This week saw the long-anticipated victory parade in London for our Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

When they started their sport as a hobby, it would have been difficult for our Olympic medal winners to predict how much their life could one day be changed by their sport. From what was once a pursuit of leisure, these days a number of sporting disciplines would be more accurately categorised as corporate enterprises.

When any hobby becomes a business, there is a need to look at the situation afresh; obtaining professional advice and putting in place the necessary structures in order to develop the business and protect your personal interests going forward. In the case of sport, however, the speed of development from pastime to big business has often far advanced the progress of the necessary professionalism that is required. So as the London 2012 chapter draws to a close, what is next for our Olympians?

The success and coverage of the 2012 games has catapulted our successful stars into the public eye and, as a consequence, has made them attractive commodities to corporations wishing to promote their brands. These athletes present positive images of courage, dedication and success; making them highly appealing to brands in terms of sponsorships, endorsements and advertising campaigns. Furthermore, the lure of reality tv will likely beckon…it has just been announced that two of our Olympic medal winners, Victoria Pendleton and Louis Smith, will take part in the forthcoming series of Strictly Come Dancing.

The commercial offshoot of success in sport is one which should be explored, but often presents a steep learning curve for those who have gained the opportunity. It is imperative that individuals get the right advice upon any deal at the outset of negotiations. Large amounts of money are often at stake together with contracts containing significant restrictions and tie-ins to lengthy periods. As such, the potential for getting it wrong is significant.

For example, we have and continue to represent sports and media stars in disputes which have arisen a result of insufficient planning and understanding from one or both parties and differing opinions as to expectations and responsibilities. Seeking legal advice at the outset can stave off costly disputes in the future.

The Sports Law team at Farleys have specialised lawyers who advise on negotiating sponsorship and agency agreements for sports professionals and celebrities and have a wealth of experience handling contract disputes should they arise.

By Daniel Draper, Sports Lawyer