Sports fans are gearing up for a busy summer. Alongside annual competitions including Wimbledon and the Tour de France, Euro 2024, the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Men’s T20 World Cup will all be taking place between June and August.

Alongside the excitement and spectacle, huge international sporting competitions bring various legal challenges and risks that need to be carefully managed by organisers, competitors and other stakeholders including commercial partners.

Key challenges to keep front of mind include accidents and injuries; insurance; intellectual property; commercial disputes; sporting fairness, anti-doping and even alcohol licensing.


Accidents and Injuries

This summer elite athletes from around the world will compete at the highest level, and millions of spectators will flood to venues to catch a glimpse of their sporting heroes making history. Around 15,000 athletes are expected to attend the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and more than 15 million tourists are expected to visit Paris.

Sporting competitions give rise to a range risks, from on-pitch incidents to stadium collapse, and from sporting hooliganism to terrorist events. Incidents such as the Hillsborough disaster, where overcrowding of stands at the 1989 FA Cup Final led to 97 fatalities and 766 injuries, demonstrate the potential scale of such risks.

Although risk and exposure are higher at high-profile events, the principles and practices of risk management are no different to those applying at grassroots level. Any party with health and safety responsibilities will have to assess the risks, develop appropriate risk management measures to limit those risks as far as reasonably practicable, and ensure those measures are appropriately enforced.

Particular complications arise in sporting situations where there is potential blurring of lines between the health and safety responsibilities of different parties including organisers and national and international governing bodies. Some competitions also require dynamic assessment of risk which is responsive to changing conditions, such as management of people traffic concentrated in one part of a venue.



Professional indemnity or public liability insurance policies may cover the type of incidents described, but these policies are not drafted with sports events in mind.

Event insurance policies offer cover that is tailored (usually via the use of additional coverage extensions) to the risk profile of a particular event.

In this way, cover can be obtained for risks that are not typically covered by general liability policies, eg cancellation, non-appearance, extreme weather events and war and terrorism. Policy wordings will also be tailored to the particular activities taking place at an event, eg to include coverage for pyrotechnic displays. It goes without saying that the risks surrounding a Formula One Grand Prix are very different to the risks of a table tennis tournament!

Event insurance cover can be a sizeable overhead that’s not usually contractually or legally required, but it is invaluable in ensuring that the cover in place is fit for purpose if the worst does happen.

In recent years, there has been an increase in organisers purchasing event cover for extreme weather incidents as climate change continues to worsen the severity and frequency of these incidents. The prevalence of international conflicts, such as the ongoing conflicts in Israel / Palestine and Russia / Ukraine, has also triggered an increase in demand for war and terrorism cover.

Individual sports stars can purchase personal accident insurance, which typically makes a fixed payout if the athlete suffers a career-ending or fatal injury.

Then there is equipment. The logistics involved in transporting sporting equipment, much of which will be valuable and bespoke, such as bicycles fitted specifically to a particular rider, are hugely complex. Specialist transportation companies can be engaged to ensure that equipment is appropriately protected when in transit, and that it arrives on time. Cargo insurance policies offer indemnities if damage does occur in transit.


Intellectual Property

We all know that sport is big business, with the Olympic Games in Paris projected by some sources to generate between 6.7 and 11.1 billion Euros. A significant amount of this revenue comes from the commercialisation of media rights, including merchandise and broadcasting.

Rightsholders must ensure robust protection of IP rights to safeguard the value of licensing deals struck with commercial partners, as well as brand image (eg “EURO 2024” is registered as a word mark). Rightsholders and contractual partners must be geared up to identify and act swiftly where third parties infringe these rights, eg by selling unofficial merchandise or broadcasting sporting contests via unauthorised channels.

Specialist advice should be taken to avoid ‘ambush marketing’, where an organisation states or implies that it’s associated with a particular brand or sports star without a commercial agreement. The appropriate consents should be in place to protect use of individuals’ image rights and IP rights, and to ensure national advertising standards regulations are complied with.


Commercial Disputes

The corporate ecosystem sitting behind international sporting events is usually extremely complex, involving numerous different rightsholders, organisers, contractors, sponsors, partners, governing bodies and competitors all brought together by a matrix of contracts.

These events and contracts mean big money for those involved, but those parties also shoulder the responsibility of hosting events providing a significant public benefit to competitors and spectators around the world. The obligations on each party should therefore be clear, to ensure that the event runs smoothly.

All parties involved will have invested in specialist advice regarding initial contract negotiations. Nevertheless, contractual disputes are inevitable in events of the scale we’re discussing. Enforcing contractual rights is more straightforward with a well-drafted, written contract to refer to and particular attention should be paid to terms setting out the obligations on the parties, termination, amendment, indemnities, limitations or exclusions of liability and dispute resolution.


Sporting Fairness

During the course of large-scale sporting events, there are heightened prospects of issues arising regarding athletes’ compliance with the relevant rules and regulations of a particular sport and/or competition. For this reason, the Court of Arbitration for Sport establishes ad hoc divisions for significant sporting competitions where a special list of arbitrators is made available to arbitrate sporting disputes as quickly as possible. Both Euro 2024 and Paris 2024 have specialist CAS ad hoc divisions this summer.



Anti-doping is a key control for sporting fairness and keeping sporting contests ‘clean’. Various high-profile doping scandals, including those involving the US cyclist Lance Armstrong and systemic doping in Russia, have brought this issue to the forefront.

Anti-doping is regulated on an ongoing basis by the World Anti-Doping Agency, national anti-doping agencies, sports governing bodies, and event organisers including the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee. Large-scale sporting competitions present logistical and organisational challenges to ensuring that the relevant anti-doping procedures are applied fairly and consistently, and to ensuring that any necessary disciplinary action is taken in a timely manner.


Alcohol Licensing Rules

In May, Parliament issued The Licensing Act 2003 (UEFA European Football Championship Licensing Hours) Order 2024 which modified the rules applying to licensed premises in England and Wales to allow them to continue trading until 1am on the dates of the Semi-Final and Final fixtures. The catch is that the extended hours will only apply if England or Scotland are playing in the respective match.

Failure to comply with the terms of a premises license is an offence under the Licensing Act 2003, and subject to punishment by an unlimited fine or up to 6 months imprisonment.

To speak with our nationally and internationally experienced Sports Team about
the unique challenges and risks presented by large-scale sports events, contact