An Insight Into Sports Law In Pakistan With Salman Naseer, Senior GM Legal Affairs & Secretary to the Board at the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB)
The following discussion with Mr. Salman Naseer focuses on the area of sports law. Mr. Naseer acts as the Senior General Manager Legal Affairs & Secretary to the Board at the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). He is a qualified barrister and legal consultant whose main practice areas focus on corporate and dispute resolution matters for the PCB. Mr. Naseer has recently been appointed to the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Safeguarding Panel. He is also an A-Level teacher at his alma mater, Lahore College of Arts and Sciences (LACAS).
The following is a compressed version of the transcript recorded for the interview. Words and phrases recorded may have been removed and replaced, whereas some words or phrases may have been introduced for clarity in the written form. For the exact statements made, refer to the attached audio/video.
Syed Vijdan Tahir: Mr. Naseer, please tell us about your background in law.
Salman Naseer: I developed an interest in law during my A-Level programme at LACAS. I decided then that I wanted to become a lawyer. That is probably why I now teach there, in an attempt to give back to the institution that helped me become the person that I am today.
Having completed my A-Levels, I went on to do my LLB (Hons.) programme at the University of London, as an external student. Immediately thereafter, despite having undertaken a few internships but without gaining any practical experience in courts or the corporate sector, I decided to go for my Bar-at-Law at City University and Lincoln’s Inn. Thereafter, I came back and started practicing in the lower courts and the High Court.
Afterwards, an opportunity came up with the Pakistan Cricket Board. Being a cricket fan, it seemed like an interesting opportunity. Since I wanted to gain exposure on the corporate side, I thought I would apply for the position, which I was lucky enough to get in the end.
It has been a roller coaster of a ride ever since. We have a famous saying at the PCB that there is never a dull day.
Q2: With regards to your role as Senior General Manager Legal Affairs and Secretary to the Board, what exactly are your responsibilities and what is a typical day like for you?
SN: There are multiple folds of responsibilities, but we can break them down into four categories.
One is the litigation side. Throughout any particular month, we are faced with about forty to fifty active cases pending in various courts across the country. Even though some end, new cases begin. These cases are on a rolling basis. We have a panel of lawyers across Pakistan to assist us, so there is a lot to do regarding the management of the panel. Otherwise, we need to formulate cases and strategies, as well as make submissions in court, depending on the importance of the case.
Next, there is the matter of in-house dispute resolution dealing with doping, anti-corruption, or disciplinary proceedings against cricketers, coaches and employees.
Then we have the corporate-commercial side of things, which includes drafting contracts and tenders, conducting meetings and negotiations, sitting on bid committees and coming to a settlement wherever there are disputes. Other aspects include elements of risk management such as advising the Board, wherever there is a risk to its reputation, and assessing the rights of the Board. Since that causes interactions with all the departments in the PCB, it becomes a very comprehensive exercise.
There is obviously, then, an administrative side of things, where we manage a department. As far as being Secretary to the Board is concerned, tasks are similar to the administrative aspect. This may include interacting with the Board of Governors, sitting in their meetings, giving feedback and maintaining the minutes of the meeting.
A day can vary from having meetings that start at 9:00 in the morning and finish at 8:00 in the evening; a day where you are jumping from one meeting to another meeting; a day where you are in court the whole time, to a day where you are just sitting in your room drafting a contract from morning till evening. There have been times where you end up being at the office until midnight, when deadlines are involved. There is no average day. There is no monotony at all, and that is perhaps why one tends to enjoy work.
Q3: A salient aspect of your occupation is that you handle both corporate and litigation matters. In our domestic legal industry, we are told that we need to either specialise in litigation or corporate-commercial matters. Since your line of work exposes you to both, do you think it is difficult to juggle areas of corporate law and commercial law with litigation in Pakistan?
SN: It is a tough task. There is no doubt about that. The difficulty is in management of time, really. You may have expertise in both areas, but it is about giving the appropriate time to one particular area, in order to come out with qualitative products, advice or pleadings.
Even in England, where traditionally the roles had been separated for solicitors and barristers, there is now a move towards unifying both roles, with each doing a little of what the other is doing. You now have solicitors having the right of audience to appear before the court, subject to certain certifications. Traditionally, as per the cab-rank rule, only barristers could plead cases in court. Now we see that there is a shift in England from having a distinction between the two roles.
In Pakistan, there were never any barriers as such, which allowed people to delve into both sides of the law.
It is also a difficult task from the client’s point of view. You are looking at somebody who wants the lawyer of their choice to devote all their time into that particular field. They want their lawyer to have the right expertise to do so.
So if you have a good team, and the right expertise, it is possible to manage both. However, it remains a challenging task.
Q4: What exactly is the ICC’s Safeguarding Panel, what are its aims, and what particularly is your role on the Panel?
SN: Perhaps some background would be necessary. The ICC is the governing body for cricket globally. Whenever there is an international cricketing event, the ICC is the body that governs it. It is the body whose rules and regulations must be followed.
In February of 2019, the ICC came up with Safeguarding Regulations because there was a need felt globally to safeguard the interests of those involved in the sport. These Regulations aimed to safeguard the physical and psychological interests of a cricketer, coach or anybody else involved with the event organised by the ICC. This could mean blackmailing, assault, defamation or harassment.
Since there was an emphasis on younger participants who were involved in ICC events, the idea was to come up with regulations to ensure better safeguarding of such individuals. According to the Regulations, any person charged with committing a violation of the same would be issued a notice of charge. If they pleaded not-guilty, the matter would proceed to a hearing before and ICC Safeguarding Panel.
The Panel would be constituted of people of relevant experience and expertise. The ICC asked all cricket-playing nations, a number exceeding perhaps a hundred, to suggest one or two nominees to the Chair of the Panel, Ms. Kate Gallafent QC, who had already been appointed by the ICC. She would then carry out the process of shortlisting, interviewing and inducting about six to seven people to the Panel.
I must, at this point, express my gratitude to the Panel from the PCB who nominated my name. There were other nominations coming from all other cricket-playing nations, as well as some from the ICC itself. The nominees had interactions with the Chair, after which six people were chosen. There was I, from Pakistan, whereas other members included one each from Scotland, Australia, Gibraltar, Jersey, and one other nation.
The Panel would convene on a case-to-case basis. Whenever a case was referred to the Panel, the Chair would nominate a Panel consisting of three people out of the seven that there are. Those people would carry out a hearing, much like an independent adjudication process, and would determine if there had been a violation of the Regulations. If yes, then the Panel would decide what penalty should have been imposed.
Q5: As per the Business Research Company, it was estimated that as of 2018, the global sports market was valued at $488.5 billion. What role do you think sports lawyers have to play in the grand scheme of things towards the growth of this global market?
SN: One thing perhaps worth a discussion is whether sports law in itself is a niche, or whether it is an area where if you indulge in business once, then that remains the only area that you can indulge in business. I do not know of any law firm that claims to specialise in sports law. They may make up part of bigger law firms. They may have certain departments or partners that specialise in sports law, but they would likely be dealing with many other areas of law. From that point of view it becomes very difficult to assess what role sports lawyers would play in this market. Needless to say, however, sports in itself is a huge market now.
Regulatory bodies are now investing a lot in ensuring that proper regulation, governance and monitoring of these by-laws is given effect. While they have in-house departments, they also engage foreign law firms whenever there is a matter of international significance. In that respect, it is an area that is expanding and continuously evolving. Therefore, lawyers focusing on sport will have a large contribution, however, they may not make up a huge market at the moment.
Q6: Despite sports law being considered a niche within the legal field, media and advertising help sports law grow globally. What do you think is the scope of sports law in Pakistan in the near future?
SN: It is an area in which not a lot of lawyers specialise domestically. Therefore, there is a great room for development and, perhaps, for the vacuum to be filled up. In Pakistan, there is essentially one parent law, the Sports (Development and Control) Ordinance, 1962, that governs sports-related legislation. Under that law, power has been given to the federal government to establish boards for regulation and governance of sports. The federal government has exercised its power to create two boards. One is the Pakistan Cricket Board, which has been given the exclusive right to govern, regulate and develop cricket in Pakistan, whereas the other is the Sports Board which deals with all other sports apart from cricket.
With the current Prime Minister being a former athlete, we anticipate a lot of development in this area. Students aspiring to be sports lawyers in Pakistan should definitely not be discouraged.
Q7: What advice would you wish to give those that want to pursue sports law in Pakistan?
SN: Sports law is not any different from other areas of law. It is just a question of time and hard work that is key. That would be my advice to any other lawyer, or any other profession for that matter: hard work, commitment, practice and evolution – because it is an ongoing process. Things are developing all the time. You are a student throughout.
I will quote something that a mentor of mine told me when I entered the PCB. He quoted from a poem and it is something that stuck with me. Perhaps it can be an inspiration for others as well:
“The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.”
Ultimately, it is all a question of hard work, time and commitment. The more you dedicate yourself, the more your individual brilliance will shine.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which they might be associated.