14 July 2015, Written by Jenna Rathbone


FROM a professional footy player to a leading sports lawyer, Tim Fuller is proving that experience really pays off in the court room.  

The McInnes Wilson lawyer says the specialised nature of professional sport should not be underestimated and his knowledge and understanding which stems from years on the field helps deliver tangible outcomes for his clients.

Fuller, who has acted for leading athletes, organisations, corporate brands and national leagues, talks to Brisbane Legal about some of the highlights of his legal career along with challenges facing the industry in the year ahead.

What prompted your interest in sports law and how did you make the transition from the footy field to the court room?

Having a long and extensive background in professional sport has definitively assisted.  My work in sports law varies considerably and involves tribunal appearances, sporting contract reviews, drafting anti-doping policy,  governance advice, sport agent agreements and so on.  Almost without exception, these type of matters come from having some form of previous association with the client.  For example, I have former team-mates who have been CEOs of NRL clubs or leading agents in the NRL who direct their players or clients to me as they know I have an intimate understanding of the sport and the regulatory framework of their business.   The specialised nature of  professional sport and the sport-specific contracts, rules, policies, codes of the sport cannot be underestimated and this knowledge and understanding  helps deliver tangible outcomes for clients.

What is your favourite part about being a solicitor and why?

Undoubtedly, achieving positive outcomes for clients.  My focus in life has always been on developing positive and long-term relationships with people -  I take the same approach with clients and pride myself on the longevity of my client relationships.   With my sport law clients, I enjoy the fact that the trust factor is high as my clients know that I can relate to what they go through on a day to day basis.

What have been some of the biggest highlights of your career?

From a practitioner perspective, I don't place any one particular matter in higher importance than any other matter.  Every job is different and I approach every task every day in the same  manner.    However, I am particularly proud of my role in the development of sports law as an area of study in law school curriculums.  I have written and taught sport law courses at six different universities at both undergraduate and postgraduate level over the last eight years.  In that time, I have witnessed the incredible rise in popularity of sports law as law students recognise the growing impact and relevance of law and sport.   It has been personally satisfying to see students that I have taught progress into legal roles with the nation's leading sporting teams or national governing bodies.

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing your industry in the year ahead?

Sport is becoming more legalistic in nature and the potential legal ramifications for situations are increasing.   Significant challenges lie ahead for administrators in areas such as governance, drugs, gambling and risk management.  Sport lawyers need to be ahead of the game and be assisting their clients in identifying the challenges that the sport or their administrators often do not detect.  For example, the rugby codes and the AFL are facing unprecedented challenges in their respective sports with the issue of concussion.  The respective sports are sourcing legal advice on their rule framework and are making changes as advised.

Author: Jenna Rathbone
About: Jenna Rathbone is a Queensland-based journalist who writes on a range of issues including business and property affairs and social issues.
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