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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Jan Kleiner is hailed as a “very smart sports lawyer” who has an “outstanding” reputation and is “very well known” in the Swiss market.

Questions & Answers

Dr Jan Kleiner co-heads the sports, media and entertainment practice at Bär & Karrer. His practice mainly covers international sports law, media, entertainment and data protection law. Before joining Bär & Karrer, Jan Kleiner worked as a legal counsel in an international sports federation and he was a partner in a specialist boutique law firm. Jan Kleiner graduated from the University of Zurich and from the Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economia in Madrid (Spain). 

How have you seen covid-19 impact the approach of regulatory authorities in the sports industry?

Regulatory authorities have certainly been facing big challenges. Once the coronavirus pandemic broke out in spring 2020, and once it was clear that there would be a massive impact on sports, governing bodies had to take quick decisions about their regulatory approach. For example: What about competitions that are interrupted? What about matches that cannot take place because one team is in quarantine? What about financial impacts? What about consequences for existing agreements? And, most importantly: How can the health of all participants, fans, stakeholders, athletes etc, be protected? These are just a few examples of the numerous challenges with which sports federations were confronted. 

What do you think the long-term ramifications of covid-19 will be for sporting organisations and lawyers? 

I think it is difficult to say at this stage. On the one hand, everybody hopes that life will soon be back to “normal” and that – most importantly – we all stay safe and healthy. We all hope, first and foremost, that those who are suffering will very quickly recover. 

On a professional level, there is certainly a hope that, soon, there will again be opportunities to hold in-person international conferences, seminars, etc. It is certainly also true that the pandemic has taught us that some conferences, discussions or meetings can equally be held online. While a videoconference or a virtual court hearing is not the same as an in-person meeting or hearing, in some instances, it may well be a very viable alternative, and this will likely be a long-term impact of the current pandemic. 

If you could implement one reform in international arbitration, what would it be? 

It is very difficult to name just one reform that should have priority among others. What is certain is that international sports arbitration before the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) works well for all stakeholders. CAS has dealt with the challenges of the current pandemic in a proactive and pragmatic way, in particular by very quickly implementing virtual hearings via a stable and functioning online platform. For the future, it seems recommendable to maintain these features, in particular if some parties have difficulties to afford travelling to Switzerland for a hearing. 

In what ways does the firm distinguish itself from competitors in the Swiss sports market? 

What is unique about our sports, media and entertainment practice is that our firm has a very long tradition of being active in these industries. For many years, we have been advising a wide range of clients, be it athletes, clubs, federations, agents, intermediaries or broadcasters. This gives us exceptional experience in dealing with all possible matters that can arise in the field of sports, media and entertainment. Furthermore, we have the privilege to be active in many different sports, for example in football, tennis or equestrian sports, to name just a few. We also advise many organisers of international multi-sports events. 

You have a diverse practice that encompasses data protection matters as well as sports law. What data protection issues have arisen in the sports sector over the last year that readers should be aware of?  

One important aspect is certainly that information about someone’s health qualifies, in most jurisdictions, as “sensitive” personal data, ie, data to which higher legal protection is awarded. This means that additional legal requirements must be met so that a party can legally process such data. It remains to be seen for how long covid-19-related matters remain relevant for sports, but as long as information about an individual’s health will be concerned, this is certainly a very important data protection matter to take into account.  

How has the market adapted to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on broadcasting rights?

This question is difficult to answer in a general way. There are certainly significant differences between different contracts, different parties, different cases and different legal and contractual frameworks as to how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted broadcasting rights. What can be stated for sure is that this is still an ongoing “hot topic” in sports, media and entertainment law. From the perspective of fans, it is certainly also very important that, today, sports competitions can be attended again at least via TV broadcasting, since most national and international competitions could, in the meantime, be resumed.  

Looking back over your career, what has been your proudest achievement to date?

I think what I am most proud of is that I have always had the privilege to work with brilliant teams – and our current team is no exception to this rule! 

As co-head of the firm’s sports practice group, what are your main priorities for its development over the next five years? 

No one should ever take the success of previous years for granted for the years to come. Therefore, we will certainly continue to work hard to maintain the success that we have had in previous years, while investing just as much time and effort to continue the growth of our team. We always strive for excellence and we will never stop working hard to support our clients in all their legal needs. 

WWL says

Jan Kleiner is “a studious, methodical lawyer” who is “the guy at the core of the issues in sports law” and a “very smart sports lawyer”.

Questions & Answers

Jan Kleiner co-heads our firm’s sport practice group. His practice covers contentious and non-contentious matters in the fields of national and international sports law as well as media, entertainment  and data protection law. He furthermore advises clients on technology and telecommunication law matters. Before joining Bär & Karrer in 2013, Jan Kleiner obtained a doctorate in international sports law from the University of Zurich, he was legal counsel in an international sports federation and a partner in a law firm specialised in sports, media and entertainment law. 

What inspired you to pursue a legal career? 

I have always been interested in what I think are key features of our wonderful profession as lawyers: arguing different points of view, trying to be as analytical as possible, scrutinising a counter-argument and identifying exactly where you disagree, trying to break down complex matters, working with words, pleading, giving presentations, etc.…at the end, I thought that in a legal career, I could use and hopefully improve these skills. 

What do you enjoy most about your role as co-head of the firm’s sports practice? 

What is wonderful about my role is that I work with a brilliant team. We all work hard together, we debate, we collaborate, we work on common projects and cases, most of all, we are a group of friends. In this, we have the privilege of combining our passion for sport with our passion for the law. 

What qualities make for an effective sports lawyer in the current climate? 

It is difficult to give an exhaustive set of qualities. What is certainly important is to be reactive and alert for new developments, to have an open mind and to be creative. Having a good network is also often key to finding quick solutions to complex, cross-border matters. It also helps to understand how sports federations work, ideally from experience as in-house counsel, for example. 

Finally, I think it is also the “good old” lawyer skills that help: knowing the law well, knowing the regulations well and being able to defend your client’s position. 

On what matters are clients coming to you most frequently at present? 

At present, we are still very active in complex international arbitration proceedings. These proceedings cover a great variety of topics and sports, for example disciplinary matters, financial matters, licensing issues, all from sports ranging from football to equestrian sports to surfing. We also regularly advise clients on regulatory questions, recently also very often in relation to covid-19. 

How has covid-19 had an impact on sports arbitration? 

Covid-19 is certainly a general challenge in what concerns the holding of in-person hearings, in particular with parties or arbitrators coming from abroad. I could also envisage that some of the “hot topics” in sports arbitration may slightly shift in the near future, for example towards employment-related or regulatory questions in relation to covid-19 that have still not been addressed in case law. 

It may also well be that the frequency of sports arbitration cases has a slight downturn because many competitions in sports did not take place, but we have full trust that we will soon be back on the pre-covid-19 level, once hopefully everybody will be safe and healthy again. 

To what extent can virtual hearings be relied on to decide high-stakes cases between parties? 

My personal view is that with the right technological setting and with parties that are willing to engage in the process and cope with possible difficulties, it is very much possible and an extremely valuable option in these complicated times.

It is true that there are also some downsides, in particular in witness cross-examination. It is difficult to read body language in a virtual hearing, one cannot immediately grasp the reaction of the tribunal, not everybody is in the same room, etc.  

However, in the current times, we must never forget that the most important thing is the safety and health of everybody. Therefore, we must all be willing to hold virtual hearings whenever necessary and whenever circumstances permit. 

How would you like your practice to develop over the coming years? 

We have had the privilege that our practice has been constantly growing over the past years, and we certainly wish for this to continue. We are also very happy that our work covers a wide range of different sports and topics and many of our cases have international, cross-border aspects to them. We have also been constantly growing our practice in commercial, sports-related matters and in issues related to data protection in sport. These are fields that we not only find very important, but also highly interesting, and we certainly hope for continued growth also in these aspects of our work. 

What advice would you give to younger lawyers looking to pursue a career in sports law?

At the end, I think that a passion for sports and a passion for the law are certainly the centrepieces of a successful career. Although I do not think that a career can be “planned” with certainty – and it also should not be seen as a fixed, straightforward line – thinking ahead is still always important. Where do I want to study? How can I work on my language skills? Do I want to do a post-graduate course? Do I want to work in-house first before joining a law firm?

There are certainly no black or white answers to many of these questions, and there is no recipe for a successful career. However, at the end, hard work and passion for what you do will always pay off! 

Global Leader

Sports 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Jan Kleiner is hailed as a “very smart sports lawyer” who has an “outstanding” reputation and is “very well known” in the Swiss market.  

Biography

Jan Kleiner Co-heads Bär & Karrer's sport, media and entertainment practice group. His practice covers contentious and non-contentious matters in the fields of national and international sports law as well as media, entertainment  and data protection law. He furthermore advises clients on technology and telecommunication law matters. Before joining Bär & Karrer in 2013, Jan Kleiner has obtained a doctorate in international sports law from the University of Zurich, he was Legal Counsel in an international sports federation and a Partner in a law firm specialized in sports, media and entertainment law. In addition, Jan Kleiner holds a Global Executive Master in International Sports Law from the Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economia in Madrid (Spain).

Jan Kleiner regularly publishes on national and international sports law topics and data protection matters. He is a lecturer in international sports law at the University of Zurich and in various other national and international Sports Law Master programs. He is also a lecturer in data protection law at the University of Applied Sciences of the Canton of Graubünden. He furthermore acts as President of the Sports Law Alumni, an international Alumni organization of sports law graduates.

Bär & Karrer is a renowned Swiss law firm with more than 170 lawyers in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano and Zug. Its core business is advising clients on innovative and complex transactions and representing them in litigation, arbitration and regulatory proceedings. The firm's clients range from multinational corporations to private individuals in Switzerland and around the world.

Bär & Karrer has been repeatedly awarded Switzerland's Law Firm of the Year by the most important international legal ranking agencies in recent years.

National Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Jan Kleiner is a “well-known” sports lawyer who is “very active” in the sector and “does lots of work for FIFA and UEFA”. 

Biography

Jan Kleiner Co-heads Bär & Karrer's sport, media and entertainment practice group. His practice covers contentious and non-contentious matters in the fields of national and international sports law as well as media, entertainment  and data protection law. He furthermore advises clients on technology and telecommunication law matters. Before joining Bär & Karrer in 2013, Jan Kleiner has obtained a doctorate in international sports law from the University of Zurich, he was Legal Counsel in an international sports federation and a Partner in a law firm specialized in sports, media and entertainment law. In addition, Jan Kleiner holds a Global Executive Master in International Sports Law from the Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economia in Madrid (Spain).

Jan Kleiner regularly publishes on national and international sports law topics and data protection matters. He is a lecturer in international sports law at the University of Zurich and in various other national and international Sports Law Master programs. He is also a lecturer in data protection law at the University of Applied Sciences of the Canton of Graubünden. He furthermore acts as President of the Sports Law Alumni, an international Alumni organization of sports law graduates.

Bär & Karrer is a renowned Swiss law firm with more than 170 lawyers in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano and Zug. Its core business is advising clients on innovative and complex transactions and representing them in litigation, arbitration and regulatory proceedings. The firm's clients range from multinational corporations to private individuals in Switzerland and around the world.

Bär & Karrer has been repeatedly awarded Switzerland's Law Firm of the Year by the most important international legal ranking agencies in recent years.

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