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Professional Sports Team Practice Brochure

We have substantial experience and expertise advising professional sports teams and their owners. Members of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner’s Sports & Entertainment Group currently  represent and/or have represented all 31 National Hockey League (NHL) clubs, over 20 international football (soccer) clubs across seven countries, including 8 Premier League clubs and a number of La Liga and other international football (soccer) league clubs, and several Major League Baseball (MLB), Major League Soccer (MLS), National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Football League (NFL) clubs and/or their owners. We regularly represent professional sports teams and their owners in connection with their litigation, arbitration and dispute resolution matters; their naming rights and sponsorship matters; the sale and purchase of sports teams, investments in and ownership of sports teams and venues and expansion and relocation matters; the development, leasing and operation of their stadiums and event venues; complex financing projects; and a variety of television, radio, streaming and other broadcast agreements and suite license, concession, retail and other commercial agreements, among other matters. We have significant experience with all aspects of our professional sports team clients’ businesses, including the following representative experience:

Contractual and Commercial Matters

We have substantial expertise in drafting and negotiating contracts for our sports clients, including television, radio, streaming and other broadcast contracts, naming rights and sponsorship agreements, suite license agreements, concession agreements, retail agreements and executive and player contracts. Select representations in this area include the following: 

  • Represented a number of sports clients, including the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and St. Louis Blues Hockey Club, in connection with negotiations of television contracts, including contracts involving broadcasts on ABC, CBS, ESPN/ESPN2, FOX Sports, NBC, OLN, Versus and CBS Radio
  • Advised a variety of sports industry clients in connection with various concession, food and beverage, catering, merchandise and other agreements involving professional sports teams in each of Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Basketball Association the National Football League and the National Hockey League 
  • Represented the St. Louis Blues in player contract negotiations with Wayne Gretzky 
  • Represented the Los Angeles Galaxy in player contract negotiations with David Beckham 
  • Represented the St. Louis Blues and its affiliates in connection with agreements related to the 2020 NHL All Star Game, 2019 Stanley Cup Final, 2017 NHL Winter Classic and various NCAA, Southeastern Conference (SEC) and Missouri Valley Conference men’s college basketball tournaments
  • Represent several current and former professional team owners and athletes, including current or former NBA, NFL, MLB and IndyCar professionals, in connection with various business, transactional, tax, estate planning and charitable foundation matters 
  • Represent charitable foundations with respect to various nonprofit, tax, corporate and intellectual property issues, including representation of the St. Louis Blues Fourteen Fund 
  • Represent numerous sports clients with respect to player insurance matters 

Litigation, Arbitration and Dispute Resolution

We regularly advise professional sports teams and their owners in connection with high stakes litigation, arbitration and dispute resolution. We handle sports and entertainment industry class action litigation; high profile depositions of presidents, GMs, owners and former players of professional sports clubs; arbitrations of ownership disputes and executive disputes and player arbitrations; contractual and other commercial disputes, including with respect to recovery of unpaid sponsorship, suite license and other fees; defamation matters; privacy matters (including specific privacy advice, as well as intervention both pre-publication and post-publication, while also acting on data related issues, reputation management and protection for corporate organizations in this sector); internal investigation matters; player injury insurance claims; enforcement of terms of financing related to international football (soccer) club player transfers; third party rights in international football (soccer) club players and various communications matters, including phone hacking, social media management and player anonymity matters. We have extensive experience in advising and/or appearing before Commissioners of professional sports leagues, major regulatory bodies such as FIFA and The Premier League and numerous international tribunals, including Rule K arbitrations (contractual disputes and regulatory requirements under the Football Association’s regulations), CAS arbitrations, FIFA hearings and High  Court disputes in England and Wales, among others. Select representations in this area include the following:

  • Representing 30 National Hockey League clubs in connection with pending concussion matter 
  • Represented an NHL club in connection with an executive arbitration matter in front of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman 
  • Represent an NHL club in connection with various arbitration matters in front of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman 
  • Represented the St. Louis Blues in connection with various dispute resolution matters involving players, coaches, team executives, the NHL and other NHL teams (including former player  Scott Stevens and former coach Mike Keenan, among others)
  • Represent four NHL clubs in connection with pending litigation matter 
  • Represent two NHL clubs in connection with separate pending litigation matter 
  • Successfully served as trial counsel in a $350 million contract damages dispute and a $100 million class action matter successfully decided in favor of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 
  • Handled salary arbitrations for the St. Louis Cardinals throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including in the successful arbitrations with players such as Ozzie Smith, Vince Coleman and Todd Zeile as well as many cases in which the Cardinals prepared for arbitration but settled 
  • Acted for Newcastle United FC in bringing an action against FIFA and the FA arising from Michael Owen’s injury while on international duty, which led to a change in insurance rules and regulations
  • Acted for Rio Football Services Hungary KFT in bringing a multi-million Euro claim in the High Court of London against Seville Football Club to enforce the terms of a financing agreement relating to a professional international football (soccer) player

Sports and Event Venue Real Estate, Infrastructure and Operation 

We have extensive experience in connection with the development, leasing and operation of stadiums, arenas and other event venues and with infrastructure matters. We are considered one of the leading law firms in the world, and are the top ranked law firm in the United Kingdom, across real estate law, including with respect to a variety of planning, construction, commercial and litigation matters. With significant expertise across the United States, in the United Kingdom and across Europe, Asia and the Middle East, we have the expertise necessary to handle all  aspects of these projects, having served as lead counsel in connection with a number of high profile event venue projects around the world. Select representations in this area include the following:

  • Advised the St. Louis Cardinals in connection with their Ballpark Village development 
  • Recently advised on the development, relocation and construction of new stadiums or related infrastructure, including mixed-use venues in four different sports, including work ranging from inception and planning to compulsory purchase, construction, opening and operation 
  • Advised in relation to the development, redevelopment or relocation of stadiums for multiple Premier League and Championship football (soccer) clubs 
  • Advised various clients in connection with the development, financing, leasing and/or operation of several stadiums and event venues, including Edward Jones Dome (St. Louis Rams - NFL), Foxboro Stadium (Former home of the New England Patriots - NFL), Red Bull Arena (New York Red Bulls - MLS), Scottrade Center (St. Louis Blues - NHL) and Toyota Park (Chicago Fire - MLS) 
  • Served as lead counsel to the developer of The O2 World Arena, home to Berlin’s professional hockey and basketball teams, and the related entertainment district, handling all aspects of the project, including site selection and acquisition, environmental due diligence, rezoning, demolition, infrastructure, development and lease negotiations. 
  • Served as lead counsel to the developer of STAPLES Center, home to the Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Sparks and Avengers, handling all aspects of the project, from real estate acquisition and rezoning to naming and sponsorship rights and financing. 
  • Advised on various legal aspects relating to the design, procurement, planning, financing and operation of the FA’s National Football Centre at St. George’s Park, which is seen as integral to the future of the FA, driving elite performance in football (soccer) in England and Wales, and the heartbeat of Club England for years. 
  • Served as lead counsel to the developer of T-Mobile Arena, home of the Vegas Golden Knights, in connection with the construction and permanent financing of the arena. 
  • Served as lead counsel to the developer of The StubHub Center, home of the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA, handling all aspects of the project, from real estate to naming and  sponsorship rights. 
  • Represented various sports clients in connection with various concession, food and beverage, catering, merchandise and other agreements related to the operation of arenas and stadiums  which are home to professional sports team in each of Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League and the National Hockey League

Naming Rights and Sponsorship

With naming rights representations with an aggregate value in excess of $4.3 billion, we are among the most active law firms in the world in naming rights transactions, and we also are recognized as one of the leading sports sponsorship practices. Select representations in this area include the following:

  • Counseled teams and corporate sponsors in connection with sponsorship transactions involving teams in Major League Baseball, the MLS, the NBA, the NFL and the NHL, including the Baltimore Orioles (MLB), Chicago White Sox (MLB), Cleveland Indians (MLB), Detroit Red Wings (NHL), Golden State Warriors (NBA), Kansas City Chiefs (NFL), LAFC (MLS), Los Angeles Angels (MLB), Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB), Minnesota United (MLS), New York Knicks (NBA), New York Mets (MLB), New York Rangers (NHL), Seattle Seahawks (NFL), St. Louis Blues (NHL), Texas Rangers (MLB), and Vegas Golden Knights (NHL)
  • Represented various sponsors in relation to arrangements with international football (soccer) club personalities, club shirt and stadium sponsorships and advised a number of leading international football (soccer) club stars in connection with their sponsorship activities
  • Handled naming rights agreements with respect to each of Ameriquest Field (Texas Rangers), Bank of America Stadium (Carolina Panthers), Citi Field (New York Mets), Coors Field  Colorado Rockies), Edward Jones Dome (St. Louis Rams), The Home Depot Center (Los Angeles Galaxy), Honda Center (Anaheim Ducks), Oracle Arena (Golden State  Warriors), Pepsi Center  Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets), Progressive Field (Cleveland Indians), Qwest Field (Seattle Seahawks), Scottrade Center (St. Louis Blues), Sprint Center (Kansas City) and STAPLES enter (LA Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Sparks & Avengers), among others

Mergers and Acquisitions

We have significant experience in advising clients in connection with acquisitions and sales of, and investments in and with, professional sports teams in each of Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NFL and the NHL, Major League Soccer (MLS), various Premier League and other international football (soccer) clubs, the Pacific Coast League and various minor league baseball  teams. Select representations in this area include the following: 

  • Advised numerous clients in connection with acquisitions and sales of, and investments in or with, professional sports teams, including the Anaheim Ducks (NHL), Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB), Chicago Fire (MLS), Colorado Rapids (MLS), DC United (MLS), Denver Broncos (NFL), Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (MLB), Los Angeles Kings (NHL), Los Angeles Lakers (NBA), New  England Patriots (NFL), New Jersey Devils (NHL), New York Yankees (MLB), NY/NJ Metrostars (MLS), Phoenix Coyotes (NHL), Phoenix Suns (NBA), St. Louis Blues (NHL), St. Louis  Cardinals (MLB), St. Louis Rams (NFL) and Vegas Golden Knights (NHL), and various prospective investors in potential expansion MLS teams 
  • Acted on acquisition financing and re-financing for two current Premier League football (soccer) clubs, acquisitions for two current Championship League clubs and various international football (soccer) club acquisitions in Belgium, Uruguay and Brazil 
  • Advised a major international football (soccer) club investor in relation to a number of complex cross-border arrangements to effect the international transfers of international football  (soccer) players, including by putting in place joint ventures between clubs and third party investment agreements, requiring local and international corporate tax and broader corporate finance advice 
  • Handled naming rights agreements with respect to each of Ameriquest Field (Texas Rangers), Bank of America Stadium (Carolina Panthers), Citi Field (New York Mets), Coors Field (Colorado Rockies), Enterprise Center (St. Louis Blues), Fiserv Forum (Milwaukee Bucks), The Home Depot Center (Los Angeles Galaxy), Honda Center (Anaheim Ducks), Oracle Arena (Golden State Warriors), Pepsi Center (Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets), Progressive Field (Cleveland Indians), Qwest Field (Seattle Seahawks), SoFi Stadium (Los Angeles Rams and Chargers) and STAPLES Center (Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Sparks and Avengers)

Sports and Event Financing

We have extensive experience in connection with complex financing projects related to professional sports, including experience related to club acquisition finance, complex financial restructurings and insolvency advice, loan sales, securing regeneration grants, state aid and the public market listing of a sport business, as well as financing of future cash flows and receivables related to naming rights and sponsorship fees, ticket and broadcast revenues, commercial arrangements and installments of player transfer payments. Select representations in this area include the following:

  • Advised on over U.S. $400,000,000 of financing deals in international football (soccer) in 2017 alone
  • Acted for a lender on a large amount of broadcast receivables financing work involving international football (soccer) clubs in Spain and Germany, with the Spanish transactions involving the acquisition by the lender of the rights to future broadcast payments by forward funding the amounts at a discounted rate
  • Represent numerous Premier League clubs in connection with a large amount of receivables finance work
  • Represent numerous clients in connection with international football (soccer) club player transfer installment financings involving some of the largest transactions in international football (soccer)
  • Acted on acquisition financing and re-financing for two current Premier League clubs
  • Represented Las Vegas Arena Owner (a joint venture of affliates of MGM Resorts and Anschutz Entertainment Group) in connection with the $200,000,000 financing of the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas
  • Represented St. Louis Blues Hockey Club in connection with NHL credit facility
  • Advised a secured creditor on the consensual financial restructuring and sale of Reading Football Club to a Thai consortium and acted on the provision of additional bridge finance to ensure that the Club could meet various payment deadlines and to provide working capital
  • Represented developer of The StubHub Center in Carson, California, handling all aspects of the project, including financing as well as the related restructuring
  • Represented developer of STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California, handling all aspects of the project, including financing as well as the related restructuring
  • Represented the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in connection with their credit facility
  • Representation of owner of sports arena in $160,000,000 senior secured syndicated revolving and term loan credit facilities
  • Acted for Rio Football Services Hungary KFT in bringing a multi-million Euro claim in the High Court of London against Seville Football Club to enforce the terms of a financing agreement relating to a professional football (soccer) player 

Our Professional Sports Team practice team consists of lawyers with significant experience in all aspects of representing professional sports teams in a variety of sports. For additional  information, please contact our team leaders:

Ryan Davis: 314 259 2818 or rsdavis@bclplaw.com    

Marcus Pearl: +44 (0) 20 3400 4757 or marcus.pearl@bclplaw.com 

Chris Schmidt: 314 259 2616 or cjschmidt@bclp.com 

Graham Shear: +44 (0) 20 3400 4191 or graham.shear@bclplaw.com 

Steve Smith: 719 381 8457 or steve.smith@bclplaw.com 

Marc Trottier: +44 (0) 20 3400 4072 or marc.trottier@bclplaw.com