Media and entertainment: Sports in France

Clifford Chance

The 'unique expertise' of Clifford Chance's sports group is valued by clients who take advantage of the cross-practice expertise the firm is able to provide. Representing leading professional federations including the FFF, the LFP and the FFT, the department is often involved in high-profile matters, recently handling summary proceedings related to the annulment of the 2019/20 League 1 club championship. Yves Wehrli is the key name, typically retained on the organisation of major sports events, the sale of television broadcasting rights and other related regulatory issues. On the contentious side, partner Thibaud d’Alés is active, having represented clients in major litigation related to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Practice head(s):

Yves Wehrli

Other key lawyers:

Thibaud d’Alès; Gauthier Martin; Laurent Schoenstein

Testimonials

The Clifford Chance Sports department, led by Yves Wehrli, has a unique expertise on the French market. The firm is quickly able to pull together highly competent cross-practice groups.

Clifford Chance’s contribution is always precise and they are remarkably competent.

Key clients

Fédération Française de Football

Ligue de Football Professionnel

Fédération Française de Tennis

Work highlights

  • Representing LFP in the context of summary proceedings initiated before the State Council  by three French football clubs of League 1 requesting annulment of the LFP’s decision to terminate the 2019/20 League 1 Club championship early.
  • Representing LFP in the context of commercial litigation initiated by Groupe Canal + in relation to rescheduling of football games further to the “yellow vests” movement.
  • Advising the French Tennis Federation in the context of the invitation to tender relating to the sale of the TV rights of the Roland Garros Grand Slam tournament (2021 to 2023) in France.

De Gaulle Fleurance & Associés

Best known for its work assisting major sporting events, De Gaulle Fleurance & Associés is also increasingly involved in the challenge against third-party resellers of sports tickets, this year representing the French Tennis Federation in its claim against Viagogo. Another area in which the practice excels is integrity-related issues, where it is typically retained by several leading sport governing bodies. The team has capabilities across the main areas of practice, spanning commercial law, IP and TV rights issues and has experience advising foreign investors in order to clarify national sporting regulations. Department head Louis de Gaulle regularly appears before civil, administrative, criminal and arbitration courts. Other key contacts include IP and IT specialist Serge Lederman and public law expert Jean-Louis Valentin. Agnès Macaire is also active. Rhadamès Killy left the firm.

Other key lawyers:

Agnès Macaire

Key clients

Amaury Sport Organisation

French Tennis Federation

UEFA

Work highlights

  • Representing the French Tennis Federation in a claim against Viagogo

Joffe & Associés

Recognised for its proficiency in advising on media rights and sports events organisation, Joffe & Associés acts as strategic adviser to some of France's highest profile leagues and federations including the French Handball League, the French Professional Football League and the French Athletics Federation. The full-service offering at the firm means the team is able to advise on a wide variety of matters ranging from assisting investors with the acquisition of French football clubs, to representing the FFF in litigation brought against third-part ticket resellers. Romain Soiron is the key name, working exclusively on sports matters, with good experience negotiating sponsorships and broadcasting rights.

Practice head(s):

Romain Soiron

Key clients

ASLOUM EVENT

FRENCH HANDBALL LEAGUE (LNH)

FRENCH PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE (LFP)

FRENCH FOOTBALL FEDERATION (FFF)

FRENCH ATHLETICS FEDERATION

IAME

AMERICAN INVESTORS

SAUDI ARABIAN INVESTORS

Work highlights

  • Represented the French Football Federation in an appeal case launched against Ticketbis, a reseller company of football match tickets.
  • Advised the Ligue de Football Professionnel in the fight against piracy.
  • Advised American and Saudi Arabian investors on the acquisition of French football clubs.

August Debouzy

Uniting a 'variety of competences', August Debouzy is regularly retained on large sponsorship mandates for high-profile brands such as Nike. Its track record in sports financing includes significant acquisitions, contract negotiations and restructurings, with the team recently leading on Valenciennes FC's reorganisation following its relegation to the second division. Drawing on the firm's well-established IP and TMT groups, the department has a strong sports media offering, with highlights including bringing an image rights dispute for a leading French newspaper. Distribution and consumer law expert Alexandra Berg-Moussa and litigator Basile Ader jointly lead the practice.

Testimonials

You always receive clear responses to questions. The team unites a variety of competences, making it easy to cover all bases.

Key clients

NIKE

OLYMPIQUE DE BIARRITZ

AGENCE FRANÇAISE DE LUTTE CONTRE LE DOPAGE

LOSC (LILLE OLYMPIQUE SPORTING CLUB)

AMER SPORTS CORPORATION

INSEP

RIOT GAMES

VAFC (VALENCIENNES FOOTBALL CLUB)

UCPF

Work highlights

  • Assisting VAFC, a French football club, with its restructuring following its relegation to the second division.
  • Assisted Rallye du Maroc’s three main sponsors, in the context of the negotiation and drafting of their sponsorship agreement with Rallye du Maroc.
  • Assisting UCPF, a professional football clubs’ union that comprises French clubs of League 1 and League 2, with various questions regarding the governance of the sport.

AyacheSalama

At AYACHE, tax partner Jacques Messeca is retained by major football clubs, including Paris Saint German, as well as federations and players, to provide strategic tax guidance and to advise on tax audits. Messeca, who is the co-founder of the French Association of the Sports Lawyer, has led on several takeovers and also assisted the French basketball league with the setting up of the tax impatriate regime by professional clubs.

Practice head(s):

Jacques Messeca

Key clients

PREMIERE LIGUE

LIGUE NATIONALE DE RUGBY

FEDERATION FRANCAISE DE RUGBY

UNION DES CLUBS PROFESSIONNELS DE RUGBY

PARIS SAINT GERMAIN

GIRONDINS DE BORDEAUX

STADE RENNAIS

TOULOUSE FOOTBALL CLUB

FC LORIENT

CLASSICO SPORTS

ATHLETICO MARSEILLE (Football)

GFA RUMILLY (Football)

HBC Gagny (Handball)

XL SPORT

LOUIS KAWAY TOUTIN

LIGUE NATIONALE DE BASKET

PARIS VOLLEY

DAVID LUIZ

RAPHAEL VARANE

GAEL KAKUTA

TOTAL DIRECT ENERGIE

Work highlights

  • Assisted the French basketball league with the setting up of the tax impatriate regime by professional clubs.

Bignon Lebray

Established in 2019, the sports law practice at Bignon Lebray is particularly sought after by major rugby clubs, with Stade Toulousain and CA Brive among its clients. Neil Robertson is the key contact, and regularly represents players from the aforementioned clubs before European rugby disciplinary commissions. Other highlights include advising CA Brive on an investment into it by Vivendi Sports and on the contract termination of a senior player and handling negotiation and settlement of the subsequent dispute.

Practice head(s):

Neil Robertson

Key clients

Stade Toulousain

CA Brive

Golf de Maisons-Laffitte

Vivendi

Work highlights

  • Advised on the transfer of a French player from an English Premiership club to Toulouse Rugby Club.
  • Advised Brive Rugby Club on the termination of the contract of a senior player and negotiation and settlement of the subsequent dispute.
  • Advising Brive Rugby Club on an investment in the club by Vivendi Sports.

Klein Wenner

KGA Avocats advises a mix of federations, leagues, clubs and players, delivering 'practical solutions' to their problems, on contentious and non-contentious matters. Recent highlights include intervening for FC Sochaux in a case brought against it by Gazélec FC Ajaccio Football which was challenging a relegation decision. Eve Derouesné, who has 'a rigorous, thorough and practically minded' approach, led on this matter, and is the key contact for contentious work. On the advisory side the practice provides data privacy, image rights and IP assistance. François Klein, Laurent Badiane and Matthieu Bourgeois are the names to note for these areas.

Testimonials

The team is always available and delivers practical solutions to problems.

Eve Derouesné is a rigorous, thorough and practically minded lawyer who never leaves anything to chance.

Key clients

Sportfive (EX Lagardère sport)

Fédération Française de Tennis

Stade rennais

Lagardère Paris racing Ressources

UCPF

Lagardère Live Entertainment

Fédération Française de Gymnastique

Ligue Réunionnaise de football

Le Mans FC

Fédération française de basket-ball

The Union of Professional Football Clubs – UCPF

FC Sochaux

Work highlights

  • Providing assistance to an international football player in promoting his sport training service offer through internet and social media in compliance with GDPR .
  • Representing FC Sochaux in a case brought against it by Gazélec FC Ajaccio Football challenging the decision to be relegated to a lower league relating to a more favourable economic ground than that of FC Sochaux.
  • Conducted a GDPR training campaign for the members of the UCPF.

Paul Hastings LLP

Jean-Louis Martin is the key name for sports matters at Paul Hastings LLP, where he is retained by leagues and tournament organisers in both rugby union and rugby league and also acts as president of the Legal Commission of the French Rugby League. The practice regularly assists with the sale of television broadcasting rights, doing so for both European Professional Club Rugby and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby.

Practice head(s):

Jean-Louis Martin

Key clients

LNR

EPCR

Work highlights

  • Represented LNR, the French National Rugby League, on the organisation and management of the sale of the television broadcasting rights in France for PRO D2, the second-tier professional rugby competition.
  • Advised LNR on the organisation and management of the sale of the television broadcasting rights outside France of TOP 14, the first-tier professional rugby competition in France.
  • Advised EPCR on the negotiation of an amendment to both the television broadcasting rights agreement entered into with BeIN Sports and the television broadcasting rights agreement entered into with France Télévisions.