SPORTING THE LAW | The UAE PERSPECTIVE

Developing
transparent and sustainable regulatory structures that conform to global
measures: International sporting events have undergone tremendous metamorphosis
over the past few decades, and today they generate large amounts of revenue
throughout the world. Europe, Africa and Middle East account for the second
largest sports market in the world whilst sponsorship being one of the fastest growing
segments. With advocacy of the assiduous sovereign counsel and an exemplary
think tank, the UAE, in particular, has earned prominence as a hosting
destination for world sporting events.

The United Arab
Emirates (UAE) is where the world is converging today, where cultures blend and
businesses converse. With perfectly sound economic fundamentals, for a
progressive nation like the UAE, international sporting events have become an
extension of the Emirates’ popularity as a tourist destination enhancing the
repute and panache of the country.

A
GLOBAL SPORTS VENUE

With a successful
strive to diversify the autonomous economy, backed by superior administrative
acumen, the UAE has gainfully built world-class infrastructure amenities for
all industries. This has allured tourists, businesses, and world sporting
federations alike. Extensive land resources, financial viability of hosting,
open resources, and planning prowess have made the UAE a lucrative hosting
choice for various international sporting events.

The global sports
industry, with an estimated market value of more than $500 Billion has grown at a compound
annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.3% since 2014. And in tandem with these
worldwide trends, the UAE government, in April 2018, approved a federal law
which, regardless of nationality, allows all residents to participate in
national sport competitions held in the country. In accordance to Federal
Decree-Law No. 7 of 2008, the federal authority, General Authority for Sports
is responsible for the expansion of the sports sector in the UAE.

One of the most
vibrant economies, in unification with Vision 2021, UAE’s political leadership
has ensured that all international sports have a considerable level of
participation or association with and within the country. Unswerving
endeavours, to reinvent and position UAE to be at par with international
sporting standards have been made. Taking on ambitious sports projects backed
by operational excellence like “The Land of Dubai,” they’ve created cities and
complexes that offer exemplary provisions for living, working, and enjoying
sports. The Dubai Sports City is the perfect example of one such project for it
offers sporting arenas of over three thousand square meters and three football
stadiums among other infrastructure facilities to support international
sporting events. Other commendable free zone cities and complexes include The
Zayed Sports City, Hamdan Sports Complex and Dubai Motor City.

The country has been
a preferred hosting nation for the Asian Games, FIFA Federations Cup, Abu Dhabi
Grand Prix, the Olympics & Paralympics Championship, and various events for
other sports like ice hockey, rugby, cricket, badminton, and power-lifting.
Leading international sports regulatory bodies like the International Cricket Association
have also established a home base in the UAE.

In addition to Dubai,
UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi frequently play host to some of the sporting world’s
most prestigious events like the Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest horse
racing tournament, ATP Tennis Tournaments, Indian Premier League cricket
tournament, PGA ranked golf tournaments. In fact, the UAE Derby offers prize
money of $2.5mn., considered a preparatory race for the Kentucky Derby. Not to
forget, sailing and water sports are one of the leading and exceptionally
popular international sports in the UAE. Every year, Dubai and Abu Dhabi host
numerous sailing competitions, domestic and international, making them
extremely popular and sort after.

TRANSFORMATION
OF UAE’s SPORTS INDUSTRY

A salubriously
deliberated, crafted and actualized social policy has enabled the UAE to
mobilize the development of sports in the country. Intended to improve athlete
performance, encouraging young athletes through training and facilities, and
supporting them through employment and social assistance, has enabled the UAE
sports industry to undergo a vitalizing emboldened transformation in the past
years.

Several sporting
events have graduated to professional levels owing to the extended energies of
the UAE commissions and boards. Football is a prime example that demonstrates
the growth of interest in and popularity of sports in the UAE. Since its
inception in 1971, the UAE Football Association has put in coherent labour to
promote the game through youth initiatives and improving abilities of players,
coaches, and officials involved with regional teams. Football’s status in the
UAE as the favourite sport is largely owed to the UAE Football Association,
which adheres to the rules of international sports governing bodies. The UAE
Football Association hosts several competitions and the leagues’ value
increases every year, highlighting the importance of the sport in the UAE.
Owing to the resounding popularity, the UAE has also been honoured to host FIFA
World Cup 2022.

Other sports like
Jiu-Jitsu have also become extraordinarily popular in the UAE. The sport which
diminishes the boundaries of physical strength through technique and discipline
is today practiced in UAE public schools by boys, girls, and people of
determination. Growth of the sport in UAE has been emphatic and UAE has many
world-class Jiu-Jitsu athletes. With the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation now
overlooking the sport, frequent domestic and international competitions are
hosted in the UAE. The Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship
hosted annually draw in hundreds of high-calibre athletes from around the
globe.

THE
NEED FOR SPORTS LAW

As with any emerging
and expanding industry, a corresponding need for a niche, yet vigorous legal
practice area also emerges. The expansive potential of the region presents
enormous sports opportunities, which also bring forth the accompanying
requisite to safeguard investor confidence.

The pie is getting
bigger, sports is one of the fastest growing industries and given the
increasing sophistication and the money involved, it is paramount to abet with
safely transacting deals and protecting interests of all. To leverage this
augmented growth, several UAE based businesses and individuals have been making
substantial investments in global sports ventures including investing in
sporting infrastructure and sponsorships of key players, teams, and
tournaments.

International Sports,
as an industry has come a long way, and the structure around it ought to be
legally robust for all stakeholders involved, including health & safety of
participants, the rights’ owners, clubs & leagues, athletes, federations,
investors, broadcasters, sponsors, sports agencies and alike. Additionally,
needless to say, given the encompassing nature of the industry, the prestige
and euphoria of any sport is not restricted to only domestic, but a fervent fan
base across geographies.

The practice of a
specialized segment of sports law is important to sustain and strengthen UAE’s
status as a prime sporting venue. UAE is a diverse multi-sector autonomous
economy, and though a young jurisdiction, is dependably maturing in the field
of sports law and dispute resolution with rational and unprejudiced policies.

SPORTS
LAW PRACTICES

Tracing origins,
defining objects and purposes, and summarizing the most important provisions;
Sports law is primed for continued growth in the UAE owing to the intricacies
of hosting international sporting events and investments involved. The legal
side of the sports industry is broadly divided into transactional and
litigious.

Sports related
transactional practice include all corporate-commercial work involving
negotiating, vetting sponsorship agreements (both for athletes and clubs),
financing or credit arrangements, drafting of club tours contracts,
infrastructure construction contracts, and any corporate-commercial
transactions which involve supply of services and materials.

The litigation part
of sports predominantly deals with instituting or resolving conflicts that may
arise between different clubs, players or organizations. Additionally, it
covers filing regulatory appeals or appeals against suspensions,
de-affiliations, anti-doping and other substance use appeals; challenges
relating to the interpretation of rules and regulations of the governing bodies
of certain sports etc.

SPONSORSHIP
AND BROADCASTING RIGHTS

With an emerging
sports market, sponsorship related opportunities and the associated challenges
are inevitable. Rampant in the international scenario, sponsoring the best sportsmen,
sporting teams and sporting events, the reputation of the UAE is suitably
enhanced on the world stage.

It’s noteworthy that
the UAE laws do not distinguish between sponsorship and advertising.
Sponsorship is considered as a form of advertising, and hence, all sponsorships
must comply with Emirati advertising laws, which are regulated by the National
Media Council’s Advertising Regulations. These regulations reinforce a number
of fundamental ethical principles, mainly respect for religious, cultural, and
social values and norms in society. Some prominent principles:

Respect
for all religions and public policy: Advertising content must be respectful of
all divine religions and not offend Islamic or any other religious sentiments.
It shall not disrespect the honorable government of the UAE, its symbols or
political institutions. Further, no content broadcast or published by a media
corporation or outlet may disrespect the domestic and international policies or
the cultural heritage of the UAE.

Prohibited
products/services: Advertising smoking,
tobacco, alcoholic beverages, and all banned products or services (including
banned narcotics) is prohibited.

Prohibited
content: Content needs to be relevant, varied, safe and relevant for all users.
The publication of words and pictures that breach public morals is prohibited,
as is the spread and dissemination of information that may prejudice children,
women or any other members of society.

Consumer
Protection: Compliance with the laws governing consumer protection and
commercial activities is mandatory particularly in relation to anti-competitive
practices and illegal monopolies.

Health
regulations: Advertising content relating to medicines or pharmaceutical
products must comply with the rules set out by Cabinet Resolution No. 7 of 2007
Regarding Health Advertisements Regulation.

Furthermore,
broadcasting licenses in UAE are governed by the National Media Council and
TRA. Broadcasting is largely governed by the UAE Federal Law Number (7) of
2002, which is concerning Copyrights and Neighbouring Rights. Further,
Article19(1) grants broadcasting organizations the right to grant licenses for
the exploitation of their recordings and broadcasting programmes, and Article
19(2) empowers broadcasters with the right to prohibit unauthorized
communication of their programmes or recordings to the public. Additionally,
the UAE Penal Code governs the Digital Content Broadcasting and Regulations in
the country, while the Federal Law Number 15 of 1980 Concerning Printing and Publishing,
in its broad applicability, covers television broadcasting, and Federal Law
Number 5 of 2012 on Combating Cyber Crimes (Cyber-Crimes Law) specifically
addresses content distribution via the internet.

In a multi-screen
world, digital channels take precedence over all other channels of marketing
amplifying the monies, return on investment, brand awareness, loyalty and
stickiness that is required. Digitization accompanied by dynamic technological
advancements, has brought forward a plethora of alternatives to the amalgamated
gamut of online marketing and traditional media tools available. And thus,
sports sponsorships have caught on quickly as a marketing tool among both,
domestic and foreign business conglomerates. To evade any impede, an investor’s
ability or decision to extend sponsorship to a global sporting event, such as
FIFA or the Cricket World Cup, necessitates adhering to the Emirati laws for a
prolific and rewarding venture.

CAS:
SPORTS DISPUTE RESOLUTION

An international
quasi-judicial body, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), was established
to settle disputes related to sport via arbitration in 1984, as part of the
IOC. The body originally conceived by the 7th president of International
Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch, under who’s leadership and tenure,
the IOC achieved a financial turn-around for the Olympic Games and.

The CAS time and
again, has proven to be particularly popular as a dispute resolution mechanism
for resolving disputes involving global sports.[iii] Headquartered in
Lausanne, Switzerland, CAS has its courts located in New York City, and Sydney
as well while temporary courts are established in current Olympic host cities.
And on the national level, a chamber for the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS)
has been established in Abu Dhabi. The presence of CAS in the UAE positions the
country as one with high regards for professional and legal standards in the
sporting arena.

As we discuss this,
there is also a draft law in the works that proposes the establishment of an
Emirates Sports Arbitration Centre with the aim to create a national model of
CAS for all the sports disputes in the UAE. The new CAS Centre and the
establishment of other sports dispute resolution bodies are significant because
of the prevalence of arbitration clauses in the rules and regulations of sports
governing bodies.

THE
PROBABLE ROAD AHEAD

With consolidated
efforts to grow the UAE as a preferred sports destination, the country has
embraced and implemented courses of action to ensure that dispute resolution in
the sports industry is in line with international standards.

For instance, the UAE
Football Association has established a number of sports dispute resolution
bodies. The UAE Football Association was influenced by the FIFA dispute
resolution model because it is the global governing body of international
football.

With an increasing
demand for advice on transactional, regulatory, and litigious practices
surrounding sponsorship issues, infrastructure matters, regulatory and compliance
issues, complaints filing, anti-doping appeals and other sports related
litigious matters, the sporting laws in the UAE also warrant parallel
improvement and development in line with globalised standards. The dominant
theme of UAE’s sports law is an establishment of a dynamic organization as an
important social and economic activity under governmental policy and
supervision. Given the interest, investment, and involvement of UAE in the
global sports arena, the nation has mushroomed to be in the spotlight and
magnetize more sporting events in the future and most certainly act as a
catalyst for astounding sustainable development.

To conclude, the hope
to reprise the role as a premier entrepôt and go global with its brand of
economic liberalization, the enactment of the sports’ law therefore, provides
an opportunity to gain a fresh perspective on developments in the Emirates.
Keeping in mind the structure and dynamism of sports organizations, UAE’s
legislative framework has encouraged substantial reforms, and thereby boosts a
rapidly developing sports industry in the country. Impartial rules of
eligibility and due process, a contrivance that has positioned UAE squarely
in-line with a transnational trend of bringing about greater international
prestige from the continuous success.

https://medium.com/sportyfi/how-big-is-the-sports-industry-630fba219331

https://www.thebusinessresearchcompany.com/report/sports-market

[iii] Aashima Sawhney, The Laws of Sports – A Global Overview (Part 1), 5
Ct. Uncourt 12 (2018)

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