We’re venturing into the world of sports law in the latest edition of our Industry Insider series as we speak with Alex Harvey, a solicitor in the Sports Team at Sheridans!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I’m Alex Harvey, 26, and I’m a solicitor in the Sports Team at Sheridans, a leading sports, media and entertainment law firm based in London. I started at Sheridans in 2017 and I spent my first two years moving around different departments within the firm before eventually qualifying into the Sports Team in 2019.
On a personal level, I am (unsurprisingly) a huge sports enthusiast, and I played a fair bit of rugby, football and cricket growing up. Unfortunately my sporting ability (if you can even call it that…) seems to have rapidly declined over the past few years, so I’m much more comfortable watching it all on TV nowadays! I do still manage to play a bit of 5-a-side football every now and then, and I love skiing when I get the chance to go.
What do you do in your current role?
On a macro level, I provide legal advice to a variety of stakeholders in the sports and entertainment space. To try and break that down a bit, I would say that I work across three main practice areas: commercial, regulatory and disputes. On the commercial side, I might be negotiating a sponsorship agreement between a player and a brand, doing an image rights agreement between a player and a club, or working on an ‘influencer agreement’ for an online talent.
Then there’s the regulatory aspect. Each sport obviously has its own regulatory framework which governs how that sport is run, and it’s fair to say that some sports are ahead of others in that regard. Football, for example, has a very robust regulatory framework which sets out what players, agents and clubs can and cannot do, and I will often be advising on what those regulations say. In more nascent industries like esports, it may be the case that I’m actually helping to put those regulations together from scratch.
Lastly, there’s the disputes/litigation side of things, which can be hugely varied. It may be something as straightforward as a client issuing a claim for non-payment of their fees, but usually it is a bit more complicated than that, and there are often sport-specific regulatory considerations in play too. Fortunately, though, most disputes are settled long before the parties get their day in court!
What does a normal week look like for you?
As I’m sure most people can attest to, it really does vary from week to week. But to give you a very basic idea of what I might be doing:
If I’m working on a commercial deal, I’ll either be drafting the contract myself (fortunately we have plenty of previous templates to work off!) or I’ll be reviewing the contract which has been drawn up by the other sides’ lawyer. I’ll then usually have a phone call or meeting with the client to talk them through the key points and check they’re happy with the commercial terms, before then negotiating with the other side.
I might then do some regulatory work, where for example I might be advising a client on what they can and cannot do under certain sporting regulations (football intermediaries are probably the most common). And I could then spend a couple of days immersed in a litigious matter, where for example I may be writing letters to the other side, preparing Court documents such as witness statements, or attending Court hearings (albeit remotely these days).
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I think I first realised I wanted to work in sport when I was at University. I was doing my undergraduate law degree and I remember going to speak to a careers advice mentor who said I should start looking at law firms which specialise in areas I’m interested in. Naturally I then focused on firms which had a successful sports practice and I was very fortunate to get a training contract at Sheridans. Since then it’s really just been a case of working hard and trying to learn as much as I can.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
I’m really excited to see how new and innovative technologies are going to disrupt and shape the future of the sports and entertainment industries. One trend that’s really blown up over the past few months is the use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and it’ll be really interesting to see whether NFTs are in fact here to stay (and, if so, in what capacity). It may be the case, for example, that tickets and merchandise will eventually be bought and sold using blockchain technology – so watch this space!
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
Enjoy it! I think it’s pretty easy to forget sometimes how fortunate we are to be working in an industry that we really love. There are inevitably certain days or weeks where we’re working long hours or not feeling particularly motivated, but I think it’s important to take a step back every once in a while and reflect on how lucky we are to be working in the sports industry. It’s a fast-paced and exciting industry to be involved in – and there are so many inspiring individuals within the sector – so yeah, I really just try to enjoy it and take in as much as I can.
In your area of work, what is something you feel most people don’t talk about or focus on enough?
I still don’t think there’s enough focus on sport at the grassroots level. It’s all too easy to hone in on the professional game, with all the glitz and glamour of high profile athletes and big pay cheques, but when you strip it all back, professional sport is totally reliant on the foundation that grassroots sport provides. Some of our clients, many of which are not-for-profit, do some incredible work at the grassroots level; and I think it’s about time those people get the recognition they deserve.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
I’m afraid I can’t claim to have come up with this myself, but it’s a piece of advice that my colleague often gives, and I’m going to steal it because I think it’s a really valuable one: don’t ask what someone can do for you; instead ask what you can do for them.
So to give a practical example, if you want to be a sports lawyer, maybe rather than asking a sports lawyer if they can give you work experience, you could instead offer to do something for them, like co-author a blog piece or offer to help run an event. I’ve actually seen a couple of aspiring young lawyers take that advice on board and its certainly opened doors for them that I’m not sure would otherwise have opened.
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Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Alex Harvey! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.