American Soccer: Legal Stories of the Year

On a few occasions during 2009, we have discussed soccer stories that are legal rather than business related.  Because of sponsorships, contracts, television broadcast rights and a whole host of other reasons, the business and law are closely related in the sports world.  Here then, are our top American Soccer legal stories of the year.

Legal issues started in Seattle with allegations against Colombian striker Freddy Montero.  There were reports of possible rape or stalking complaints filed in Criminal Court.  After an investigation, the prosecutor declined to file charges and there have no further developments.  However, an unrelated civil complaint was filed against Montero’s strike partner, Nate Jaqua not long after the Montero saga came to an end.  The claim primarily sounds in battery, but includes graphic descriptions of alleged sexual conduct between Jaqua and the female plaintiff.  The plaintiff is a former college soccer player.  Other defendants include the Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS and the Houston Dynamo.

Importantly, this is a civil case, which means that while Jaqua does not face potential criminal penalties (e.g. jail), he does face potential financial damages.  In addition, the standard of proof is typically lower in civil court, where fact finders are asked to use a “more likely than not” or 51% standard.  Because this is a civil action, the plaintiff’s identity has been made public.  Moreover, this is an action that is being pursued by her and not the State of Oregon.  Reports indicate that the police have never investigated these charges.

DC United also got involved in a civil lawsuit, when two men filed a claim seeking monies for coordinating the VW sponsorship of the team.  Filed in the District of Columbia by a Brooklyn based attorney, the two Count Complaint alleges breach of contract and unjust enrichment.  The suit is in Federal Court based on a “diversity of citizenship” (i.e. the parties are from different states).  In order to be in Federal Court on a diversity, a claim must be worth at least $75k.

The gist of the lawsuit is that the plaintiffs (Jones and Mair) are alleging that DC United (Macfarlane Chang DC Soccer, LLC) breached a contract with the plaintiffs regarding the location of potential DC United Sponsors.  Specifically, the plaintiffs allege they were entitled to a 22-25% commission on the deal to make VW the presenting sponsor of DC United.

Finally, there is the ongoing dispute between NASL and USL over lower division soccer.  USL is claiming that three of its former teams broke contractual arrangements when they joined the new NASL.  We recommend MatchFit USA’s excellent coverage of this issue.   Also, check out this interview that I did with the good folks at the American Soccer Show about the legal issues involved in the dispute