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  2. Leading individuals

Leading individuals

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Bird & Bird LLP provides an ‘exceptional breadth of knowledge’ and distinguishes itself through its work for sports governing bodies, where it handles regulatory and commercial mandates. Jonathan Taylor, who is ‘capable of distilling complex topics into the key issues’, is part of a team representing the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in a challenge to the validity of its hyperandrogenism regulations. Key highlights for the ‘brilliant’ Max Duthie included assisting European Professional Club Rugby with the participation agreements for major Northern hemisphere European club rugby tournaments. The firm has a notable media rights practice and representative work includes assisting the All England Lawn Tennis Club with renewing its broadcasting agreement with the BBC for coverage of Wimbledon; Felicity Reeve, who has ‘an astute commercial mind’, led the advice. Huw Roberts is another name to note.

Charles Russell Speechlys LLP’s ‘fantastic’ 13-partner team is supported by a strong associate group, and is duly considered ‘one of the top sports groups in the UK’. ‘Commercial dealmakerIan Lynam’s ‘knowledge of football contracts is huge’; he handled Raheem Sterling’s transfer to Manchester City FC in 2015. Jonathan Ellis, who is ‘technically excellent and extremely responsive’, heads the team with Lynam; the duo handle regulatory and disciplinary matters for Premiership Rugby. Jon Walters leads the firm’s commercial advice to the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), which included assisting with the introduction of central contracts. James Eighteen provides ‘quick, reasoned and sensible advice’.

Sports boutique Couchmans LLP is highly regarded for its commercial work but expanded its profile in contentious and regulatory work with several high-profile instructions. For instance, Daniel Lowen represented Burnley FC in securing a record compensation award for an out-of-contract player. Steven Burton is the ‘leading expert in the world’ on sports data and is advising the International Tennis Federation (ITF) on the exploitation of sports data rights. Andrew Price and Jon Higton are key names for media rights work and assisted the ITF with media agreements for the Davis Cup and the Fed Cup. Nic Couchman’s team includes Satish Khandke, who handled the disposal of a controlling interest in Crystal Palace FC, Nick White, who oversees the IP and digital team, and Fraser Reid, who focuses on talent representation, where clients include Anthony Joshua and Usain Bolt.

At DLA Piper, Nicholas West, who, in keeping with the team’s strengths, is ‘a leading sports media rights lawyer’, advised marquee client the Premier League on the standout media rights deal of 2015: the record sale of domestic and international audio-visual transmission rights for a period of three seasons. Other clients include the National Basketball Association (NBA), which Nick Fitzpatrick is assisting with media regulatory issues. Recently promoted partner John Cloke advised the Rugby Football Union (RFU) on the tender process for the sale of audio-visual and audio rights to England internationals, including the Autumn series and World Cup warm-up matches over five years.

Brabners LLP has a ‘good knowledge of the sports business’ and regularly advises governing bodies, as was evident in its advice to British Canoeing on the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships. Maurice Watkins and Jason Smith are key names to note, along with the ‘incisivePaul Lunt. Key highlights for Lunt included assisting the Rugby Football League (RFL) with salary cap regulations. Matthew Bennett, Edward Canty and David Bentham left to establish Centrefield LLP in 2015.

Sport and media practice Centrefield LLP, established in December 2015, is the ‘best in the area for football’, and also handles work in relation to an array of other sports. The firm is very active in player transfers, where Matthew Bennett, who is ‘knowledgeable, calm and effective’, leads the work; highlights included advising Major League Soccer (MLS) and LA Galaxy on signing Steven Gerrard and handling all transfer activity for Manchester United in 2015. Edward Canty, who is ‘charming and has great judgement’, routinely advises key client the Professional Footballers’ Association. David Bentham, who is ‘knowledgeable, commercially savvy and offers sound practical advice’, received a flow of instructions to act for the Rugby Players’ Association, including advising on the client’s funding agreement with the RFU and Premiership Rugby. Senior associate Stuart Baird is ‘outstanding’. All matters referred to were undertaken by team members while with Brabners LLP.

Harbottle & Lewis LLP’s ‘excellent’ team is lauded for its ‘industry insight’ and its ‘strong partner involvement’. Practice head Bob Mitchell led advice to Tyson Fury and promoter Mick Hennessy on the contracts and staging arrangements for the boxer’s world championship fight with Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. Demonstrating its cricketing credentials, it advised Andrew Strauss on his appointment to the role of Director of English Cricket. Dalton Odendaal is experienced in relation to events staging and serves as general counsel for the Invictus Games. Senior associates Michael Lister and Anil Matharu are other names to note. Sport marketing specialist Andy Korman joined the firm in June 2016 from Couchmans LLP.

Lewis Silkin LLP’s ‘responsive and efficient’ team has a strong track record acting for rugby and football clients but has augmented its presence in the sports industry with recent mandates in motorsport and cycling. Recent highlights include advising Madison Sports Group on Six Day London, a track cycling event staged at the Lee Valley VeloPark, which included negotiating agreements with the riders and ambassadors. Football finance specialist Karish Andrews is part of a team advising offshore investment funds on investments in clubs in Portugal, Spain and Turkey. Practice head Alex Kelham is ‘highly strategic and commercial across a wide range of issues’ and an expert in ambush marketing. Andrew Osborne is ‘the leader in sports-related immigration disputes nationally’ and frequently handles player transfers. Jeremy Summers, a commercial and IP specialist, is another name to note.

Onside Law Limited is ‘excellent in all areas’ and has notable expertise acting for governing bodies. Founding partner Oliver Hunt (who is ‘responsive, diligent and practical’) undertook a secondment to the European Tour in 2015, while the ‘excellent’ Chris Walsh has forged strong links with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). The firm is advising on the IAAF and IPC 2017 Athletics World Championships through its position as principal legal adviser to London 2017; Jamie Singer and Adam Leadercramer are leading the advice. Simon Thorp ‘provides excellent practical and commercial advice’. Stevie Loughrey joined from Carter-Ruck in February 2016.

Pinsent Masons LLP provides ‘excellent, broad industry knowledge and a strong team that can scale up and down as required’. ‘Innovative thinker’ Trevor Watkins, who ‘possesses an abundance of expertise’ and has ‘an inside knowledge of the European and US football industry’, and James Earl*, who is ‘well connected across the sector’, advised PEAK6 on its investment into AFC Bournemouth. Samantha Livesey is noted for commercial matters, Julian Diaz-Rainey is a litigator, and senior associate Julian Moore focuses on media and broadcasting. *James Earl joined Fladgate LLP in September 2016.

Squire Patton Boggs is able to draw on ‘an excellent panel of experienced and knowledgeable sports lawyers’. It remains best known for its work in football, where it is frequently instructed by key client Chelsea FC. The team is handling several matters for the International Tennis Federation, including advising on the impact of the eligibility rules concerning the Davis Cup and Fed Cup tournaments, and appeals filed by national tennis associations. Stephen Sampson, who has ‘a true depth of knowledge in sports law (both commercial and regulatory) and couples that with excellent strategy and a cool head’, leads the team, which includes David Hull and CAS arbitrator Stuart McInnes.

Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP’s ‘extremely professional’ team has extensive experience in football, where it is adept at representing international clients. Football financing accounts for a significant portion of the group’s workload, and practice head Graham Shear and Marc Trottier are regularly instructed by JG Funding to advise on receivables financing for clubs in the Premier League and the first and second divisions in Spain. Marcus Pearl and defamation specialist Joby Davies are other names to note.

Covington & Burling LLP has a highly regarded regulatory practice, and advises the likes of UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Daniel Cooper, who is an expert in anti-doping and data privacy compliance, is working with the firm’s Belgium office in representing WADA in an independent investigation into the conduct of Union Cycliste Internationale. The group benefits from the firm’s market-leading US sports practice and advises major US leagues (the NFL, NHL and NBA) on their UK operations; Hilary Prescott leads on this work.

Dentons’ team has exploited the firm’s global footprint by winning international mandates and is ‘now particularly strong in China for sports’; it represented Qingdao Jonoon FC in appeals before the CAS. Other highlights included advising Bestseller on a driver and sponsorship agreement with Renault for Kevin Magnussen to race for the team in Formula One. Richard Barhambrings huge corporate law experience with an understanding of the sports sector’. Managing associate Alex Haffner and Adrian Barr-Smith are also key names.

Farrer & Co has diversified its practice with the arrival of associate and former professional footballer Udo Onwere from Thomas Eggar LLP, a private client practitioner who frequently acts for professional footballers. It is best known in the sport sector for its work for governing bodies, where department head and ‘great litigatorJulian Pike is ‘highly skilled’. Clients include the British Olympic Association, British Rowing and the International Canoe Federation; and Kate Allass successfully defended the last of these in proceedings before the CAS challenging the allocation of quota places.

K&L Gates LLP acts for clients including ATP Media, Virgin Racing and European Professional Football Leagues. Practice head Warren Phelops and Andrew Danson were part of a team handling the tender of audio-visual rights for Bundesliga matches on behalf of DFL Sports Enterprises. The group is regularly instructed by Puma to assist with endorsement deals.

McCormicks’ prominent reputation in sports law is built upon the expertise of name partner and ‘true leader’ Peter McCormick, who is ‘vastly experienced’, ‘savvy’ and a ‘go-to lawyer in the sports sector’. McCormick holds various high-profile positions in the industry and, in 2015, was appointed Chairman of the Premier League’s Football Board. The Premier League remains a key client of the firm, with recent work including successfully defending the client in a challenge to the football creditors rule brought by the HMRC.

Mishcon de Reya LLP provides a ‘level of service that is second to none’ and ‘has now developed into a major player in the sporting field’. The arrival of ‘formidable litigatorKendrah Potts, who ‘has a wealth of experience on anti-doping’, strengthened its position still further. Department head Liz Ellen is ‘at the top in her field’. Lewis Cohen, who ‘provides excellent solutions’, routinely advises Tottenham Hotspur FC. Managing associate Edward Carder has ‘a fantastic eye for the detail’.

Morgan Sports Law LLP’s founding partner, the ‘exceptional’ Mike Morgan, is ‘very much the leader in the field’ for defending athletes charged with doping offences, and has an ‘international reputation in sports law’. The team, which only handles contentious matters, represented former hammer thrower and president of the Belarus Athletics Federation, Vadim Devyatovskiy, in an appeal before the CAS regarding the right of athletes to be present during B sample testing. Senior associate Richard Martin is also recommended.

Olswang LLP’s practice has its roots in the firm’s strength in media and broadcasting and the team continues to be recognised for media rights work. John Enser led on several matters for the International Cricket Council, including handling the digital rights tender for the client’s 2016-2019 events, including the Cricket World Cup and World Twenty20. Practice head David Zeffman is a key name for horseracing. David Roberts and senior associate Anna Soilleux are other names to note.

The ‘extremely professional’ team at RPC is led by Jeremy Drew, who ‘always has an eye on the bigger picture’. It handled several sponsorship agreements for Dunlop Slazenger International, including assisting Slazenger with renewing its relationship as an official supplier of sporting goods for Wimbledon. Other highlights included the firm’s appointment as legal partner for the 2017 FIL Women’s Lacrosse World Cup; Drew is leading the advice, supported by senior associates Andrew Crystal and Nicole Jahanshahi. Tax practitioner Adam Craggs is frequently sought out to advise on image rights disputes.

Sheridans’ ‘experience in minority sport is extensive’, and in 2015 it advised England Netball on its sponsorship partnership with Vitality, as well as on commercial and corporate matters relating to the client’s successful bid to host the 2019 World Cup. The ‘outstanding’ Andrew Nixon has an ‘in-depth knowledge of British sport’s governing body landscape’ and advised the RFL on restructuring its operating rules. The team has developed significant expertise in sports data and is increasingly instructed to advise on big data projects. It gained sports regulatory specialist Daniel Geey from Fieldfisher in July 2015.

The team at Bates Wells Braithwaite, which advises governing bodies and amateur sports clubs, dovetails with the firm’s strong charities practice. Thea Longley advised an amateur rugby club on registering as a charity. Martin Gunson provides ‘an efficient service’.

DAC Beachcroft LLP is a key name for advising on sport-related injuries for governing bodies, insurers, venues, clubs and individuals, with Jan Levinson and Bruce Ralston the key names. Its commercial instructions include assisting with the staging of a Premiership Rugby match in New York. Ken Forsyth and Nicholas Taylor are also recommended.

Fieldfisher handled several matters for a Premiership rugby club, including advising on the sale of the training ground, the development of a new training facility, and refinancing. Patrick Cannon is ‘particularly helpful’. Matthew Lohn was recently appointed chair of the National Anti-Doping Panel. Daniel Geey and David Naylor joined Sheridans and Wiggin LLP, respectively.

Hamlins LLP bolstered its practice with the arrival of contentious and regulatory specialist Mark Gay. Gay is assisting UK Sport and the British Judo Association (BJA) with a review into the circumstances surrounding the BJA losing the right to host the 2015 European Judo Championships. Highlights for sports event specialist Matthew Pryke included advising on the launch of Tie Break Tens, which included negotiating player and promoter agreements; Pryke also served as tournament director.

Hogan Lovells International LLP’s reputation in the area of disability sport grew further in 2015 with work on behalf of the International Paralympic Committee, Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby and longstanding client the British Paralympic Association. Its work for the first of these includes handling trade mark filing. Paul Joukador, Richard Welfare and counsel Penny Powell are the key names in the multi-disciplinary team.

Hannah Clipston leads the team at Irwin Mitchell, which includes tax compliance specialist Michael Taylor. The team recently handled a governance restructuring for Table Tennis England.

The ‘expert, pragmatic and responsive’ team at Kerman & Co LLP stands out for its expertise in ticketing and sports sponsorship. Zane Shihab and Nick Bitel (who is ‘an institution in the world of sports law’) advised London & Surrey Cycling Partnership on negotiations regarding the renewal of Prudential’s title sponsorship of RideLondon. Suzanne Proctor is ‘extremely smart’.

At Macfarlanes LLP, practice head Jeremy Courtenay-Stamp and Geoff Steward are the key names. The team is traditionally strong in motorsport and is well known for representing Formula One teams.

Russell-Cooke LLP’s Matt Bosworth, who is ‘a joy to work with’, is acting for Sky UK in various proceedings pertaining to intellectual property rights. Practice head Peter Cadman is ‘a good tactician’ and is ‘calm and unflappable in a crisis’.

Slaughter and May’s Andrew Jolly and recently promoted partner Paul Mudie are part of a team advising Arsenal FC on transfer dealings, including handling Wojciech Szczesny’s loan move to AS Roma in summer 2015. David Ives and Rob Sumroy are other names to note.

The ‘excellent’ team at Wiggin LLP stands out for its work on the rights acquisition front, where ‘no other firm can match them for value, speed and effectiveness’. Ross Sylvester, who is singled out for his ‘unparalleled ability to turn around drafts of complex and lengthy agreements’, advised Virgin Media on expanding its distribution deal with BT Sport to include BT Sport Europe. Michael Brader leads the team, which also includes Sean James and Sarah Drake, who is ‘an absolute gem of a young lawyer’.

Burges Salmon LLP has ‘vast experience’ in equine sports and counts The Racecourse Association and Jockey Club Racecourses among its clients. Jeremy Dickerson leads the team. Mark Gay joined Hamlins LLP.

With a strong focus on football, Clintons’ practice is led by agent Mel Stein, who ‘sees matters from the clubs’ perspective’ and has a wide knowledge of ‘rule interpretations’.

Collyer Bristow LLP is routinely instructed to assist with racing-related agreements for trainers, owners and syndicates; Charles Braithwaite leads the advice. Steven Heffer is experienced in representing sports personalities in breach of privacy and libel proceedings.

Fladgate LLP is praised for ‘delivering real results’ and is best known in the sporting context for football and motorsport. Litigator Mark Buckley and commercial partner Alan Wetterhahn are the key names. Clients include Gareth Bale and Sahara Force India F1 team.

Halebury’s Raj Koria has ‘an excellent reputation as a sports media lawyer’. Highlights included advising Lagardère Sports Geneva on the Rio 2016 Olympics media rights tender across 40 jurisdictions, following on from media rights work for the same client relating to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games. Michelle Harris is also recommended.

Keystone Law’s Morris Bentata’s understanding of media rights is ‘invaluable’. Highlights included advising SANZAR on its media rights sales in Europe, which included the UK deal with Sky.

Highlights for the team at Mills & Reeve LLP included representing Jake Livermore in a Football Association disciplinary hearing following his positive test for cocaine; the FA decided not to impose a suspension on the player. Practice head Mark Hovell also sits as an arbitrator at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Payne Hicks Beach’s Richard Butcher, who, according to one client, is ‘one of the best yachting lawyers’ in the market, assisted Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation with drafting notice of race and sailing instructions for sailing event Bart’s Bash. Jonathan Gatward leads on commercial matters.

Ed Baden-Powell, who heads the team at Simkins LLP, is well versed in events at the intersection of sport and entertainment, and the group’s expertise includes broadcasting, live entertainment and webcasting.

The bulk of Adelphi Sports Law’s mandates are in the football space and it is a key name for football agents and players. Paul Fletcher is singled out for his expertise in regulatory and commercial disputes.

Hill Dickinson LLP’s representative experience includes advising Lancashire County Cricket Club on commercial contract negotiations. Richard Green is ‘very experienced and knowledgeable’. Hanna Basha is another name to note.

Stephenson Harwood focuses on football and motorsport. Jonathan Cripps is leading advice to the Heads of the Valleys Development Company on the development of motorsports complex the Circuit of Wales. Louis Flannery and Stuart Frith are the other names to note at partner level.

Teacher Stern LLP has a ‘well-deserved reputation for sports law work’, particularly in relation to football, where it represents players and agents, including Carlos Tevez and Kia Joorabchian. David Salisbury provides ‘exemplary advice’.

At Thomas Cooper LLP, employment specialist Nick Humphreys, who joined from Hill Dickinson LLP in May 2015, represents coaches, managers and senior executives. James Severn routinely represents players in disciplinary disputes, transfers and contract renegotiations.

Richard Lane’s team at Wright Hassall LLP is highly regarded for its work on behalf of national governing bodies and counts The Pony Club and British Dressage as clients. The group assisted the latter with a review of its disciplinary procedures.

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