploitation of the image rights of high profile sports persons. Indeed, many sports personalities earn more off the field of play than on it, although we are living in the age when top flight footballers are earning £ 250,000 per week! Often, through complex financial and contractual arrangements, tax free! Many such sports “stars”, like David Beckham and Tiger Woods, have become valuable brands in their own right. The extent to which image rights can be legally protected varies from country to country. In the UK, for example, there is no specific law protecting personality rights per se. A personality can only take legal action “if the reproduction or use of [his/her] likeness results in the infringement of some recognised legal right which he/she does own”. See the remarks ofMr. Justice Laddie in Elvis Presley Trade Marks  RPC 543, at p. 548. This issue has very recently been highlighted in the English High Court case of the well-known Barbadian singer Rihanna and the UK retailer Topshop, which was decided by Mr Justice Birrs on 31 July 2013, See Robyn Rihanna Fenty and others v. Arcadia Group Brands Limited (t/a Topshop) and others  EWHC 2310 (Ch). This case has reaffirmed the fact that there is no such thing per se as an image right in the UK.
The facts of the Rihanna case were quite straightforward. Topshop had used an image of Rihanna on a T-shirt, having acquired the copyright permission (and an indemnity), and had placed the T-shirt for sale, initially calling it the “Rihanna” T-shirt. Topshop had sold 12,000 of them in the UK at £ 22 each. Whilst there was no copyright infringement, Rihanna felt that there had been an infringement of her rights as a result and sought an action for passing off. The judge agreed that there had been passing off, as fans of the singing star were likely to have bought the T-shirt because they thought it was endorsed by her, which was not, in fact, the case and thus they were misled.
Although this was a win for Rihanna, who was described by the Judge as having “a cool, edgy image”, the case illustrates the problem for anyone seeking to bring a legal action in the image rights area in the UK.
As to the current UK legal position on image rights, the Judge summed up the situation as follows:
“Whatever may be the position elsewhere in the world, and however much various celebrities may wish there were, there is today in England no such thing as a free standing general right by a famous person (or anyone else) to control the reproduction of their image.”
Fortunately, the legal position is relatively easier in Continental Europe and many parts of the United States of America!
In this issue, we feature a topical article by Sports Lawyer Joshua Kaye on the introduction of goal line technology into association football, which was resisted for some time by FIFA, in which he asks whether this will be a blessing or a curse. He concludes that, if the introduction of such technology is to maintain the game’s integrity, then an increase in sport ethics education is imperative, adding:
“Rather than just blindly relying on technology, participants should be taught the importance of being responsible and honest towards the rules, ultimately becoming better all round “sportsmen”.”
We also include a special feature on the ongoing fight against Match Fixing in Sport by Prof. Ian Blackshaw, based on a paper he presented in Lausanne, Switzerland, on 3 June 2013 at AISTS (International Academy of Sports Science and Technology), as part of their Master of Advanced Studies in Sports Administration and Technology Degree Programme.
In this issue, there are also sports law articles on important changes to the CAS Code of Sports-related Arbitration, which came into force on 1 March 2013; the so-called “juridification” of sport, with particular reference to racial discrimination; and a comment on the recent Kaneira cricketing case.
On the tax side, we include thought-provoking articles on the taxation of sports persons in Japan whilst actively engaged in their sports and – perhaps more importantly – what they can do after their retirement, including succession planning; the taxation of non-resident team athletes in Canada; and the meaning of the term “sport” for reduced VAT purposes in The Netherlands.
So, consistent with our aims of maintaining the high standard and variety of the articles that we publish, there is much in the September issue of GSLTR to inform and interest sports legal and tax advisers alike and, of course, their clients! Please spread the word about GSLTR amongst your colleagues and contacts and help us to increase our global footprint and go from strength to strength.
Finally, as always, we would welcome your comments and suggestions on our journal and its coverage, which will help us to realise our mission of producing and providing an invaluable and must-have resource for all those involved in the ever-evolving and often intertwined fields of sports law and taxation. We would also welcome and value your contributions in the form of articles and topical case notes and commentaries, especially for posting on the GSLTR dedicated website at www.gsltr.com.
So, now read on and enjoy the September 2013 edition of GSLTR!
Dr. Rijkele Betten (Managing Editor)
Prof. Dr. Ian S. Blackshaw (Consulting Editor)