A: The first thing to do when discussing naming rights is to take a step back and look at what a stadium is really about. It is ultimately both a vehicle for driving revenue, and also a host for a series of enterprises, such as a football match, which will then be the foundation for driving that revenue. A stadium has a package of commercial assets that can be sold, and naming rights is simply part of that package. With naming venues there is a clear divide between old and new – it is always difficult for a sponsor to come in and name an old venue because you have the history of that stadium. Secondly, if it is a football club stadium, it can instantly become more difficult because the fans may have an allegiance to a particular venue name, so a common ground for all parties needs to be found.
Q: How has Pinsent Masons helped clubs dealing with its commercial assets?
A: We work across a very wide sports spectrum so know the industry inside-out. Our main job is to help a client best maximise the commercial rights that they possess, whether it be a stadium name or sponsor on a club shirt. Similarly we also advise on how best to fund and finance this, as well as what the most proficient structure to operate is. For example, if you take the need for catering at a stadium, an owner has a number of options – they could do catering itself; let its tenant do the catering; or it could do it through a joint venture. Due to our deep industry understanding, we can work with the owner to help them not only draw up the contracts, but also to put together the right structure and find the best partner to move the stadium forward in a positive way.
Q: What about when it comes to re-developing a stadium?
A: A club or stadium owner needs to first consider what its objectives are and if it can achieve this by re-development. If it is a yes, they are usually looking to raise more revenue which can mean extra hospitality and commercial options, or even simply getting more supporters into the stadium on match-day – all of which can allow a team to grow. From a legal perspective this may mean purchasing land, gaining planning permission, figuring out what rights are going to be sold, and of course all the paperwork that comes with this. Pinsent Masons has undertaken development work with a host of stadiums in recent times including the Wembley redevelopment; construction at Edgbaston Cricket Ground; Bristol City who are currently looking at building a new 22,000 seated stadium; and helping London Welsh move up to the Aviva Premiership following its stadium issues.
Q: What are your predictions for the industry following London 2012?
A: In the next few years there will be a range of exciting opportunities in the UK. I believe we are going to see a wave of improvements to stadia, especially in rugby and football, due to the on-going competition that is being brought to this country and the drive to be better. With this in mind Pinsent Masons will be looking to give the best objective and honest guidance to those clubs, stadiums and rights-holders, and helping them by not only providing legal advice but also assisting them in seeking out the essential funding needed. The reputation the company has built up is based on searching out the best for our clients in any given situation, bringing together teams of experts to gain the top results. We like to be there as the right hand man, at whichever point of the project is required, albeit gaining planning permission at the outset, or the final delivery of commercial rights.
Q: How can smaller clubs and stadia grow successfully?
A: When working with smaller clubs it is about adding real value without amounting ridiculous fees, by bringing in a process in which a Premier League club may operate, and finding the best ways to fund this. We also see it as our job to help them overcome the everyday difficulties that they are faced with – from political PR, right the way through to legal issues – it’s an exciting area which the company love to participate and operate in. Pinsent Masons do work on some of the biggest events and projects around the globe, but equally we work with non-league football teams and their facilities, maximising whatever budget they have to create a solid plan for the future.
Pinsent Masons has been voted Global Construction Law Firm of the year for the past five straight years in a row at the Who’s Who Legal Awards.