Sport

Our sports law team has advised clients on a wide range of legal issues across a variety of different sports for over fifty years. In that time, we have built a strong foundation based upon providing clients with a wealth of experience and a personal and engaging approach. Our clients include clubs, agents, sponsors, players' unions, federations, and some of the best athletes in the world.

> Our sports lawyers
> Our sports law experience
> Our sports clients
> What our clients and others say about us

Specialist legal advice for organisations, clubs and associations, sportspeople and their advisers

For sports organisations, associations and clubs, we work as part of your team to allow you to focus on achieving your objectives without the distraction of legal issues.

We also have extensive experience working with individuals in the sport sector. Whether you are just starting out in your sports career, are an established name or are nearing the end of your sporting life, our specialist sports law team can provide the necessary legal support and advice that you need.

Our sports lawyers are frequently asked to provide comments and analysis on legal and commercial issues in sport for the BBC, the Times, the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Independent, Sky Sports, ESPN, the New York Times, and more.

 


Our experienced team offers a full range of services, including smart, commercial advice about:

  • Regulatory governance, disciplinary and doping issues 
  • Financial Fair Play 
  • Insolvency and restructuring 
  • Reputation management 
  • Contract negotiations and commercial arrangements 
  • Sponsorship, merchandising, broadcasting and image rights   
  • Employment immigration and commercial disputes  
  • Sports arbitration and mediation - domestic and international 
  • Event and facility management 
  • Property related matters
  • Tax planning, HMRC investigations and tax issues

Our expertise and resources make us a “go to” team for sports law advice – nationally and internationally.


Our sports lawyers

  • Mark Hovell heads up our sports law team. He is one of only a handful of UK arbitrators appointed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland and has arbitrated on nearly 200 cases since 2002. Mark is a qualified insolvency practitioner and an expert on sports finances. His detailed knowledge on the football creditors’ rule and insolvency law is second to none.
  • Consultant Carol Couse is an expert in sports regulatory matters with a particular focus on football. As a fluent Spanish speaker, she has built up a specialism in dealing with Spanish/Hispanic matters.
  • Chris Belcher is a partner and the head of the firm's private client practice. He specialises in advising UK and international athletes on their personal tax and wealth planning, often using trusts, companies and foundations to protect wealth for the future.  
  • Richard Santy, an employment partner who regularly advises on managerial appointments and departures  
  • Consultant, Walter Nicholls, chairs disciplinary panels for England Athletics and regularly represents athletes before the National Anti-Doping Panel 
  • Walter and Mark are both approved mediators/arbitrators for Sports Resolutions 
  • Greg Gibson previously worked in-house advising on sports media and broadcasting rights and continues to act on sports sponsorship arrangements
  • Ryan Hawley previously worked in-house at Aston Villa
  • Junaid Haroon previously completed an in-house placement at the Football Association
  • Rachael Somerset a commercial litigator who has expertise in reputation management advising sports organisations and individuals, including house hold names when they have faced adverse or intrusive media interest in print, national newspapers, national television, or online on social media. Rachael has advised both claimants and defendants in defamation cases and has acted in matters involving national media outlets including News Group Newspapers (the Sun), Associated News Group (the Mail) and ITV.
  • Tiran Gunawardena is a sports law executive and specialises in international sports arbitration. He is a dual qualified as an Australian solicitor and chartered accountant and advises clubs, players, intermediaries and players' unions on football regulatory matters. He represents domestic and international clients before The FA, FIFA, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
  • Phil Hutchinson is a commercial litigator with expertise in advising both public and private sector clients across the UK and abroad. He regularly represents high-profile sports individuals, clubs, and organisations, with a particular focus on football.
  • Sarah Whyman is a commercial lawyer specialising in advising clients on the drafting and negotiation of commercial contracts. She completed a six-month secondment at Manchester City Football Club, working within their in-house legal team.
  • Richard Barker is a senior associate in the employment law team with considerable experience in advising on sports-related matters. He advises football clubs and players on employment disputes and settlement agreements.
  • Americo Espallargas is a Brazilian qualified sports law specialist fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish. His expertise includes advising clubs, players and intermediaries not only in disciplinary, regulatory, and contractual matters but also in arbitration proceedings before FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Our sports law experience

Our extensive experience helping clients in the sports sector includes: 

  • Advising on player transfers including those involving minor, third party ownership and complex contractual issues
  • Acting for clubs and managers on employment issues, including the negotiation of service contract and settlement agreements  
  • Representing clubs and sportspeople to resolve disputes domestically and internationally 
  • Revising the constitutional documentation for regional and national sports’ associations 
  • Acting for a number of high profile sports stars in relation to the exploitation of their image rights and HMRC enquiries 
  • Regularly advising clubs, associations and individuals on a range of regulatory and disciplinary matters, both domestically and internationally 
  • Advising on sponsorship including advising an F1 team on its title sponsorship arrangements and advising on football shirt and stadium sponsorship
  • Advising on over 60 sports related insolvencies/restructures 
  • Advising on merchandising and licensing agreements 
  • Advising owners, studs and other businesses involved in the horse racing industry
  • Advising testimonial committees and players on testimonials and HMRC investigations

Our sports clients

Many of our private clients prefer to remain anonymous, but a sample of clubs and associations we work with include:

  • Everton FC
  • Stoke City FC
  • Norwich City FC
  • Burnley FC
  • West Bromwich Albion FC
  • Birmingham City FC
  • The Professional Footballers Association
  • The Professional Players' Federation
  • The Scottish Professional Footballers' Association
  • The Irish FA
  • The Manchester FA
  • The Rugby Players' Association

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What our clients and others say about us

Our sports law team has been shortlisted at the North West Football Awards in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and won the award in 2014 and 2015 for our service to football. We’re also particularly proud of what our clients say about us:

“We have been very pleased with Mills & Reeve's sports law team. They have a deep understanding of the UK and international football markets and their regulations. They give commercial, practical advice in layman's terms, often under time pressure.” Matt Williams, Head of Football and Company Governance, Burnley Football Club

“Mills & Reeve are experts in football regulatory matters, understand the industry well and give practical commercial advice. They are the club's go to advisers when dealing with international football transfers and disputes.” Andrew Dickson, Director of Finance and Administration, Rangers Football Club

“The team provides excellent customer service. All my wishes have been dealt with in a professional manner and extremely efficiently. The staff are experienced, trustworthy and knowledgeable and I would be pleased to recommend them.” James Milner, Liverpool & England footballer 

“Mills & Reeve have been a great support with all my legal needs on contractual and commercial work. Mills & Reeve have also been important to the negotiation and execution of the England Women's Central Contracts.” Steph Houghton, Manchester City and England captain

“I am grateful to Carol for the help and support that she gave me in my case and the sensitivity and the professionalism with which she worked. In particular, I appreciate how she translated and explained issues in Spanish. I believe that this made things a lot easier for me.” Jonas Gutierrez, former Newcastle and Argentina footballer

“GreaterSport have worked with Mills & Reeve for the last two years and found the relationship to be positive and beneficial. A key factor in this success has been Mills & Reeve's forward thinking, expertise/knowledge, customer service and ability to provide the right legal advice to a variety of questions posed.” Matthew Johnson, Deputy CEO, GreaterSport

"Carol is 'sensible, straightforward and easy to communicate with'. Peers highlight her language skills, which have enabled her to forge strong working relationships with clients in France, Spain and Latin America." Chambers UK

"Carol Couse is widely recognised for her strong relationships with a long list of Spanish and Latin American football clients, assisted by her mastery of the Spanish language. Sources declare that she is 'very good strategically' and is 'always giving us great advice, and understands our needs'." Chambers UK

Richard has been described by clients as being commercial with a “can do” attitude. He is “pragmatic and approachable and is happy to adapt the service he offers to clients changing requirements” Chambers UK

“Mark Hovell is ‘a very collaborative lawyer who is always very effective and efficient in coming back with issues and ensuring that he can deliver what is needed.’ He is especially well regarded for his insolvency work in the sports sector.” Chambers UK 

"Sources view department head Mark Hovell as a 'fantastic all-rounder in everything that is the business of sport' who is 'calm, reassuring, with a good grasp of the issues.' He frequently sits as an arbitrator at CAS in Switzerland as well as providing counsel on regulatory matters in football and netball." Chambers UK 

“First class in every respect.” Legal 500

“Mills & Reeve LLP advises sports union organisations and their members, including the PFA, the Professional Players Federation, the Rugby Players’ Association, and League Thirteen. The firm also acts for Angel di Maria, Preston North End FC and Manchester City FC. Mark Hovell has ‘a wealth of knowledge’ and sits as an arbitrator at the Court of Arbitration for Sport." Legal 500

"Carol Couse is very well regarded for her work with Spanish and South American clients." Legal 500

 

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