Sports Injunctions

Why would you seek sports injunctions , read on to know more.

Sportspersons and Sports Organisations very often seek injunctive relief in relation to a whole range of personal and commercial issues. Some of the most frequent Court applications relate to:-

  1. protecting a sportspersons name and reputation.
  2. protecting their business interests.
  3. preventing publication of private matters.
  4. being excluded from national and international competition.
  5. being treated unfairly by county national and international associations.
  6. being excluded by clubs and associations.
  7. issues of bias and equality.
  8. social media and gagging orders.

It is easy to recall the 2011 case of Ryan Giggs and his affair with Imogen Thomas. It did not take long for us to find out who was behind the mystery story. This case elevated the whole concept of the super-injunction. A super injunction is an escalated type of injunction where not only is the applicant seeking to prevent the disclosure of the subject matter of the injunction but also seeking to prevent the disclosure of the existence of the super-injunction itself. Obviously, events overtook the Giggs case from a social media perspective. The details of the relationship created a storm on Twitter and it would have been almost impossible to police an injunction where tweets reached such a fever pitch.

Interestingly, there was also a more recent case in front of Mrs. Justice Elisabeth Laing in the High Court in the U.K. This case involved an unnamed prominent sportsperson who appeared in a number of advertisements and who had an affair with a T.V. personality. He was seeking an injunction banning him and his lover’s name being revealed. The newspaper argued that he could not seek an injunction because he had broken the rules by meeting his lover for sex when he should have been preparing for events, they said he had deceived his girlfriend (now his wife) and the team manager – they alleged that his position as a prominent sportsperson and role model was undermined by this type of behaviour.

The Judge acknowledged that some information had already been published about the affair but that if the newspaper was to publish the lovers take on the story which was much more detailed, this would inevitably lead to considerable embarrassment for the sportsperson and his wife.

The Judge found that the affair was one of a private existence and that therefore the sportsman was “a role model for sportsmen and aspiring sportsmen. His position does not turn him into an example in every sphere of his existence”.

The Judge found that a discreetly conducted affair before his marriage could not be considered as being inconsistent with his public persona regardless of whether it involved a breach of team rules. Regardless of the fact that he was a prominent sportsperson, it does not mean that implicitly his views on matter such as public morality should be published by means of his public persona – the injunction was granted on that basis.

There have been a number of recent high profile cases that have revolved around the question of the impact on a person’s reputation. Reputation is obviously key for sports people, not only amongst their own peers but also to the wider social audience. Recently, the highly acclaimed Ballerina, Monica Loughman, who was the first non-Russian to join the famous Perm State Ballet Company, applied for an injunction against her former partner, Fraser Brown. Ms. Loughman and Mr. Brown were shareholders in a company called Monica Loughman Ballet Company Ltd. which was set up in 2011. Mr. Brown was the company’s business and finance manager. Ms. Loughman and Mr. Brown split up in 2014 and Ms. Loughman claimed that there was an agreement between them that Mr. Brown would no longer be part of the business. Mr. Brown then failed to disengage from the company and his role. In the proceedings Ms. Loughman claimed Mr. Brown continued to control the company and was holding his actions out as those of the business. She said these actions had a significant impact on the customers and creditors of the business. She sought orders preventing Mr. Brown from interfering in the business, terminating her employment and winding up the business. Ms. Loughman secured a temporary injunction preventing Mr. Brown from interfering with her work as a ballet teacher and also from winding up the company.

If you intend embarking on taking out an injunction, the keys questions to consider are:

a) Will your application be deemed urgent enough to merit an injunction?

b) Is it the correct remedy or are other remedies appropriate, such as damages?

c) What impact will it have on you as a sportsperson or organisation?

d) Is this the only solution to the problem? Can I resolve the dispute by mediation or arbitration?

e) Did you exhaust the dispute mechanism set out in your county, national or international body’s regulations? Has the organisation followed due procedure?

f) How much does this legal process cost and what will I achieve?

We would be delighted to discuss these issues further with you. Please contact us

Article by: Milan Schuster