At Gutwein Law, our attorneys have the real-world perspective and insight to respond to the ever-changing industry of sports & entertainment law and business. We have an attorney in-house that owns a team, league, and even commissions a league; as well as has experience scouting for a major league team.
So, whether you are starting a league from the ground up, negotiating a deal, or selling a team; our attorneys have the knowledge and understanding necessary to guide you through any step you encounter throughout the process. We work with sports teams, leagues, athletes, and sports-related businesses all over the world to help create wins off the field. Our work spans sports of all levels: high schools, colleges and universities, international sports, and professional teams.
We know first-hand the sports industry moves quickly, especially leading up to and during the season. We’ll guide you through the day-to-day operations, like drafting and negotiating contracts and endorsement deals; as well as analyzing league bylaws & governing documents, merchandising & license agreements, and venue rental & licensing agreements. And when you’re ready to tackle bigger challenges, our team of attorneys is ready to represent you in the buying and selling of teams, negotiating vendor contracts with players unions, and acting as your Commissioner and General Counsel.
SPORTS LAW SERVICES
- Advise Leagues Regarding Entity Solutions: A survey of sports leagues across the United States would likely show many leagues are organized as for-profit entities that sell securities across state lines and bumps against many franchise laws. This approach can yield complex processes, which require careful navigation and thoughtful representation. The team at Gutwein Law starts by analyzing league exposure, then uses that information to provide solutions for the transition to a league entity that minimizes risk and maximizes flexibility for all parties involved.
- Drafting League Bylaws: Sports leagues have a unique position in corporate America. Rarely do board members come together as competitors to form one product. With the natural friction often created among board members, it takes a special expertise to create fair and reasonable league bylaws and operating agreements. To help, the Gutwein Law team can take on a Commissioner position to govern and grow leagues, ultimately eliminating unnecessary barriers for growth.
- League Governance and Management: Next to league bylaws, there’s no other document more important than a league’s member or operating agreement. This document not only governs each team owner’s privilege to exercise certain rights of membership, but also contains a team’s responsibilities to the league and its fellow members. The bylaws, like other corporate documents, outlines the governance process of the league. Certain leagues also are advised to consummate league constitutions, which provide flexibility for governance. Our team of attorneys can help with the creation of these documents through collaboration with team owners and other key stakeholders in the league.
- Contract Drafting and Negotiation: Sports organizations and players alike are required to undergo extensive and careful contract drafting and negotiation. Deals range from stadium leases to player endorsements and contracts to confidentiality agreements to broadcasting rights to general expansion member applications and disclosures. And because these contract deals and negotiations can vary in complexity and content, extensive legal experience is a must. We have attorneys that specialize in each of these areas to ensure your league’s best interests are being met no matter your contractual needs.
- Intellectual Property (IP) Protection: Leagues, teams, and now even players, need to properly protect their personal brands and trademarks. As these entities look for ancillary revenue streams, the intellectual property surrounding their assets need expertly crafted protection through the United States Trademark Office (USPTO). That’s where we can help. We’ll first meet with you to discuss your various forms of IP, and follow the meeting with a custom Intellectual Property Plan to protect your unique assets. We also have several attorneys in-house that are licensed to practice before the USPTO.
- Promotional and Sponsorship Deal Procurement and Negotiations: It’s a fact: teams and leagues can’t survive without sponsorship dollars. But, these sponsorships and endorsements require strategic planning and routing of inventory rights among teams and league representatives. Our team can provide the needed legal counsel to help in defining rights and obligations, as well as coordinating the delivery method and fulfillment process for payment.
- Public Relations (PR) and Sports Marketing: No matter the sport or level at which it’s played, both good, and unfortunately, bad publicity are going to occur. In the public setting of sports, leagues, teams, and players must be prepared to respond legally when necessary. Many of these battles are not only waged in the courtroom but also in the court of public opinion. When do you respond? What do you say? What vehicles do you use? Gutwein Law attorneys can help in the proactive PR planning and crisis communications surrounding all legal marketing and brand matters in addition to protecting your rights within the law.
- General Business Advice and Estate & Tax Planning: The world of professional sports can open up lucrative possibilities for all those involved. From team owners to athletes, business and individual financial matters must be planned proactively and properly to ensure protection is in place for you and your family members. The team at Gutwein Law will not only provide consideration on general business situations, but will advise on estate and tax planning to ensure your assets are secure.
- Venue Rental and Licensing Agreements: Every sports team needs to be housed in an appropriate location to produce its product. And because this experience is often executed in another entity’s venue, adequate protection is necessary. We help clients with arena leases, licenses, and the construction and financing of stadiums. The attorneys at Gutwein Law have extensive experience in real estate, as well as sports venue licensing and leasing to help navigate even the most complex of venue rental agreements.
- Purchasing and Selling of Teams and Franchises: We have attorneys in-house that have bought and sold teams themselves, so we know the importance of covering all the necessary bases when it comes to franchise transactions. Whether it involves deals for summer collegiate teams or pieces of major league teams, we have the experience and industry insight to make sure your investment is protected on both sides of the table. Our representation is founded on asking necessary questions regarding league matters, as well as insight into the potential issues with your fellow owners and how those issues impact your team’s future valuation.
- Athlete Representation: We’ve been involved in sports from every perspective: commissioner, owner, coach, executive, scout, and player. So we know the ins and outs of negotiation and are well-versed in the crucial points throughout the deal-making process. We’ll advise, draft, negotiate, and enforce contracts with your best interests always in mind. Being in a variety of roles also allows us the ability to ensure you are getting complete representation in your player contracts or endorsement deals. Further, our law license mandates ethical and zealous representation of our clients, something non-attorneys are not mandated to follow.
- Franchise and League Relations: League and franchise relations must be mutual in development. On one hand, the valuation of every sports team at least partially hinges on the success and stability of its associated league. But, the league also has an obligation to advance the interests of the individual franchises within the league itself. For example, the owner’s governance and rights will dictate their ability to sell the team or relocate, which could have significant impacts on the bottom line, and eventually, your capability to re-sell the team in the future. The league and your fellow owners have an interest in maintaining certain minimum standards when allowing teams to sell -- to which owners and in which markets. Gutwein Law will help examine policies and procedures surrounding franchise and league relations to help promote, stabilize, and ensure long-term mutual success for the team and league owner.
- League Due Diligence on Applicants: Finding qualified investors to own teams isn’t easy – and it’s becoming increasingly difficult. The necessary vetting process for new expansion teams includes significant legal and financial due diligence. It requires deep knowledge and understanding of ownership structure, real estate (lease contracts), and financial projections, which is where Gutwein Law can help. We’ll not only advise on the required documentation and interview process, but also conduct an audit and opinion of all documents on your behalf.
- League Expansion Counsel: For most sports leagues and organizations in the U.S., expansion is considered a primary goal. So how do you achieve it? What is your strategy for league growth? What markets are favorable for new franchises? Which aren’t? Gutwein Law can provide counsel on league expansion to help navigate markets with workmen’s compensation issues or other non-favorable legal conditions such as, liability, assumption of risk, shifting employee rights, among other pressing legal issues impacting team operations.
- Professional Athlete (P1) Visas: Virtually every professional sports league has foreign-born players. Now more than ever, leagues, team owners, and agents need legal help in obtaining work visas for those players and keeping them eligible during their stay. On top of that, trades of players with visas create certain legal consequences that must be understood by all parties. Gutwein Law can help you navigate the always-changing landscape of immigration law, where the need for P1 representation is necessary.
- Facility Lease Drafting and Negotiations: The biggest expenses found in many sports teams' profit and loss statements are its operational costs, and specifically, its venue expenditures. Almost every paragraph within your license or lease contract will impact the bottom line. So, finding a firm which has drafted and negotiated many venue agreements will provide an immediate return on the investment. The team at Gutwein Law has several real estate attorneys, bringing extensive experience to the partnership.
- Digital Streaming Content Representation: The way fans (and people, in general) consume media is evolving rapidly. And this trend isn’t passing over sports. From Amazon to Roku, alternative media outlets for sports leagues are the direction of the future. Our team of attorneys have the first-hand experience to help your sports league explore and ultimately secure digital content streaming opportunities, which leads to more consumption of your league’s products and in turn higher valuations for your teams.