Firms To Watch: Sport

Aberdein Considine is a key port of call for a number of professional football clubs, golf clubs, agents, and academies, who turn to the practice for assistance in the full scope of sports employment matters. Sally-Anne Anderson and Euan McSherry are the key names to note.

Sport in Scotland

Harper Macleod LLP

Fielding one of the largest sports practices in the Scottish market, Harper Macleod LLP continues to enjoy a stellar reputation among all manner of governing bodies, clubs, and athletes for its far-reaching contentious and non-contentious capabilities. Department chair Bruce Caldow is a prolific advisor to some of the leading organisations in the sector, advising on both commercial matters and disputes, including tribunals governed by the SPFL. Senior partner Lorne Crerar is highly regarded for his expertise in disciplinary proceedings, most notably on issues arising in rugby. Tom Thomas concentrates on broadcasting, sponsorship, and IP rights issues for major cycling championships and football leagues, while Carolyn Morgan has most recently been engaged on extensive conduct reviews in gymnastics. David Kerr advises on football disputes before the SFA panel, while Kelly Fraser is a key port of call for the firm’s swimming clientele. Andrew Maxwell is also recommended. All named lawyers are based in Glasgow.

Practice head(s):

Bruce Caldow

Other key lawyers:

Lorne Crerar; Tom Thomas; Carolyn Morgan; David Kerr; Kelly Fraser; Andrew Maxwell

Testimonials

‘Highly respected and sought after. Approachable and dependable, high level of knowledge and expertise.’

‘Personable, pragmatic, efficient, reliable with great experience and understanding of the sector.’

‘Specialists in all legal areas – one stop shop which makes it a lot easier from a client perspective. They very much become an extension of your business. They keep us updated with developments that affect our business, through the use of an innovative exclusive portal, webinars and clinic sessions for our partners.’

‘Very professional, make every effort to understand our business. Very quick to respond and speak in layman’s terms which helps immensely. They are there when we need them, they go above and beyond. Excellent communications. It is not just about billable hours and it is much more than that, very much about building a strong relationship with clients.’

‘Bruce Caldow is very personable and knowledgeable.’

Key clients

sportscotland

Scottish Rugby

Glasgow City Council (host 2023 Cycling World Championships)

Commonwealth Games Scotland

Celtic plc

Scottish Gymnastics

Scottish Swimming

Scottish Volleyball

Scottish Athletics

Enduro Series

Work highlights

  • Providing ongoing advice for sportscotland.
  • Continuing to act as solicitor to the national Scottish rugby team, representing players (including Zander Fagerson and Finn Russell) in matters relating to the Six Nations.
  • Advising World Cycling Championships 2023 and Glasgow City Council on the funding arrangements for the event including the loan agreement between the Council and the organising vehicle.

Addleshaw Goddard

Praised by clients for its ‘experienced, sensible, and knowledgeable‘ approach, Addleshaw Goddard is particularly renowned for its capabilities in the football sector, working with some of the largest clubs and governing bodies both within and beyond Scotland on a range of disputes, commercial issues, and other advisory mandates. Practice chair Simon Catto is a highly experienced litigator who regularly acts for clubs and individual players in contentious proceedings. Helena Brown focuses on commercial and regulatory instructions, serving as a key port of call for disruption-based issues over the course of the pandemic. Associate Erin Grieve, a Scottish FA-qualified referee, is instructed by numerous clubs and bodies to represent them in hearings and arbitrations. All named lawyers are based in Edinburgh.

Practice head(s):

Simon Catto

Other key lawyers:

Helena Brown; Erin Grieve

Testimonials

‘This is a very niche market in Scotland and I cannot think of anyone else who provides such a comprehensive service.’

‘Simon Catto and Erin Grieve are both very experienced, very sensible and very knowledgeable.’

Key clients

Celtic Football Club

The Scottish Football Association

St Mirren Football Club

Motherwell Football Club

Kilmarnock Football Club

Heart of Midlothian Football Club

Edinburgh United Football Club

Scottish Ice Hockey

Andrew Butchart

Sheffield Steelers

Work highlights

  • Acting for Andrew Butchart in a disciplinary hearing regarding allegations of falsified covid-19 tests.
  • Providing regular support to SFA on an ongoing basis with responding to and processing Data Subject Access Requests, in accordance with their data protection obligations.
  • Representing Edinburgh United Football Club in appeal proceedings, following a Notice of Complaint when it was discovered that a number of their players had played in competitive matches despite not being formally registered with the SFA.

Burness Paull LLP

Fielding a sizeable cross-disciplinary team working across multiple sites, Burness Paull LLP is well placed to advise a wide range of leading clubs, governing bodies, and athletes on the full gamut of business-critical concerns. Edinburgh-based practice chair Stephen Farrell is a dual-qualified (English and Scottish) legal director who handles a number of sporting disputes in Scotland, with significant experience in transferrable arbitration. Neil Smith, in Aberdeen, focuses primarily on dispute resolution, while Glasgow-based senior associate Megan Briggs handles sports law matters from the contentious IP and tech team, with key workflows including trademark disputes and passing off issues. The ‘exceptionalMandy Laurie is recommended for employment law matters.

Practice head(s):

Stephen Farrell

Other key lawyers:

Neil Smith; Megan Briggs; Mandy Laurie

Testimonials

‘Mandy Laurie is exceptional. She has worked through some very difficult situations for us in a very pragmatic and commercial way.’

Key clients

Scottish FA

Scottish Rugby Union plc

Scottish Squash Limited

Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL)

Aberdeen FC

Sir Alex Ferguson/ACF Sports Promotions

PicRights

Elite Sports Group Limited

Sky Limited (Sky Sports)

Neptune Street Films Limited

Work highlights

  • Acted for Elite Sports Group Ltd (“Elite”) in their multi-million pound dispute with Rangers FC regarding their kit, merchandising and sponsorship agreements.
  • Acted for the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) enforcing their intellectual property rights.
  • Acted for Neptune Street Films Limited in the production of Sir Alex Ferguson documentary/film “Never Give In” including advice on defamation/libel and privacy.

CMS

CMS' sizeable, interdisciplinary sports practice works with some of the largest clubs, sports governing bodies, and other corporate entities on high-profile corporate, commercial, and contentious mandates. Praised by clients for his 'unrivalled expertise' in contentious sports law work, department head Neeraj Thomas advises a number of the nation's leading football and golf clients on disciplinary and regulatory matters, as well as various brand protection and IP enforcement issues. Senior Associate Chris Bowie works with both governing bodies and multinational corporations on sponsorship and ambassador agreements. All named lawyers are based in Glasgow.

Practice head(s):

Neeraj Thomas

Other key lawyers:

Chris Bowie

Testimonials

‘They acted professionally and with great integrity throughout the whole process.’

‘Neeraj took the time to understand our business and quickly grasped our values and beliefs, and concluded the project quickly and efficiently. He had a full understand of our business and knew exactly the needs and what was important to us. I would recommend Neeraj and the full CMS team to anyone that requires their specialised support.’

‘The team at CMS are very responsive and have lots of experience of disciplinary regulation and practice in the sports sector, which is invaluable to us.’

‘Neeraj Thomas possesses lots of knowledge and experience, which makes his advice very astute and practical.’

‘Neeraj Thomas has an unrivalled knowledge of our practices and provides expert cover for my role when required. In addition, external support and advice is regularly sought on more complex matters. The support team around Neeraj are well versed in sports disciplinary matters and can assist him in providing support to our organisation.’

Key clients

Scottish Football Association Limited

UEFA

Unilever Group

The former Joint Administrators of Rangers Football Club

Prestonfield Golf Club Limited

Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC

Northridge LLP

Scottish Golf

Gleneagles Hotel Ltd; Gleneagles Townhouse Edinburgh Ltd

WME IMG LLC (Ultimate owner of IMG sports agency)

Maple Hotels 2 Limited (part of the Hilton Hotel franchise)

Social Bite

Places for People Leisure

Work highlights

  • Acting for ICTFC in respect of a player dispute in relation to his employment contract.
  • Acting for the Scottish FA in respect of various disciplinary matters arising from alleged rule breaches of clubs, players and others under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA and are also currently providing interim support for the Compliance Officer role.
  • Advising the Unilever Group on a number of high-profile sponsorship agreements in respect of the promotion and marketing of Unilever products, namely “Sure”, “Rexona” and “Lifebuoy” with Chelsea Football Club, Manchester City Football Club and Conmebol and on a number of “ambassador” agreements for Unilever products with star players in the Spanish La Liga division.

Brodies LLP

Brodies LLP's cross-disciplinary team is widely praised by various clubs, athletes, and corporate entities for its far-reaching capabilities, ranging from transactions and contracts to disputes. Edinburgh-based practice head Andy Nolan handles a number of commercial and IP matters for athletes and sports sector businesses. In Glasgow, associate Ross Campbell - a commercial disputes specialist - is regularly involved in arbitrations and court proceedings for various clubs and corporations.

Practice head(s):

Andy Nolan

Other key lawyers:

Ross Campbell

Testimonials

‘Exceptional.’

‘Professional and friendly advice.’

‘Honest and robust advice.’

‘Professional, efficient and courteous in everything they do, often going the extra mile to keep you in the loop.’

Key clients

R4G Limited (including subsidiary Rewards4Racing)

Park of Keir Partnership and Judy Murray

BAE Systems Pension Fund

Kirkintilloch Rob Roy Football Club

Work highlights

  • Acting for the Rewards4 Group in a number of matters to facilitate the provision of loyalty schemes between different sports bodies and organisations and fans.
  • Advising the Park of Keir Partnership and Judy Murray regarding Scotland’s first purpose-built tennis and golf facility.
  • Instructed by BAE Systems to buy the WaveGarden Scotland from the seller/developer Tartan Leisure Limited on a sale and leaseback basis.

BTO Solicitors LLP

BTO Solicitors LLP handles a mix of contentious and non-contentious matters for various entities from the worlds of football, golf, boxing, and darts. Practice head Andrew Sleigh is an experienced corporate partner whose recent engagements include football club restructurings, while Emma Barclay  concentrates on sports sector M&A and investment transactions. In Edinburgh, commercial litigator and former FA compliance officer Will Cole is noted for his expertise in disciplinary procedures, while senior associate Michael Cox focuses chiefly on sponsorship agreements and corporate deals. All named lawyers are based in Glasgow unless stated otherwise.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Sleigh

Other key lawyers:

Emma Barclay; Will Cole; Michael Cox

Key clients

Scottish Football Association

Work highlights

  • Representing the Scottish Football Association in proceedings before the Court of Session in connection with a commercial dispute between the Scottish Professional Football League Limited and The Rangers Football Club Limited regarding the latter’s obligations in connection with the sponsorship of the league by Cinch Cars.

Gilson Gray

Praised by clients for their capabilities in high-profile disputes, Gilson Gray works with a number of Scottish clubs, athletes, and other organisations on the full gamut of contentious matters. The ‘excellent’ commercial litigator Keith Anderson specialises in contentious insolvencies and judicial reviews, with recent engagements including post-Covid assessments and player disciplinary proceedings. Dispute resolution department head Rosie Walker is also recommended.

Practice head(s):

Keith Anderson

Other key lawyers:

Rosie Walker

Testimonials

‘A great team that has handled some important and high-profile work in the sports arena.’

‘Rosie Walker and Keith Anderson stand out as excellent lawyers and skilled tacticians. They know the sector well and command respect in this field.’

‘This team is relatively newly established but is comprised of very, very good lawyers who know exactly what they are talking about.’

‘Rosie Walker and Keith Anderson are solicitors that I would trust to deal with any matter, no matter how complicated, and I would always be sure that they were dealing with it efficiently and accurately.’

Key clients

Heart of Midlothian plc

Partick Thistle Football Club Limited

Dundee FC

Elior Group plc

Work highlights

  • Acted for two Scottish football clubs in the highest profile litigation in Scotland in 2020-2021, specifically arising as a result of the Covid pandemic.
  • Acting for Giffnock North Athletics Club in an ongoing IP dispute.
  • Successfully resolving a contractual dispute on behalf of Scottish Golf, that arose as a result of the Covid pandemic.

Lindsays

Lindsays is capable in the full gamut of sports law matters, ranging from high-profile disputes and disciplinary proceedings to investment transactions. Douglas Roberts is a seasoned commercial advisor, reputed for his ‘first-class advice‘ in various contractual engagements related to sponsorship, broadcasting, ticketing, and merchandising. Brent Haywood ‘s disputes focus encompasses defamation and reputational risk cases. All named lawyers are based in Edinburgh.

Practice head(s):

Douglas Roberts

Other key lawyers:

Brent Haywood

Testimonials

‘Douglas Roberts did a wonderful job of rescuing our season.’

‘Douglas Roberts was incredibly helpful. Despite the fact that we were a very small client for them,  he took the time to understand what was needed, offered first-class advice and was incredibly efficient, keeping costs to a minimum.’

Key clients

Dundee United Football Club

Cove Rangers Football Club

Raith Rovers Football Club

Shot Scope

Edinburgh Academical Football Club (rugby)

Heriots Rugby Club

Work highlights

  • Advising three Scottish football clubs, who won their respective leagues and gained promotion, in successfully securing their promotions after two other Scottish football clubs raised legal proceedings to annul such promotions.
  • Advised Shot Scope Limited regarding a £1.5m loan.
  • Advised Brechin City with their transition from an unincorporated company to a company limited by shares.

Morton Fraser

Fielding a cross-disciplinary team experienced in governance, disputes, employment, and immigration issues, Morton Fraser is regularly sought out by numerous clubs and individual athletes. Glasgow-based practice chair Paul Geoghegan works with various Scottish sports organisations and premiership footballers on contentious and non-contentious issues, including administrative and structuring reviews. Based in Edinburgh, corporate department head Iain Young is also experienced in high-profile rugby disciplinary hearings.

Practice head(s):

Paul Geoghegan

Other key lawyers:

Iain Young

Key clients

Dundee United Football Club

Scottish Hockey

Scottish Gymnastics

Merchants of Edinburgh Golf Club

Tartan Golf International Limited

Boroughmuir Rugby and Community Sports Club

Kirkcaldy Rugby Football Club

Pollok Football Club

Swim Sports

Work highlights

  • Lead adviser to Scottish Gymnastics, advising several of its member clubs on governance, legal structure and property matters.
  • Advised a Scottish Premiership football club on visa applications for several members of staff.
  • Advising Swim Sports Company Ltd on the first acquisition of premises in Scotland for use by the Swim! brand of The Sporting House, an Olympian led group of companies.