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Thought Leaders

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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

Questions & Answers

Michele Bernasconi is a partner at the leading Swiss firm Bär & Karrer office and heads the sports, media and entertainment practice. He advises on a range of sports, media, energy, telecom and IT matters, and is considered one of the most experienced arbitrators at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. He is co-director of the UEFA Football Law Programme; president of the Swiss Association for Sports Law; founder and co-chair of the sports law committee of the business law section of the American Bar Association; and chair of the sports committee of the Swiss Bar Association.

What inspired you to pursue a career in sports law?

Sport and law have always been two worlds that I have loved. To have the possibility of combining my work with my passions was immediately a source of joy and a reason to make every effort to succeed.

What are the most challenging elements of a career in sports law?

Besides the usual challenges that a lawyer faces today, I believe what is really special in sports law is that one is involved in matters you will read about it in the sports pages of the newspapers. In other words, sports legal work is and will always be the subject of passionate reviews and comments from the public, unlike any other field of law.

What do you enjoy most about working in the area?

Sports is a field of law that to a very large extent is truly international. To be able to connect with people from different cultures is certainly one of the nicest aspects of working in this area. I have also enjoyed the privilege of being part of a rather small group of lawyers aiming to develop a set of rules that simply did not previously exist: a new lex sportiva.

How does your work in sports law affect your approach to TMT issues?

Many of the most important developments in the TMT areas have been triggered by sports or have sports in their focus: new broadcasting techniques, apps, e-sports, etc. They all would not be where they are without sports. It is, therefore, crucial to have a good understanding of both industries when advising on those matters.

What trends are you noticing in the sports legal market and in sports law in general?

We notice an increase in the number of lawyers that are interested in working in this field worldwide. We also see an increase in the quality of the legal work, both within sports organisations and in respect of party representation and advocacy before sports adjudicatory bodies.

Of great significance are certain structural developments, such as the introduction of the WADA Code or the recognition of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) by FIFA a few years ago. But equally important, as I have previously written, is the emergence of a new, international community of sports lawyers that simply did not exist 20 years ago. I feel a great sense of cooperation and collegiality among the members of this community.

Without any doubt, the improved protection of the rights of athletes is significant. There is still considerable work to do in this area, but today there is more equality and fairness in the treatment of athletes worldwide when compared to 20-25 years ago.

What is the most interesting case you have been a part of?

The most interesting case is always the one I have right in front of me, on my desk. But I must admit that the first Matuzalem case, where I served as president of the CAS Panel, was special to me. The decision was confirmed by the Swiss Federal Tribunal and it had an influential role in many other cases of breach of contract by football players or clubs.

However, the real achievement has been working for and with outstanding clients and colleagues as they and their organisations have developed and flourished. Finally, receiving the global title of WWL Sports Lawyer of the Year in 2018 was, of course, a cause for joy as well.

Where, in your opinion, does the future of the practice area lie?

I can answer by referring to the Olympic motto of the Baron Pierre de Coubertin: “citius, altius, fortius”, which is Latin for “faster, higher, stronger”. International Sports lawyers can use these three words as a programme for their daily work. Personally, I would add also a fourth, very important word, “probius”, which means “fairer”.

In the end, I hope to maintain the right motivation for what I do. I am passionate about my work and the people involved and I hope to continue to avoid doing anything for prestige, status, money or approval alone (as someone wiser than me once wrote).

Thought Leaders - Data 2019
WWL Ranking: Thought Leader
WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

Questions & Answers

Michele (Michael) A R Bernasconi is a partner in the Zurich office of Bär & Karrer AG, one of the largest and leading Swiss law firms. A graduate of the University of Zurich (lic iur, 1989) and Harvard Law School (LLM, 1996), Michele Bernasconi was admitted to the Swiss bar in 1992. He advises on a broad range of sports, media, energy, telecom and IT matters, acting for both domestic and international clients. He has particular expertise in international litigation and arbitration in commercial, media and sports matters.

Which came first: an interest in law or an interest in sport?

I was around five years old when I started to follow with great interest both the Perry Mason TV series (an American legal drama starring Raymond Burr) and two sports giants, Jackie Stewart and Johan Cruyff. One could say that I have always been passionate about law and also about sports, so I feel very lucky to combine the two in my professional life.

To what extent is the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) an effective body in resolving disputes?

If as a lawyer in a sporting matter, you have never been forced to try your luck before an ordinary state court, you will never truly appreciate the advantages of CAS. Of course, CAS is not perfect and there is still room for it to evolve and improve. But it is clearly a huge advantage for the sports family to have the possibility to submit a sports-related dispute to an arbitral tribunal that is neutral, experienced in sporting matters, efficient, and reasonably inexpensive for the parties to such dispute.

What has been the most interesting case you have worked on?

The most interesting case is always the one I have right in front of me on my table. But I must admit that the first Matuzalem case, where I served as president of the CAS panel, was special to me. The decision was confirmed by the Swiss Federal Tribunal and has had an influential role on many other cases of breach of contract by a football player or a club.

What has been the most significant development in sports law since you started practising?

Certain structural developments are of great significance, such as the introduction of the first World Anti-Doping Code, the recognition of CAS by FIFA, and the unbelievable success of the UEFA Champions League. But equally important, as I wrote few years ago, is the emergence of a new international community of sports lawyers that simply did not exist 20 years ago. I feel a great sense of cooperation and collegiality among the members of this community.

What makes Bär & Karrer stand out from the competition in this field?

I believe that a law firm benefits very much from having great clients. Our sports department has had the privilege to work with very demanding, but also very high-quality clients within the sport sector. Today, I truly enjoy working with my partner Jan Kleiner and all other members of our team. Working in a team is not only necessary but is also a blessing: only a strong team can aim to achieve the “magic mix” of success and satisfaction.

You have enjoyed a distinguished career so far. What do you feel is still left for you to achieve?

I hope to maintain the right motivation for what I do. I am passionate about my work and the people involved, and I hope to continue to avoid doing anything for prestige, status, money or approval alone, as someone wiser than me once wrote.

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Michele Bernasconi enjoys a strong international reputation for his excellent work in the IT space, as well as his deep regulatory knowledge of the sector. 

Biography

Michele Bernasconi heads the sports practice at Bär & Karrer. He is based in Zurich and has been a partner since 2001.

Michele Bernasconi advises on a broad range of sports, media, energy, telecom and IT matters, acting for both domestic and international clients. He has particular expertise in international litigation and arbitration as well as in commercial and transactional work relating to such industries.

His recent experience includes acting as arbitrator in international commercial and sport matters, providing advice on outsourcing and joint-venture projects, broadcasting and sponsorship agreements, ambush marketing, regulatory and antitrust work in both the telecoms and the sports sector, software licensing, electricity transmission and distribution, doping matters and international transfers of football players.

Michele Bernasconi lectures on international sports law at the University of Zurich and is co-director of the UEFA Football Law Programme. He regularly speaks and publishes articles on topics within his practice areas.

Michele Bernasconi is a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and was part of the CAS ad hoc Chamber at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

He is also member of the executive board of the Swiss Tennis Association, president of the Swiss Association for Sports Law (ASDS), chairman of the sports law committee of the Swiss Bar Association and founder and co-chair of the sports law committee of the business law section of the American Bar Association (ABA), and past-chair of the communications law committee of the International Bar Association (IBA). Michele Bernasconi is active as a panelist for internet domain name litigation cases and as a mediator in IP cases at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
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 prestigious international legal ranking agencies.

Data - Telecoms & Media 2019

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Michele Bernasconi impresses market sources with his top-notch handling of media-related matters pertaining to the sports industry, including broadcasting and sponsorship issues.

Biography

Michele Bernasconi heads the sports practice at Bär & Karrer. He is based in Zurich and has been a partner since 2001.

Michele Bernasconi advises on a broad range of sports, media, energy, telecom and IT matters, acting for both domestic and international clients. He has particular expertise in international litigation and arbitration as well as in commercial and transactional work relating to such industries.

His recent experience includes acting as arbitrator in international commercial and sport matters, providing advice on outsourcing and joint-venture projects, broadcasting and sponsorship agreements, ambush marketing, regulatory and antitrust work in both the telecoms and the sports sector, software licensing, electricity transmission and distribution, doping matters and international transfers of football players.

Michele Bernasconi lectures on international sports law at the University of Zurich and is co-director of the UEFA Football Law Programme. He regularly speaks and publishes articles on topics within his practice areas.

Michele Bernasconi is a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and was part of the CAS ad hoc Chamber at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

He is also member of the executive board of the Swiss Tennis Association, president of the Swiss Association for Sports Law (ASDS), chairman of the sports law committee of the Swiss Bar Association and founder and co-chair of the sports law committee of the business law section of the American Bar Association (ABA), and past-chair of the communications law committee of the International Bar Association (IBA). Michele Bernasconi is active as a panelist for internet domain name litigation cases and as a mediator in IP cases at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
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 prestigious international legal ranking agencies.

Sports

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Michele Bernasconi is one of the leading lights in the sports market, with sources affirming that he "is really the godfather of sports law in Switzerland" and "one of the best in the world".

Biography

Michele Bernasconi heads the sports practice at Bär & Karrer. He is based in Zurich and has been a partner since 2001.

Michele Bernasconi advises on a broad range of sports, media, energy, telecom and IT matters, acting for both domestic and international clients. He has particular expertise in international litigation and arbitration as well as in commercial and transactional work relating to such industries.

His recent experience includes acting as arbitrator in international commercial and sport matters, providing advice on outsourcing and joint-venture projects, broadcasting and sponsorship agreements, ambush marketing, regulatory and antitrust work in both the telecoms and the sports sector, software licensing, electricity transmission and distribution, doping matters and international transfers of football players.

Michele Bernasconi lectures on international sports law at the University of Lucerne and is co-director of the UEFA Football Law Programme. He regularly speaks and publishes articles on topics within his practice areas.

Michele Bernasconi is a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and was part of the CAS ad hoc Chamber at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

He is also member of the executive board of the Swiss Tennis Association, president of the Swiss Association for Sports Law (ASDS), chairman of the sports law committee of the Swiss Bar Association and founder and co-chair of the sports law committee of the business law section of the American Bar Association (ABA), and past-chair of the communications law committee of the International Bar Association (IBA). Michele Bernasconi is active as a panelist for internet domain name litigation cases and as a mediator in IP cases at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

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 prestigious international legal ranking agencies.

National Leader

Switzerland - Data

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Michele Bernasconi is widely respected by commentators in the market who note his in-depth expertise on broadcasting and sponsorship deals as well as outsourcing matters.

Biography

Michele Bernasconi heads the sports practice at Bär & Karrer. He is based in Zurich and has been a partner since 2001.

Michele Bernasconi advises on a broad range of sports, media, energy, telecom and IT matters, acting for both domestic and international clients. He has particular expertise in international litigation and arbitration as well as in commercial and transactional work relating to such industries.

His recent experience includes acting as arbitrator in international commercial and sport matters, providing advice on outsourcing and joint-venture projects, broadcasting and sponsorship agreements, ambush marketing, regulatory and antitrust work in both the telecoms and the sports sector, software licensing, electricity transmission and distribution, doping matters and international transfers of football players. He is regularly active as an adviser to sport federations and e-commerce companies in data protection issues.

Michele Bernasconi lectures on international sports law at the University of Zurich and is co-director of the UEFA Football Law Programme. He regularly speaks and publishes articles on topics within his practice areas.

Michele Bernasconi is a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and was part of the CAS ad hoc Chamber at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

He is also member of the executive board of the Swiss Tennis Association, president of the Swiss Association for Sports Law (ASDS), chairman of the sports law committee of the Swiss Bar Association and founder and co-chair of the sports law committee of the business law section of the American Bar Association (ABA), and past-chair of the communications law committee of the International Bar Association (IBA). Michele Bernasconi is active as a panelist for internet domain name litigation cases and as a mediator in IP cases at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

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 prestigious international legal ranking agencies.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Michele Bernasconi is “one of the most important arbitrators at the CAS,” say interviewees – a view echoed in our research, which he tops again this year. He is “the best of the best”, and “his experience can bring the added value that is sometimes needed to solve a very complicated matter”, according to commentators.

Biography

Michele Bernasconi heads the sports practice at Bär & Karrer. He is based in Zurich and has been a partner since 2001.

Michele Bernasconi advises on a broad range of sports, media, energy, telecom and IT matters, acting for both domestic and international clients. He has particular expertise in international litigation and arbitration as well as in commercial and transactional work relating to such industries.

His recent experience includes acting as arbitrator in international commercial and sport matters, providing advice on outsourcing and joint-venture projects, broadcasting and sponsorship agreements, ambush marketing, regulatory and antitrust work in both the telecoms and the sports sector, software licensing, electricity transmission and distribution, doping matters and international transfers of football players.

Michele Bernasconi lectures on international sports law at the University of Zurich and is co-director of the UEFA Football Law Programme. He regularly speaks and publishes articles on topics within his practice areas.

Michele Bernasconi is a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and was part of the CAS ad hoc Chamber at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

He is also member of the executive board of the Swiss Tennis Association, president of the Swiss Association for Sports Law (ASDS), chairman of the sports law committee of the Swiss Bar Association and founder and co-chair of the sports law committee of the business law section of the American Bar Association (ABA), and past-chair of the communications law committee of the International Bar Association (IBA). Michele Bernasconi is active as a panelist for internet domain name litigation cases and as a mediator in IP cases at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

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 prestigious international legal ranking agencies.

Features by Michele Bernasconi

Sports and Entertainment 2018: Roundtable

Sports and Entertainment 2018: Roundtable

Awards won by Michele Bernasconi

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