All sports organizations need to be aware of their legal environment — every day, every game, match and event. In addition to national organizations that govern sport, related subgroups, chapters, conferences, and constituent organizations impact the legal rights and obligations of everyone involved in athletic competition and recreational sports. What’s more, a panoply of state laws and local regulations relate specifically to athletics and sport programs, for example:
- Tort: federal and state volunteer immunity laws for coaches and volunteers, state tort immunity statutes for licensed sports officials;
- Administrative: law governing who may participate in terms of age, special needs, and lawful classifications; employee/independent contractor concerns and related laws; mandated criminal background checks for coaches, officials and volunteers; statutorily authorized athletic codes of conduct and regulations;
- Health issues: disabilities legislation, athletic trainer licensing; medical and educational privacy laws; and numerous state and local laws relating to concussion in sport.
- Criminal: statutes providing for enhanced criminal penalties for assaults on officials and coaches, or offenses committed in the presence of children, anti-hazing/bullying legislation, and penal sanctions for those disrupting sports events.
Claims arising out of college, high school and recreational organization sponsored sports events dot the legal landscape: allegations of negligently inflicted bodily injuries; violent acts in athletic competition; administrator, coach and official liability; defamation; governing body sanctions; and legal challenges to disciplinary actions are a few examples. The defense of these claims requires knowledge of the growing body of both emerging case and codified law specific to sports and athletics in most jurisdictions.
Al Goldberger serves as special counsel to national, state and local officiating organizations, national and regional sports governing bodies, other sports organizations; insurance carriers and claims administrators in the sports industry. We routinely deal with the legal impact of sports related immunity statutes and the responsibilities imposed by playing rules codes, athletic codes of conduct and governing body regulation of sports competition. We can help your sports, athletic or recreation program legally manage its participant and member relations while managing the risks incurred in both administrative activities and in the operation and conduct of the programs offered. We work with our clients to:
- Educate staff, officials, coaches, athletic administrators, and ancillary personnel in sound risk management and organizational practices
- Provide risk management consulting in sport specific contexts
- Counsel organizations in pre-suit procedures, communications and crisis response
- Provide legal guidance in managing the risk of bodily injury/economic injury to participants — including the requirements of state and local law regarding traumatic brain injury in sport and physical activity
- Defend liability claims
- Prosecute and defend other sports-related litigation, appeals and administrative proceedings
- Draft bylaws, rules, operating codes, governing documents and regulations consistent with all applicable law and regulations
- Provide legal representation in the conduct of meetings, administrative and disciplinary hearings
- Draft and review contracts, including licensing, leases and intellectual property; and provide related representation of sports related organizations, sports officials, coaches, administrators and other individuals involved in the delivery of sports related services and products.