Overview

Sport is one of SMB’s fastest-growing and dynamic sector focuses, and fits comfortably with the firm’s leading presence in and reputation for media and entertainment.  The Sports Group’s key partners and associates are drawn from a diverse range of practice areas including corporate and commercial, technology and IP.

We act for a number of high-profile sports clients. These range from individual athletes and sports agents, to clubs and governing bodies in a variety of sports namely football, rugby, squash, horse racing, eventing, hockey and mixed martial arts.

We provide a multi-disciplinary, unique mixture of commercial and legal expertise across:

  • Sports Disputes, Regulatory and Governance
  • Crisis Management and Criminal Investigations
  • Talent Representation, Brand and Reputation Management
  • Sports Media and Data
  • Commercial Arrangements and Sponsorship
  • Corporate Transactions
  • ‘Burgeoning’ practice, which handles a ‘broad spread of work’ and has ‘excellent industry knowledge’.

    Legal 500, 2020
  • The team has a breadth of experience across a number of fields of litigation, including employment law, meaning they are an up-and-coming force in sports law.

    Legal 500, 2021

What we do

  • Sports Disputes, Regulatory and Governance

    We advise on a wide variety of disputes in sport, including commercial, regulatory and disciplinary issues, achieving recognised success for clients across these forums, including advising:

    • An FA Premier League football club on regulatory investigations regarding player transfers, employment and corporate matters.
    • Professional sportsmen in disciplinary inquiries before their professional bodies, including the Football Association.
    • A global sports federation on its applications for IOC recognition for participation in the Summer Olympic Games.
    • The Professional Squash Association in multiple disciplinary and regulatory proceedings.
    • Football and rugby agents in multiple regulatory and debt disputes.
    • The International Hockey Federation on a dispute with a production services supplier.
  • Crisis Management and Criminal Investigations

    We offer a discreet, co-ordinated service to our clients when they are facing crisis situations.

    For allegations which are criminal, we establish an immediate dialogue with the Police and/or whichever supervisory authority is involved and attend immediately and in person at the point of arrest, interview or other police involvement.

    When necessary we engage with PR professionals to keep an allegation or the client’s name out of the public domain.

    Our lawyers have been involved in:

    • Discreetly and successfully representing numerous professional footballers at all stages in dealings with the police in England and Wales.
    • Successfully acting for a world famous international footballer in staving off criminal allegations at a crucial stage of his career.
    • Successfully defending a Premier League footballer acquitted of two allegations of indecent assault at Middlesbrough Crown Court.
    • Representing an England International footballer in proceedings at Guildford Crown Court.
    • Advising high profile athletes and agents at all stages of HMRC and regulatory investigations and proceedings.
  • Talent Representation, Brand and Reputation Management

    We advise a wide range of players and athletes on the commercialisation of their talent and image, and protection of their privacy and reputation. Our work includes:

    • Advising star athletes in endorsement arrangements.
    • Advising football players on contracts with clubs, teams and leagues.
    • Drafting intermediary and agent representation contracts, and advising on intermediary and agents regulations.
    • Reviewing and advising book publishers and agents on players’ autobiographies.
    • Advising on defamation and privacy issues which arise in relation to reports published in the tabloid media.
    • Advising on the use of photographs and images belonging to players or their agencies (including use of images on social media).
    • Advising athletes on international trademark registrations to protect the goodwill in their names.
  • Sports Media and Data

    We advise sports federations, agencies, broadcasters and digital platforms on all aspects of the creation, acquisition and exploitation of sports media rights and data rights.

    We are often engaged by rights holders to advise on market conditions for and prior to the sale of rights, and have extensive experience of running successful high-profile auctions in the UK and overseas.

    Notable work includes:

    • Advising European Professional Club Rugby upon the auction and sale of pay-TV and free to air UK and international broadcasting rights to the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.
    • Acting for the Professional Squash Association on a multi-year global media rights agreement with Facebook and a sports data rights deal with Sportradar.
    • Advising talkSPORT upon its successful bidding strategy for Premier League UK radio rights, and managing multiple auctions and licences for its exclusive Premier League international radio rights.
    • Advising Cage Warriors (Europe’s leading mixed martial arts promoter) on a ground-breaking global media rights deal with UFC Fight Pass .
    • Advising leading horseracing data provider Total Performance Data upon software, hardware and licensing matters.

     

  • Corporate Transactions

    Our corporate team advises start-ups, joint ventures, shareholder arrangements and employment issues for sports businesses.

    Highlights include:

    • Providing corporate advice to establish a new sports agency with a focus on new media activities, and drafting template representation agreements.
    • Advising Premiership Rugby shareholder London Irish Rugby Club on a corporate re-organisation of the league following a major investment by investor CVC Capital Partners.
    • Advising Cage Warriors on shareholder and investment agreements.
    • Advising Watford AFC on investment arrangements.
    • The merger of the men’s and women’s governing bodies in squash.
  • Commercial Arrangements and Sponsorship

    Our commercial team acts for a range of clients in sport relating to sponsorship, endorsement agreements, event production, and the protection and exploitation of intellectual rights.

    Experience includes:

    • Exclusive outside counsel to the Professional Squash Association, advising on all commercial, IP and corporate matters. This included the ground-breaking merger of the men’s and women’s tours, the establishment of the PSA’s in-house production facilities, sponsorship arrangements and management of international trade mark strategy.
    • Sole counsel to British Eventing, advising on all commercial and IT matters. Recently advised on the establishment of a new international equestrian series.
    • Advising Cage Warriors on sponsorship agreements, event hosting and athlete representation agreements.
    • Advising a leading sports consultancy on a ground-breaking sponsorship and procurement agreement for the 2023 Pan American Games.
    • Sole external counsel to SportsBible and LadBible, advising on sports media content acquisition matters.