Details in the fabric – Key features of shirt sponsorship agreements in football

Shirt sponsorship in sport is big business and brands have long been more than happy to pay huge sums of money to secure a spot on a club’s jersey. Shirt sponsorship agreements are exceptionally lucrative for Europe’s biggest clubs evidenced by Chelsea’s pulling power in managing to increase their sponsorship income from £18million with Samsung to £40million with Yokohama Rubber and Manchester United’s deal with Chevrolet which is worth £53million, the most expensive in football. This article picks out some of the more unique features of such agreements.
Performance based payouts

In addition to a standard sponsorship fee many agreements between club and sponsor may include further payments based on performance. The exact criteria as to when a bonus will be paid out by the sponsor to the club will naturally vary depending on the determined success and stature of the club in question. Typically a large club with a recent history of winning trophies will negotiate a clause within the agreement that defines a payout on winning, for example, the FA Cup or the Premier League. Other clubs may wish to scale down the criteria for a bonus to include criteria such as qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League or Europa League. Should any of the criteria be met then sponsors will typically be obliged to pay the bonus within 30 days of receiving an invoice from the club.

Termination rights 

While for the most part standard contract termination rights will be inserted into the agreement there are a number of unique rights which sponsors and clubs will include. The value of the Premier League and exposure it can give to sponsors means relegation from the top flight can cause these factors to drop considerably. Consequently this means many agreements now feature relegation clauses where a sponsor is within its’ rights to terminate the contract should the club be relegated, even if an agreement has been renegotiated partway through the season. This is an important feature in safeguarding against any potential losses the sponsor could face. 

Increasingly agreements are now including clauses relating to reputation and image. These types of clauses have been staple now in the wake of a number of high-profile controversies involving athletes. For a more detailed insight into reputation issues in sports sponsorship please consider reading the Law in Sport article on the subject. 

Rights over players and staff

Agreements will typically allow sponsors to use the club’s players and staff to promote their brand. It is best practice for a club to outline the limitations on these personal appearances, be it a limited number of appearances, a select number of players and staff or both. Talented and high-profile players will always be an alluring advertisement tool for sponsors and clubs will want to ensure that such players are available for match preparation and sponsors are not creating unnecessary distractions or hurdles. Clubs may also typically include a limitation on the duration of these events. 

Any imagery rights, be it from personal appearances or images taken during matches, will always be subject to the club approval. This is absolutely vital in ensuring that anything produced from the sponsor is in line with the club’s vision and direction.

Further advertising

Shirt sponsors will typically be entitled to further advertising opportunities with the club. Advertising boarding is perhaps the most common example however sponsors can, and have, place their branding on interview backdrops, the electronic scoreboard and players tunnel. While these opportunities will always increase the sponsorship fee it is still a valuable part of the contract where sponsors can negotiate a number of extras that can really create a cohesive marketing campaign. 


Shirt sponsorship agreements will always have distinct features to them which are simply not seen in any other sector, Therefore both clubs, sponsors and their advisors should ensure that meticulous details are considered before agreeing to any deal. Sponsors will always look to cash in on a clubs success but this shouldn’t come at the expense of the club losing control over how they operate on a day-to-day basis.


Analysing the decision in ‘RFU v Philip Blake’

Philip Blake, the former Leicester Tigers coach, was handed a six month ban from rugby union following a decision by the RFU disciplinary panel which found him guilty of breaching anti-corruption and betting regulations. It is widely considered to be the first case of its kind in rugby union and as such deserves to be more closely analysed in an effort to understand the reasoning behind the disciplinary panel’s decision to ban Philip Blake. (more…)


Ambush marketing: An overview

At its best it is an innovative and revolutionary way of advertising. At its worst it undermines integrity and value of commercial sponsorship. Regardless of how you look at it, ambush marketing is a phenomenon that has gained considerable traction in recent years and the unique, worldwide appeal of sport has meant it is a commonly used tactic by companies and organisations wanting to cash-in on major sporting events. This piece will look to define ambush marketing in a sporting context, how it used, the issues it poses to sport and whether it can be combatted in a sufficient manner. (more…)


The deregulation of football agents

The 1st April saw a shakeup to the current system that is used to govern agents in football. New FIFA regulations have been enforced and the FA have also updated their rules to ensure compatibility with the new regulations. The changes have been met with mixed reaction from those in the industry with many citing the irony of the new regulations leading us down a path of deregulation amongst agents. (more…)


A race against time: Sauber’s battle against Giedeo Van der Garde

Formula 1 has found itself once again in a high-profile court case. The High Court oversaw the Hamilton Management Group v Paul di Resta case in 2013 which gained notable publicity throughout the sporting world and afar. This week saw constructors Sauber embroiled in a legal battle with their driver Giedo Van der Garde. Van der Garde took his team to the courts citing that a contract had been agreed on which meant he was one of two drivers for Sauber for the upcoming Formula 1 season. Sauber meanwhile were adamant that Van der Garde would not be driving for them as they already had chosen their two drivers – Felipe Nasr and Marcus Eriksson. Naturally someone has to lose out and after a Australian court ruled that Van der Garde had the legal right to drive, it might be more than just Nasr or Eriksson. (more…)


Changes to the practices of the resale of tickets

Sports fans who buy tickets from secondary ticket sites such as StubHub will benefit from greater protection after the Competition and Markets Authority (‘CMA’) brought in new measures to improve clarity and information provided. The changes, while much stricter, are still limited and some ticketing sites will still be exempt from the new rules. The secondary ticket sector is one which has developed at a quick pace and the CMA are keen to ensure customers are confident in what they are purchasing and can prevent the sector becoming populated with rogue sellers. (more…)


Advice and inspiration from sports law professionals

Breaking into sports law is a test of both patience and resoluteness. Despite being an emerging sector it is still a niche area of law meaning it can sometimes be difficult to know where to begin.

As a lot of sports law professionals will tell you, there is no set formula to follow to get your foot in the door. Regardless of what stage in your career you’re at it is helpful to know exactly makes a talented and successful sports lawyer. The peculiarities of sports law mean it’s more than simply turning up for work on time and knowing your case law off by heart.

I spoke to a range of sports law professionals about their experiences in sports law and the skills they feel are important to stand out in the legal sector. Whether you’re in the field of practice or research there’s no doubt that you’ll find what they have to say useful. (more…)