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Football Clubs

Football Clubs

When it comes to football law, our Sports Group are second to none.  We’re known for our expertise in the football sector and have extensive experience working in-house at Premier League clubs.  We use our understanding of the challenges and opportunities football clubs face to shape our legal advice and assistance.

Over time we’ve built up a strong network of professional connections in the sector, which not only helps us, but benefits our clients as well: if we don’t have all the answers, we usually know someone who does and, in the right circumstances, we can help clubs connect with people who may have something to offer in terms of corporate finance, investment, new commercial partnerships and outsourcing opportunities.

Our leading Partner, David Hinchliffe, has a great deal of experience working for football clubs and is highly sought after for his knowledge of football finance and corporate restructuring, being regarded as one of the key advisers in the country in this field.  He is regularly called in by clubs who are looking to sell up and by high-profile individuals or organisations who would like to buy or invest in a football club.

You can find more detail about our Sports Group and its work here  but our core areas of football work include:

Football transactions and governance 

  • corporate finance – including equity, debt and asset finance, factoring and discount products
  • acquisitions – the purchase (and sale) of football clubs
  • tax – advice relevant to sports organisations, including PAYE / NIC
  • corporate taxes and HMRC liaison
  • corporate restructuring – we have a great deal of experience in both proactive and reactive restructuring
  • advising on all relevant rules and regulations of the various football authorities when providing legal advice and reviewing contractual arrangements to ensure compliance.

Commercial partnerships 

  • kit supply arrangements – including acting for clubs on kit supply arrangements
  • brand partnerships – including key brand associations and official suppliers
  • naming rights and shirt sponsors – for instance naming of stadia, stands and training complexes and front of shirt and sleeve sponsors
  • outsourcing arrangements – such as hospitality and food and beverage provision
  • third-party events hosted at stadium, e.g., UEFA/FIFA competitions and music concerts
  • ticketing terms and conditions, including hospitality and box packages.

Intellectual property 

  • brand protection – including commercialisation opportunities and enforcement
  • merchandise deals – often involving multiple jurisdictions
  • image rights – their protection, commercialisation and enforcement
  • intellectual property rights litigation, to protect and enforce your rights.

Football disputes 

  • we advise you on, and handle any investigations by, and appearances before, the football authorities, including:
    • Premier League – including Premier League Arbitration
    • English Football League – the Football Disciplinary Commission and EFL Arbitrations
    • Football Association – including Football Association Arbitration
    • National League – including arbitrations held under the National League Rules.

Real estate

  • our knowledge of real estate and planning law, combined with our day-to-day involvement with the market means we can help you identify the important issues and provide sophisticated advice that will help you achieve your goals and maximise the value of your transactions
  • key areas of focus include:
    • sale and leaseback deals
    • private finance construction/lease arrangements
    • equity release
    • redevelopment and planning.

Employment 

  • advising on and handling employee disputes, including player-related and playing/coaching staff disputes with their club
  • player contracts and manager/coaching staff contracts (in both the men’s and women’s game). We have significant experience drafting all the key provisions, including: early termination payments; post-termination restrictions; bonuses; image rights; confidentiality; and the protection of, and damage to, reputation
  • other contracts, e.g., ESports contracts and non-football contracts. We can draft templates, review your existing templates to ensure they are up to standard and draft bespoke contracts to cater for all possible types of employment
  • general employment/HR issues, e.g., disciplinary and grievance issues, policy implementation, settlement agreements
  • TUPE and other employee-related drafting in commercial contracts, drafting and advising on, e.g., stadium and training ground catering, stewarding and security, maintenance
  • managing the risks of social media use by employees and protecting damage to reputation
  • immigration matters, including visas and work permits (including advising on obtaining Governing Body Endorsements from The FA for players, managers, directors of football and performance managers).

Regulatory 

  • data protection
  • health and safety
  • consumer credit regulation.

Insights

“I rate them as highly as anyone in the sporting world. They have a great client base. They really look after their clients well. They are a top, top litigation sport firm”

Chambers & Partners

“The team combines legal expertise with a commercial attitude and prompt service.”

Legal 500

“David Hinchliffe, who heads the team, is one of the foremost lawyers in the country dealing with the sales and purchases of football clubs. He understands the market and he finds commercial solutions to deliver the client’s wishes.”

Legal 500

“Walker Morris has commanding in-depth knowledge of the football industry. They are without doubt market leaders.”

Legal 500

“Outstanding client list and first class quality of both contentious and non-contentious partners.”

Legal 500

“David Hinchliffe is recognised as a leader in his field. He knows all that there is to know about football – as well as knowing all the individuals there are to know. David is a go-to football solicitor.”

Legal 500

David
Hinchliffe

Partner

Head of Sport

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Luke
Jackson

Director

Commercial

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'+44 (0)113 283 4412

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Owen
Ormond

Director

Restructuring & Insolvency

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'+44 (0)113 283 4546

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Charlotte
Smith

Director

Employment & Sport

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+44 (0)113 399 1891

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Matthew
Lingard

Senior Associate

Intellectual Property, Trade Marks & Designs

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+44 (0)113 283 2581

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Christian
Slinger

Senior Associate

Sport

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+44 (0)113 399 1890

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Adam
Melling

Associate

Employment

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+44 (0)113 283 4478

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India
Seaton

Associate

Sport

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'+44 (0)113 283 4479

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Ryan
Doodson

Associate

Commercial

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'+44 (0)113 283 2698

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