The Silicon Review
“My special focus in the law of sports clubs and federations is on the non-profit status on the one hand and the economic activities on the other.”
Bernd Josef Fehn, J.D., Ph.D., Ph.D. is competent for the defense in all conceivable matters relevant to sports criminal law. In particular, this refers to accusations of intentional or negligent bodily injury, in extreme cases even negligent homicide, corruption, betting fraud, doping, and tax evasion.
That said, top athletes, big clubs, and national as well as international federations are in the very best hands with Dr. Fehn. This concerns the law of statutes, too, as well as legal issues beyond that, including those of outsourced commercial enterprises, such as professional soccer, handball, basketball, and hockey divisions, and of institutional satellites, in particular, anti-doping agencies.
Beyond that, ambush (or parasite) marketing can play a significant role in practice. It includes activities that exploit the media impact of a major event without parallel sponsorship. In addition, Dr. Fehn deals with other legal problems of sports sponsoring, e.g., the performance faults including the procedural enforcement of claims that arise in this context.
The Silicon Review reached out to Dr. Fehn and here’s what he had to say.
Q. Why did FEHN Legal choose the horse as the symbol in its logo, Dr. Fehn?
You can sum it up to the fact that the work of a successful lawyer, tax advisor, and defense attorney can be compared with the requirements that have to be met when working with horses. First and foremost, it’s about trust. Without the trust of the people we work with you can’t do it. Moreover, in symbolism, the horse is attributed to the meanings of “strength”, “assertiveness”, “sensitivity” and “instinct”. All of these attributes are essential to our work as successful consultants, litigators, and defense lawyers. So equestrian sports is almost inevitably reflected in our logo.
Q. Dr. Fehn, do you compare yourself to a successful rider?
I love animals, especially dogs, birds, and horses. But unfortunately, I can’t ride on horseback. But, indeed, just as a horseman must have the ability to fully concentrate on a matter at the right time, a lawyer must also focus 100% on the task at hand. The concentration must be fully directed to the interests of the client, the proceedings, and the contents of the file. A lack of focus or concentration will result in a less than optimal response to a procedural development, the overlooking of important details in the file, and an application that won‘t be submitted. We claim to focus on the case at hand at all times, to handle it with full concentration, and to enter the proceedings meticulously prepared.
Every rider and equestrian enthusiast knows this situation: After the first drop in the course or a less than an optimal lesson in the arena, nothing works out. It comes to further drops or lessons that do not work. The reason for this is the so-called analytical paralysis, i.e., the rider is busy with the analysis or an avoidance strategy after a mistake. In doing so, he forgets that there are still other obstacles or lessons ahead of him. The focus is therefore on the past, which leads to a loss of concentration and lack of clarity in the aids. However, the successful rider can focus exclusively on the next lesson or jump and makes correct and important analyses exclusively after the competition has been completed.
We, too, conduct an extensive situation analysis – at the beginning of the mandate, during the mandate, before a trial, and after each trial day. During a negotiation – virtually the parcours or dressage task – we are always in the here and now, reacting to current developments, remaining responsive and assertive.
Q. Successful riders constantly try to perfect themselves and get support when needed. Do you do the same, Dr. Fehn?
Every successful rider will constantly question his riding and try to keep improving. He will seek the right professional support and advice for this, if necessary. You see, theoretically, I can ride on horseback (laughs).
But seriously, the daily reminder for professional practice is that nobody can do everything equally well. To recognize one’s limits and to stay within these professional limits or, if necessary, to call in expert support in the interest of the client, e.g., in the form of experts and specialist lawyers from other fields of law, and to recognize this need in good time is one of our strengths. It is not only in the world of sports that we are excellently networked but also in the fields of law, taxes, economics, and business. Thus, I prefer to stay with law than with riding (laughs).
Apart from that, I was an active handball player as a child, teenager, and young man and am still very attached to this fascinating sport today. Here, the team spirit is very much in the foreground, which you also need to a great extent as a sports lawyer. Sports enthusiasm, team spirit, and sports law go hand in hand.
Q. Dr. Fehn, to what extent is sports law intertwined with other areas of law?
At first, I will point out that the question of the correct tax allocation of income from the leasing of rights for perimeter advertising in large sports arenas to the tax-exempt asset management of non-profit associations is highly controversial. The tax authorities are increasingly restricting the non-profit status of clubs and federations in this respect. My brother and I have written a detailed expert opinion on this and published a highly regarded scientific article, which you can read in the tax magazine “Steuerberatung” – “Tax Consultancy”. Furthermore, infrastructural and personal services on the occasion of sports events can raise delimitation issues.
Thus, my special focus in the law of sports clubs and federations is on the non-profit status on the one hand and the economic activities on the other. Misclassification may result in significant criminal penalties. This is where the tax lawyer and the criminal lawyer come on the scene.
Moreover, we challenged individual restrictions on equestrian sports during the first half of the Corona pandemic by means of a lawsuit in court and a scientific publication. While we did not get justice from the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia, the regulation was changed immediately afterwards. In Germany, there is a saying: “A rogue who thinks evil of it ….”
This case was not just about the individual right to practice sports with horses, but also about animal health and welfare because horses want and need to be moved. It will be a great advantage, if the sports lawyer knows the constitutional rights and has administrative and veterinary understanding.
As you know, we represent many physicians, too, and got both, my brother and I, the Ph.D. in theoretical medicine and in law. An example where medical law comes in is event protection. It overlaps with emergency service law as a part of medical law when emergencies occur. Here, medical knowledge is very helpful.
Finally, I want to mention disputes in the marketing of intangible goods, in which personal rights and copyrights can become relevant.
In short, sports assumes an important role in economics. Thereby, sports law is the regulative instrument. As we originally are a tax criminal, white collar criminal, medical criminal, and sports criminal law boutique, we’re specialized in topics of criminal violations. But we master the underlying substantive law as well, since it‘s impossible to do the first without understanding the second. This applies equally to sports law, medical law, tax law and business law.
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