With the Middle East witnessing a surge of interest in sport, regional law firms are jostling for the lead in the race to dominate the multibillion-dollar market in sports law.
Al Tamimi & Company, one of the UAE’s leading law firms, has announced a dedicated sports law practice as part of its operations across the GCC region.
The unit will be run from the firm’s offices in Qatar, where the money-spinning Fifa World Cup 2022 will take place.
Steven Bainbridge, the Doha-based lawyer who heads up the sport specialism in the region, said the initiative was a response to client demand. “We’ve had a critical mass of client queries about sports law, and we anticipate it being a productive long-run part of our business.” Other law firms are also believed to have recently beefed up their staffing numbers in sport.
He cited statistics recently produced by the accounting firm PwC showing that Europe, the Middle East and Africa was the second biggest earner in a global market for sport worth around US$145 billion and growing faster than world GDP.
Sport revenue in the Middle East and Africa come to around $42.8bn, second only to North America in global value. The Middle East and North Africa is the fastest growing region, with annual revenues increasing by 6.8 per cent per year.
Involvement by Arabian Gulf countries in European football, Formula One motor racing, golf, tennis and horse racing have all contributed to the surge in interest in the region.
“This potential brings vast opportunities and challenges and will most certainly act as a catalyst for sustainable development,” Mr Bainbridge said.
The benefits of investment in sport would be felt beyond field or track activities, he added. “There are lifestyle and health benefits. It is a more socially responsible approach.”
The big investment in global sports, such as Abu Dhabi’s ownership of Manchester City Football Club or Qatar’s multibillion-dollar project for the World Cup, would pay off over the long term.
“It’s a major outlay in the beginning, but over the lifetime of the asset it could be profitable. The spin-offs in terms of tourism, hotel occupancy and airline travel are considerable,” Mr Bainbridge said.