Monteneri Sports Law LLC
8004, Zurich, Switzerland
Peers and clients say:
"Gianpaolo has an extremely wide knowledge and experience in respect of all football matters, from transfer-related matters to litigation before FIFA deciding bodies and CAS"
"He is undoubtedly very expert in football-related matters" "He has broad experience in transfer matters and is able to find practical solutions"
Gianpaolo (1970) specialises in international sport-related litigation, with a particular emphasis on the resolution of disputes relating to football. He also advises extensively in relation to contractual matters in transfers, employment, agency and sponsorship matters.
Gianpaolo joined FIFA in 1997 as head of the players' status department. He left FIFA in 2005 to establish Monteneri Sports Law, a renowned international law firm widely recognised in the industry. Gianpaolo lectures in several international sports law programmes.
What motivated you to pursue a career in sports law?
I was fascinated about the idea of combining the passion for sport and legal profession. I still feel the same enthusiasm today like 25 years ago when I started.
What did you find most challenging about becoming a sports lawyer?
I started my career as a sports lawyer by joining FIFA back in 1997. Initially, the biggest challenge was to understand the functioning of the entire legal system put in place by FIFA, as it was like entering into a parallel universe with its own rules and order and its own decision bodies. The second biggest challenge was to start working from one day to the other in four official languages. I enjoyed these challenges and this is shown by the fact that still today my main working field is football law.
The EU parliament has proposed a new regime to combat live sport content piracy. What does such a regime need to do to ensure its efficacy?
The purpose behind the new regime proposed by the EU Parliament is to block illegal streaming of live sporting events across the EU in real time and to strengthen the rights of the organisers.
Illegal streams are most harmful in the first 30 minutes of their appearance online; it is therefore necessary that such streams are removed or disabled immediately, because the main value of a sports event lies in the fact that it is broadcasted live; once the event ends, also the major part of this value is gone.
The problem with existing measures is that enforcement normally occurs too late. It is therefore necessary to create and implement more efficient technical and legal tools for allowing an effective and immediate tackling of illegal live sports event content.
How are cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology being used by sports clubs and organisations?
The cryptocurrency sector has massively invested in sports sponsorship and in football in particular, because it gives access to an important exposure and status; at the same time, cryptocurrency provides sports clubs with the much needed revenue.
Big football clubs have been partnering with crypto platforms, because it enables clubs to issue so-called digital "fan tokens" that can be sold to supporters and traded like other assets. These tokens are similar to a club-specific cryptocurrency, allowing virtual coins to be bought and sold. Moreover, fan tokens allow holders to vote on minor decisions related to sports clubs, such as for instance the songs to be played in the stadium.
What advantages does a lawyer’s multilingualism deliver to clients, and how does it enhance your practice?
The sports industry is increasingly international; being multilingual is therefore a major advantage for those lawyers who want to operate in this market. I am able to work in five languages and this is a significant benefit for my clients, since they don’t need each time to refer to a different lawyer depending on the language of their business activities, but have just one lawyer of reference.
Being able to communicate with clients and counterparties in his/her own language facilitates the work of the lawyer, it is considered as a sign of respect towards another culture and at the same time it gives insight into this culture in order to better evaluate the overall situation and consequently more efficiently advise the client.
What challenges did you face when setting up your own firm?
My biggest initial challenge was to learn how to acquire clients. This is normally a task that every young lawyer learns when he is around 25. I was 35 when I left FIFA and set up my firm. Meanwhile, I hope I have properly learned it…
Looking back over your career, what is the most interesting sports case you have been a part of, and why?
Back in the years 2000 and 2001 I was member of the FIFA task force entrusted with conducting negotiations on a technical level with the representatives of the EU Commission (particularly DG competitions) on the compatibility of the FIFA Regulations for the status and transfer of players with EU legislation. The outcome of these negotiations were laid in an agreement between FIFA and the EU Commission, which is still today the basis of the above-mentioned FIFA Regulations.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming practitioners hoping to one day be in your position?
Learn as much as you can about the field of law you would like to practice before entering the legal profession; there are so many interesting masters and courses to attend.
Identify potential mentors and try to follow their steps. Ask them for guidance and advice when you are in need.
Take care of your work-life balance; lawyers are working hard, but it is essential not to forget to look after yourself; take some time for yourself.
Start early with networking; you will get in touch with potential clients and with colleagues who you can work with in the future.
Have faith in yourself, as otherwise your clients will not have faith in you and in your abilities.