The growing interest in sporting investments in the Middle East has led one of the largest law firms in the region to launch the first sports-dedicated legal practice.
The EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) sports market has grown to an estimated $44.8bn and is the second largest in the world, according to a Price Waterhouse Coopers’ report.
Gulf governments are increasingly investing in sporting events such as the Formula One in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, the Dubai World Cup, which is the richest horse racing event in the world, and the Qatar World Cup in 2022.
State investment funds and state-backed companies also have bought into major sports teams, such as the Qatar Investment Fund’s purchase of St Germain football club, while all three major Gulf airlines sponsor different European football teams.
Emirates Airline also is the major sponsor of the Melbourne Cup, the world’s richest long-distance horse race.
Golf, tennis, cricket, swimming and rugby championships also now feature heavily in the region.
The new sports practice, a branch of Al Tamimi & Company, will be based in Doha, where the World Cup is due to be staged at a cost of $220bn.
It will be run by Steve Bainbridge, a former general counsel at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, and will service public and private sector clients across the region.
Al Tamimi already has expertise in construction and employment law, which will also support the sport-related cases.
Bainbridge said Qatar’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup in 2022 would “revolutionise” the GCC’s sports industry, creating an even greater appetite for sport in the future.
“The potential of the sports industry across the Middle East brings vast opportunities and challenges, and it will most certainly act as a catalyst for sustainable development,” he said.
“Our ambition is for this practice to lead the way in improving the quality of legal service provided to the Middle East’s sports industry.”
Numerous Middle East legal firms have set up in Qatar since it won the rights to host the World Cup, which will require up to 12 stadiums plus other infrastructure to be built amid international criticism of the country’s workers’ rights.
London-based firm Charles Russell, which also operates a global sports practice, also is establishing in Qatar to take advantage of the $225bn the government is expected to invest in the country by 2016.