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When is a win not a win? When you were ineligible to compete in the first place!

As I watched my NCAA bracket sink like a stone to the bottom of the rankings, I was less than comforted to learn that Sam Holtz (a twelve-year-old boy from suburban Chicago) had completed a near perfect bracket. Unfortunately, ESPN ruled Holtz ineligible for the top prize of $20,000 and a trip to the Maui Invitational in Hawaii because the rules required participants to be 18 years old in order to participate. According to news sources, ESPN will be providing a prize that will avoid any potential for litigation over whether or not the child’s guardian could claim the prize for him.

Imagine another similar scenario: a charitable golf tournament includes a hole-in-one contest on the 10th tee, where the winner of the contest receives a new car. Wary of the risk, the tournament bought insurance to protect against the possibility of a hole in one. In an effort to make more money for the worthwhile cause, the sponsors sold mulligans for $10 each at the tee. Joe Golfer hooks his first shot into the next fairway. He pays the mulligan fee and sinks his next shot – a perfect hole-in-one.

Because a mulligan was used, does he get the car? If so, who has to pay for the car? Were the rules set forth by the sponsors and the insurance carrier clearly laid out?

Contest rules are very important in the sporting and entertainment fields. Eligibility rules must be clear and unambiguous. Nobody notices that an ineligible person has participated, until after they have won, which often times leads to serious legal and liability concerns. Therefore, great care must be taken in drafting rules for any contest.

For questions, comments or additional information, please contact Robert Foster, Partner in our  Entertainment, Hospitality & Sports Law Group, at or via phone at 215.495.6514.