The sporting season has effectively been halted in light of the developments with COVID-19. On the football side, we now know that UEFA has postponed this summer's European Championship until 2021 but are still waiting for confirmation from the English Premier League and Football League as to what their plans are for the remainder of the season. Several options have been mooted – including potentially voiding the season altogether or ending the season with the league table as it is today.
Managing Associate Simon Leaf discussed the likelihood of the Premier League being reconvened at a later date rather than being declared null and void, and the legal implications if so, with a number of media outlets (including inews) earlier this week:
“I can’t see a position where they would call the season null and void with the table as it is today. From a legal perspective it would almost certainly be challenged. Any clubs challenging the League ending as it is today would in my view be successful with an appeal."
“They would need to demonstrate it’s not a reasonable course of action for the League to take. There’s nothing saying the League can’t delay the season as long as they need to. Delaying it into the summer or later in the year and potentially delaying next season would arguably be a more sensible approach in the circumstances.”
In terms of the approach that the leagues and other sports take going forward, he said:
"Even if the season is extended, there are other contractual issues that will keep clubs, agents and administrators fully occupied for weeks to come. Most pressingly, this includes how to deal with playing contracts, which may now come to an end before the end of the season, and commercial partners, who may feel they have been left short-changed by the events.
"This is especially the case in situations where there may be a conflict between existing sponsors for this season and next season's sponsors who may have been due to start activating their rights before this season has formally concluded."
However, a simple delay to sporting events is likely to result in the need to re-negotiate and amend a number of ancillary agreements – including those with venue hire, catering, merchandise and other technology suppliers in order to ensure that the events are properly managed and can be held safely. The starting point for this will always be the existing agreement, so it's important that interested parties understand their existing rights and obligations going into any negotiation.
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