All questions

Commercialisation of sports events

i Types of and ownership in rights

The Sports Act expressly sets out the sports-related rights that can be exploited, and defines who owns them. The rights can be divided into three main categories as set out in the following table.

Sports-related rightRight holder
Event right (i.e., announcement, organisation and conducting of sporting events (championships)), including the licensing of online betting rights, plus rights related to competitions (matches) of national teamsSports federation (and clubs in special cases regarding the licensing of online betting rights)
Pecuniary rights related to the athlete's sporting activity (such as likeness, name, logo, goodwill and other intangible assets of athletes)Athlete or, in the case of a membership or contract with a club, the club where the athlete's pecuniary rights are automatically transferred to the club
Commercial licensing, transmission, broadcasting and recording of sporting activity and sports competitions via television, radio and other electronic means (e.g., internet)Athlete or, in the case of a membership or contract with a club, the club where the athlete's pecuniary rights are automatically transferred to the club

No transfer of title to the above-mentioned rights is possible. Therefore, licensing is the common means of concluding various agreements on the use of sports rights.

ii Rights protection

Rights holders may, in practice, rely on the following different forms of legal protection.

Media rights

In terms of the broadcasting, recording and transmission of sporting events, the right holders can rely on copyright protection. The sports performance itself is not protected by copyright, but parts of its broadcast are, as is the broadcast signal. Remedies based on the ownership or exclusive use of the venue in combination with T&Cs when purchasing tickets could physically deny infringers access to the sporting venue. The event right is a unique and enforceable proprietary right against any infringer. The significance of infringement of broadcasting rights has not been important in practice so far, as the most popular Hungarian sports can be viewed on free-to-air television channels or are freely available online.7

Personal rights

Athletes, clubs and federations can rely on trademark, copyright, passing off and personal rights protection if their images, logos or other pecuniary or personal rights are infringed.

Online betting rights

The licensing of online betting rights is part of the event right, and federations and clubs are likely to invoke and enforce this right against online betting service providers if they offer online bets on federation and club matches without their consent.8

The Sports Act and other laws do not provide specific sports-related enforcement procedures in the case of infringement. Therefore, stakeholders must enforce their rights before a court or an arbitral tribunal. If the rights holder concerned claims damages in tort, it must prove that:

  1. it has incurred damage owing to the infringer's activity;
  2. the infringer acted in bad faith; and
  3. there is a relation of cause and effect.
iii Contractual provisions for exploitation of rights

The Sports Act provides an express definition for sponsorship and merchandising agreements. The use of the name or likeness of athletes by any sports organisation is subject to the athlete's prior written consent. In practice, sponsorship and merchandising agreements deal with the scope of image transfer or logos to be licensed, meet and greets, and other obligations in relation to public conduct in addition to the usual exclusivity provisions.

The Sports Act expressly regulates the joint selling of media rights. Sports federations, on behalf of clubs and athletes, are entitled to commercially exploit the media rights to competitions organised by them for a definite period and to enter into an agreement or agreements on their exploitation. In return for authorising the sports federations to preserve the right to exploit the media rights, the Sports Act obliges the sports federations to pay athletes and clubs appropriate consideration. The amount of this consideration must be determined in advance and equal to the market value of the broadcasting rights. The subsequent distribution of money generated through joint exploitation of media rights must be based on criteria set out in the Sports Act. In practice, most relevant contractual provisions of media rights agreements grant the following:

  1. exclusivity to the licensee (rights, term, platform and territory);
  2. access to venue;
  3. quality, provision, distribution and ownership of the signal, content and related copyright;
  4. dissemination and sublicensing of the created content;
  5. marketing of sporting venues;
  6. selection methods of the matches by the broadcaster; and
  7. payment or consideration mechanisms for granting the rights.

In practice, it is important that all agreements on exploitation of rights properly consider the internal relations of sports stakeholders at all levels within the sports pyramid model to avoid any conflict between the various licensing agreements.