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GERMAN TENNIS STAR ALEXANDER ZVEREV FORCES HIS OPPONENT TO SERVE - AND GETS HIS BREAK (B2)

Alexander Zverev is used to courts – usually ones with baselines and a net. At 23, the German Zverev is currently (February 2021) 7th in the world singles tennis rankings. However, he has recently been involved in a court, rather than on one.


At the age of 15, Zverev entered in an exclusive agency agreement (‘the agreement’) with a London-based sports management company, Ace Group International Limited. Ace obviously thought that Zverev had potential as a professional tennis player and the agreement was to last until 2023.


However, when he was 19, and as Zverev’s career began to take off, he decided that he wanted to terminate the agreement. Ace did not accept this. Zverev then brought legal proceedings in the English High Court in order to terminate the agreement on the basis of ‘restraint of trade’ – an agreement Zverev was later to describe as ‘unfair and oppressive’. [1]


The trial in the High Court was due to begin on 9th December 2020. However, in November 2020, Zverev had made an application to the court for the specific disclosure of documents that were contained in an expert’s report which had been served by Ace. The documents involved were, apparently, agency contracts of competitors. These contracts had, however, been redacted. Zverev’s lawyers argued that the competitor’s agency contracts should be served unredacted, because otherwise it would be impossible to know if the agency contracts related to ‘true comparators’.


In using its case management powers under the Civil Procedure Rules, the court ordered disclosure of the unredacted agency contracts to legal representatives. On the second day of the trial, the parties reached a settlement. Part of the settlement reached was that Mr Zverev was released from all further obligations under the agreement.


The settlement means that the interesting issue of whether the agreement was in restraint of trade was not decided by the court. However, the equally interesting issue of the consequences of the settlement for sports management companies who wish to sign up young sportspersons who show great potential in their chosen field or how it may affect those already on their books who might wish to argue that their contracts are ‘unfair and oppressive’.


[1] https://www.tennis-tourtalk.com/66646/zverev-reaches-settlement-with-management-company#:~:text=Alexander%20Zverev%20had%20sued%20ACE%20Group%20International%20for,company%20eight%20years%20ago%20when%20he%20was%2015.


© Cambridge Legal English Academy 2021

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