SIG Talks Sport and the Law

12 Dec 2014

Welcome to the very first edition of what will become a monthly sports law column written exclusively for the Sport Industry Group, by the distinguished John van den Aardweg.

John has worked across the sports industry for nearly 20 years, since being admitted as an Attorney in 1995. He has been involved at the highest level in all aspects of the sports industry from sponsorship, eventing and hospitality through to procurement and administration. He also has extensive working experience across the law as it applies to business and the sports industry. 

The highlights of his career in the industry include being responsible for the management of hospitality programmes of around 30,000 guests over the FIFA 2010 World Cup, working for the Doha Asia Games 2006 Organising Committee as Head of Contracts (tenders) and being the CEO of the Comrades Marathon.

He is also a graduate of the University of Natal where he completed a Bachelor of Laws degree. Further studies included a Post Graduate Diploma in Income Tax Law from the University of Cape Town and he is currently completing a Master of Laws in Sport and Intellectual Property through the University of London.

Currently John provides legal and commercial services to the sports, events and entertainment industries, and of course, writes this column – We’ll let John take it from here...


Some of you may be asking why include a monthly column on the legal aspects of sport in the Sport Industry Daily? Well, the answer is pretty simple….law and sport are as entwined as love and marriage. Just like some marriages lose their attractiveness and go south, so do some transactions in the world of sport, especially in a society where a handshake and someone’s word or verbal commitment is of little consequence. Even signed written agreements are sometimes disregarded. How disputes end up largely depends on whether or not the parties attended to the legal formalities and paperwork when the business was done. Often this aspect is overlooked as business is, by its nature, fast moving and busy. In the business of sport, like all other industries, there is a tendency not to prioritise legal risk and attend to the legal formalities, so the outcome of a dispute often has a devastating effect on a business.

The law applied to sport in South Africa is fast developing into a distinct body of law. However, the current legal status is that sports law does not exist as a distinct independent body of law, as does the likes of criminal law, constitutional law or the law of contract. These areas of law, as well as numerous others such as intellectual property law, labour law and administrative law, are applied to sport and the business of sport.

The South African sports industry has developed exponentially over the last twenty two years since our readmission into international sport in 1992.  The market has reached a level of maturity and sophistication relatively quickly, possibly thanks to our on-going exposure to international sport. Local golfers, cricketers, soccer and rugby players ply their trade internationally, sponsors target specific rights to advance their strategic marketing and business objectives, cutting edge research is undertaken to measure returns on sponsorship spend, broadcast rights are sold internationally for huge sums of hard currency and our sportsmen and women are subjected to internationally applied laws and regulations on doping and drug use. Our local sports industry is inextricably linked to the global sports industry, it is complex and is subject to a myriad of laws and regulations. This fast developing industry and the parallel legal discipline, requires specialist legal expertise, as do many other legal disciplines linked to the likes of labour, medical practice, divorce and intellectual property.

The purpose of the legal column is to highlight specific sports related legal issues and to enlighten readers on the various legal aspects which they may encounter in their various day-to-day business activities. Hopefully, it will also encourage debate and empower readers to be diligent in the management of their legal risk.


John van den Aardweg

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