Index of tables
- Baker & McKenzie LLP
- Bates Wells & Braithwaite London LLP
- DAC Beachcroft LLP
- Kerman & Co LLP
- Macfarlanes LLP
- Clarke Willmott LLP
- Collyer Bristow LLP
- Davenport Lyons
- Eversheds LLP
- Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP
- Fladgate LLP
- Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP
Hogan Lovells International LLP
The Sport ranking is viewed from the perspective of a broad industry focus. Dedicated sports law boutiques are acknowledged for their excellence and commitment to the industry, but there is also room in the ranking for general practice firms which handle substantial instructions across a range of disciplines for sports industry clients.
‘Exceptional and versatile’, Bird & Bird is ‘extremely strong, covering both commercial and regulatory aspects of sport’, be it contentious or non-contentious work. Its clients include governing bodies and event organisers across football, rugby union, cricket, tennis, golf, basketball, motor sport and equestrianism, and it also represents sponsors and broadcasters. The team advised The FA on tenders for its domestic, European and international media rights, and successfully prosecuted the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) spot-fixing cases against Pakistan cricketers. It also advised the RFU on commercial matters and events. Felicity Reeve shows ‘commercial acumen’; Jonathan Taylor is ‘an outstanding lawyer and effective litigator’; and practice head Justin Walkey has ‘a strong mix of commercial and legal experience’. Max Duthie is also recommended.
‘A really good, solid firm’, Brabners Chaffe Street LLP has a ‘very strong’ team renowned for its leading football practice, representing clubs including Manchester United, Everton, Arsenal and Bolton Wanderers. Other clients are drawn from athletics, cycling, cricket, and rugby union. The team advises on regulatory, disciplinary and commercial matters, and advised Banco Bradesco on its sponsorship of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It also acted for Celtic FC in hearings before UEFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) regarding FC Sion’s fielding of ineligible players. Practice head Maurice Watkins, who is a director of Manchester United FC, is highly regarded for football matters. Lydia Edgar, Edward Canty, litigator Jeff Lewis, Matthew Bennett and associate Stuart Baird are also recommended.
Charles Russell LLP has a ‘strong, dedicated sports law practice which is efficient, knowledgeable and responsive, and has a high level of commercial acumen’. The group acts for sports bodies, event organisers, clubs, sponsors and individuals across football, rugby union, athletics, horseracing, cricket and Formula One motor racing. Regulatory and disciplinary work is an area of strength, with recent work including re-drafting disciplinary regulations for the RFU and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU). The team is well known for representing The FA, is sole UK legal adviser to Nike’s sports and marketing division, and acts for Manchester United Merchandising Ltd. The firm also has a healthy practice in football transfers. Jason Saiban and associate Jonathan Walters are ‘good at giving practical and easily digestible advice’; Ian Lynam provides ‘first-class advice’; Jonathan Ellis and Patrick Russell are ‘very knowledgeable and pragmatic’; and Chris Evans and practice head Keir Gordon are also recommended.
Sports law boutique Couchmans LLP provides ‘invaluable advice and assistance’ on commercial matters, broadcast and media rights, betting and gaming, player representation, regulations and disputes. Football is the mainstay of the practice, which is also active in athletics, golf, tennis, horseracing, and surfing. It advises governing bodies and event organisers including the International Sailing Federation, the International Rugby Board, Badminton England, the FA Premier League, and WTA Tour Inc. It advised Carlsberg UK on sponsorship agreements with The FA and Wembley Stadium, and Aberdeen Asset Management plc on sponsoring the Scottish Open Golf Championship. The firm also represents many individuals and agents. Andy Korman, Nic Couchman, Mark Whitehead, Andrew Price, Satish Khandke, and Fraser Reid are recommended.
DLA Piper UK LLP is ‘excellent: very responsive and very knowledgeable about the sports industry’, and represents sports bodies, event organisers, broadcasters, sponsors and gaming companies on regulatory and commercial matters. Broadcasting and audio-visual rights expert Nicholas West advised the FA Premier League on its broadcasting and media rights strategy, including the decoder card litigation, and the team also advises the Football League on its media rights programme. Other clients include the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). Practice head Nick Fitzpatrick and associate Patrick Mitchell are ‘excellent on contracts, IP, data licensing, and gambling – they are responsive, knowledgeable and commercial’. Consultant Huw Roberts is an expert in sports regulations. Mark Gay joined Burges Salmon LLP.
Squire Sanders LLP is ‘very good: extremely knowledgeable in all facets of commercial sports law’. It assists sports clubs, authorities and rights holders with commercial, regulatory and disciplinary matters, and has a leading anti-doping practice. Football, Formula One and tennis are key sports, with cycling, rugby union, cricket, athletics and boxing also featuring. Clients include football clubs such as Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and Chelsea; London Irish RFC; Formula One client Lotus GP Ltd; sponsors including Volvo and Brit Insurance; and individuals. Practice head Stephen Sampson is ‘responsive, pragmatic and provides sensible and helpful advice’. James Hennigan has ‘a breadth of experience and the ability to offer a solution very quickly’, and senior associate Mike Morgan is an anti-doping expert with ‘comprehensive knowledge of the rules, and many years ’ experience’. Associate Alastair Purssell is also recommended.
‘Very bright and very efficient’, Addleshaw Goddard LLP’s ‘excellent lawyers’ represent sports equipment suppliers, sponsors, governing bodies, rights owners and other industry participants such as bookmakers, including William Hill. The team has been advising FL Interactive on developing the Football League’s next-generation digital platform. Clients include adidas, Barclays Bank, Liverpool FC and the Pakistan Cricket Board. Manchester-based practice head James Whittaker has ‘broad experience across a range of sports’ and is recommended along with London-based Ian Hargreaves and Jonathan Davey, who divides his time between the two offices.
‘Top notch and very experienced’, Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP is ‘one of the leading firms, particularly in the context of football’. It represents Barclays and Investec in sport-related financings, including the latter’s financing of Tottenham Hotspur FC’s new training facilities. It has designed insurance-backed financings to allow numerous football clubs – including Everton, Fulham and Leeds United – to invest in new players, and the firm’s excellence in real estate has seen it advise The FA on the construction of the National Football Centre in Burton-on-Trent and also act for the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA). Practice head Graham Shear is ‘expert and very experienced in the field, in particular on player transfers, the relationship between players and clubs, and the role of agents. He is pragmatic and highly effective’. Joby Davies is ‘utterly committed’.
Farrer & Co has ‘excellent knowledge of the sector’, and represents governing bodies, event organisers and sports clubs. It advised the RFU on media and employment law matters; UK Athletics on its winning bid for the World Athletics Championships 2017; and Millwall Holdings plc on stadium redevelopment. Practice head Julian Pike is recommended along with employment law expert David Hunt, media specialist Henry Sainty, and up-and-comer Alastair Cotton. Serena Hedley-Dent has left the firm.
Harbottle & Lewis LLP is ‘excellent – highly professional, diligent, and expert’, especially for sponsorship matters and media disputes. It advised England cricketers on contractual matters involving the ECB. Other clients include the Professional Cricketers’ Association, Chelsea FC, the League Managers’ Association, Diageo plc, and various individuals. Practice head Bob Mitchell and senior associate Anil Matharu are ‘thoughtful and practical, with excellent and broad expertise in sports law’, and Paul Cairns is also a key figure. Tax expert David Scott is now a partner.
K&L Gates LLP advises on contentious and non-contentious commercial and media law, rights protection and exploitation for governing bodies, event organisers, sponsors and other industry participants. Clients include Arena Leisure plc, Betfair, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Puma, and the West Indies Cricket Board, which is advised by practice head Warren Phelops and John Elgar. Dominic Bray is ‘pragmatic and responsive’. Anti-trust expert Scott Megregian and litigator John Magnin are also recommended.
Lewis Silkin LLP provides ‘excellent service, and timely and practical advice’ in relation to football and rugby union, as well as boxing and golf; it advises sports bodies, clubs and individuals on disciplinary matters, rights exploitation, contracts and transfers. Clients include Fulham FC, Saracens RFC, the WRU and the Rugby Players Association. Andrew Osborne carries ‘a very considerable reputation in sports law, for immigration, disciplinary and commercial cases’; practice head Owen Eastwood shows an ‘enviable knowledge and experience of rugby-related matters’; and Dominic Farnsworth is also recommended.
Mishcon de Reya is ‘excellent in every respect, showing a detailed understanding of the sporting legal, commercial and PR environment’. It focuses on contentious and non-contentious representation of clubs and individuals, particularly in football, but also across snooker, darts, boxing, golf, and rugby union. Clients include Matchroom Sport, Leyton Orient FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC. Practice head Adam Morallee is ‘a star partner in the litigation team, and is very good at giving concise and commercial legal advice’. Jonathan Berman provides ‘really good strategic commercial advice’. ‘Hardworking, talented and dedicated’ associate Liz Ellen doubles as a registered agent, and consultant Selwyn Tash remains head of Spurs’ legal department.
Olswang’s ‘excellent, first-class’ practice primarily focuses on football and horseracing, with some rugby union and cricket work. It advises sports clubs and governing bodies as commercial rights holders, and also acts for broadcasters. Clients include Tottenham Hotspur FC, the BHA and FIFA. Practice head David Zeffman is a sports media specialist, and has ‘very good knowledge of the horseracing industry’, and Simon Morgan is recommended for commercial matters. Managing partner David Stewart and David Roberts also contribute.
‘Unstuffy, small but very diverse’, Onside Law Limited’s excellent practice handles work for federations and sports bodies, particularly in golf, cricket and tennis, along with some football and rugby union work. It advised the ECB on its title sponsorship deal with Investec, and acted for the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the tennis integrity unit regarding the prosecution and CAS appeal concerning match-fixing by Daniel Köllerer. New clients include the British Olympic Association. Oliver Hunt and Simon Thorp are ‘excellent communicators and clear strategists’; Chris Walsh is ‘very conscientious, and gives unrivalled support’; and practice head Jamie Singer is ‘very thoughtful and instinctively leads clients away from danger’.
Pinsent Masons LLP enhanced its resources with five new hires, most notably bringing new global head of sport Trevor Watkins and James Earl from Clarke Willmott LLP. The practice is now a key adviser to governing bodies and event organisers across several major sports, notably The FA, the Rugby Football League, the ODA, The Jockey Club, and new client GB Handball. It also represents clubs such as Manchester United FC and London Wasps RFC. Iain Connor is ‘knowledgeable and gives commercial advice’ on IP matters.
SNR Denton’s practice spans contentious and non-contentious commercial, media, regulatory and employment law matters, for a client base mainly comprising sponsors, sports bodies and leading clubs. Football, cricket and Formula One are mainstays of the practice. It advised the ECB on tenders for its UK and Asia media rights from 2014; the Qatar Olympic Committee on its 2020 Summer Olympic Games bid; and the Football League on its deal with Sky. Consultant Adrian Barr-Smith and associate Stephen Ridgway are recommended, and Richard Barham, Sam Szlezinger and senior associate Alex Haffner are also notable figures.
Sheridans provides ‘an exceptional combination of top-level legal work with commercial acumen’, and is a go-to practice for media and sponsorship rights in football and athletics, as well as rugby union and cricket. Recent work includes advising FIFA on its European strategy for World Cup media rights, and Sportsfive on various EURO 2012 and Olympics rights packages. Other clients include Wasserman Media Group and BSkyB. Practice head Morris Bentata is ‘a hugely talented, hardworking lawyer with real business understanding’, and Alex Chapman is ‘super-knowledgeable’. Paul O’Dowd joined from Bird & Bird.
Baker & McKenzie LLP has notable expertise in competition law, sponsorship, IP rights and regulatory matters. It has been advising sponsors on Olympic rules, and Tom Cassels represented the British Olympic Association in its CAS arbitration relating to its byelaw on drug cheats. The team is the FA Premier League’s anti-counterfeiting and brand enforcement adviser. Other clients include Nike and McLaren Group. Keith Jones heads the practice.
Bates Wells & Braithwaite London LLP advises on regulatory issues, including sports governance and anti-doping matters, and has a notable niche in sports charity work. Clients include The Football Foundation, the ECB, the RFU and Rugby Football Foundation, and consultant Mike Townley has been working part-time with the International Paralympic Committee in the lead-up to London 2012. Sports-associated immigration work is another significant specialism, through Philip Trott. Thea Longley and Kevin Groome are also recommended. Richard Marke joined from Lawrence Graham LLP.
DAC Beachcroft LLP’s merger combined two practices into a greater whole. Sports-related personal injury law remains a great strength, and the team recently assisted former Manchester United FC trainee Ben Collett in winning a record award of £4.5m. Practice co-heads Jan Levinson (in Manchester) and Chris Syder are recommended, as is Nicholas Taylor.
Kerman & Co LLP absorbed Max Bitel Green and its well-respected sports law practice, including ‘very good’ lawyers Nick Bitel and Louise Millington-Roberts, rounding out the team’s litigation prowess with full-service commercial and contract law resources. Clients include the RFU, Ryder Cup Europe, and UEFA.
Macfarlanes LLP represents team owners, agencies and retailers across football, Formula One and other sports. It acted for Tune QPR on acquiring Queen’s Park Rangers FC; Umbro International in a licensing dispute; and the British Ski and Snowboard on its new constitution. Jeremy Courtenay-Stamp leads the practice.
Payne Hicks Beach, which provides ‘good, sound advice’, is outstanding in the world of sailing, and also advises on equestrianism and athletics. Champion sailor Richard Butcher and his team represent competitors, event organisers and sponsors; Butcher is ‘very knowledgeable and firm in his dealings, and extremely hardworking and thorough’. Jonathan Gatward is also recommended.
Slaughter and May provides excellent corporate and commercial support to sports bodies and clubs. It is a key adviser to Arsenal FC; the highly regarded Andrew Jolly acted for the club on player transfers, licensing and sponsorship, and the team also advised on the recommended mandatory offer by majority shareholder Stan Kroenke. Other clients include the RFU, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and Lend Lease, which is responsible for Olympic Park infrastructure. Rob Sumroy is recommended for licensing and sponsorship matters.
Taylor Wessing LLP is expert in distressed financial situations and solutions; it is representing the administrators of Rangers FC, and has also been acting on the administrations of Portsmouth FC and Plymouth Argyle FC. It is familiar with salary cap systems, and advises Premiership Rugby in this capacity, and also has expertise in broadcast and IP rights. Charles Lloyd heads the sports law and IP practices. Associate Richard Craig joined from Brabners Chaffe Street LLP.
Thomas Eggar LLP advises sports professionals, including many footballers, as well as sports bodies on contentious and non-contentious matters. Notable highlights included representing footballer Jimmy Bullard in his claim against Hull City AFC for alleged wrongful termination of his contract, a case likely to set precedent. Andrew Nixon is ‘a very bright, enthusiastic and talented young sports lawyer’.
Clarke Willmott LLP represents clubs and event organisers across football, cricket, rugby union and equestrianism, with employment law an area of focus.
At Clintons, Mel Stein and Philip Stinson represent players and other individuals.
Collyer Bristow LLP provides contentious and commercial advice to cricket, football, cycling and horseracing clients.
Davenport Lyons focuses on sports media matters.
Eversheds LLP has experience advising governing bodies, event organisers and sponsors.
Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP advises across football, rugby union, motor sport, golf and horseracing matters, and has a growing litigation practice.
Fladgate LLP has a significant motor sport practice, but also notably advised Green Pilgrim on its takeover of Plymouth Argyle FC.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP’s Christopher Mort advises on sports finance.
Hogan Lovells International LLP is notable for its expertise in brand management, including sponsorship and endorsement matters.
Michael Simkins LLP advises players and managers on transfers and other matters.
Russell Jones & Walker, part of Slater & Gordon Lawyers exclusively advises individuals, including football managers (among them Alex McLeish).
Wallace LLP has experience in football and motor sport matters.
Wiggin LLP specialises in sports media rights.