Walker Morris is one of the few firms in the UK that can genuinely offer the complete sports law legal advice service. We regularly receive instructions from four Premier League clubs, seven Championship clubs and several clubs in the lower leagues. We also have a long-standing history in rugby and act for a number of rugby clubs.
Our expertise spans the whole spectrum of sports law including:
- brand protection and exploitation
- club sales and acquisitions
- corporate restructuring and insolvencies
- employment and immigration issues
- player/manager negotiations
- real estate
- sponsorship deals
- sports disciplinary hearings.
In terms of football club sales and purchases, the Group act for a range of high net worth clients and it is often instructed by owners of football clubs looking to sell or wealthy companies / individuals that are looking to acquire football clubs. The Group has acted on two Premier League and six Championship sales/purchases in the past few years alone. Most recently, the Group acted on the major US investment in Crystal Palace Football Club. The deals marks a successful milestone in the work the Group has undertaken for the Club, having acted as the Club’s exclusive legal provider since it was bought out of administration in 2010. (Read more here).
In terms of football finance, the Group specialises in advising financial institutions, stadium companies and major debt funds on general football financial activity including the discounting of player transfer monies and the discounting of central funds. Most recently, the Group acted for a first-ranking secured lender in the release of its security over a Championship football club. The Group has also advised Premier League clients as regards the assignment of Premier League monies.
The Group has taken one of the lead roles on the vast majority of football club insolvencies in the last three years, including clubs from the Championship, Leagues 1 and 2 as well as non-league clubs. The Group also took one of the lead roles when it advised on the Portsmouth administration, the only Premier League club ever to have gone into administration.
The Walker Morris Sports Group is rated as a top-tier law firm in the ‘Sports Sector’ in the latest edition of the Legal 500. Head of the Sports Team, David Hinchliffe, has been voted UK Sports Lawyer of the Year in:
- ACQ Law Awards – 2016 & 2015
- Finance Monthly Law Awards ‘Sports Lawyer of the Year’ – 2016, 2015 & 2014
- M&A Today Global Awards ‘Sports Lawyer of the Year UK’- 2016
- Corporate LiveWire Global Awards ‘Sports and Gaming Law UK Lawyer’ – 2015
- ACQ Global Awards ‘UK Sports Lawyer of the Year’ – 2016 & 2015
- Global 100 Sports Lawyer of the Year – 2015
- Wealth and Finance International ‘Sports Lawyer of the year UK’ – 2015
In addition, the Walker Morris Sports Team as a whole has been named winners of a number of awards including:
- ACQ Law Awards Sports Law Firm of the Year – 2016 & 2015
- The European Corporate Excellent Awards for ‘Best Sports Law Firm – UK’ – 2015
- The Acquisition International Legal awards ‘Best Sports-Focused M&A Team’ – 2015
- Finalists in the Football Business Awards ‘Best Professional Business Serving Football’ – 2015, 2014 & 2013
- Lawyer Monthly Legal Awards ‘Sports Law Firm of the Year – UK’ – 2015
- ACQ Global Awards ‘UK Sports Law Firm of the Year’ – 2016 & 2015
“Football club finance expert and ‘master in the field’ David Hinchliffe leads the ‘effective and efficient’ team at Walker Morris LLP, which includes ‘one to watch’ Katie Medd.” – Legal 500
The Walker Morris Sports Group is proud to support:
Project managing complex deals
Walker Morris advised Premier League football club, Crystal Palace FC, on a major deal to secure a sizeable US investment to develop
first-class facilities. The Walker Morris team acted on behalf of the club in respect of a deal to allow US businessmen, Josh Harris and David Blitzer and the current chairman Steve Parish to take control of the club in a general partnership structure. This was the only investment of this nature in a Premier League football club since 2013 and demonstrates the national and international reputation that that Walker Morris team has established within the industry.
Walker Morris acted for the Thai consortium in their purchase of Reading FC, which completed in September 2014. A number of departments across the firm were involved in this complex deal, including tax, corporate, banking, employment, intellectual property and real estate. This was a high profile transaction, of interest and importance to football supporters around the world, and our ability to get the deal done created a valuable financial foundation on which the Reading FC could survive and build future success.
Walker Morris provides the complete sports law service for many sports organisations across the UK. One particular example is Crystal Palace FC, where achieving demonstrable results for the client off-the-field in a myriad of commercial, corporate and contractual matters, including advising on the recent US investment into the Club has been as critical to the Club as the team’s performance on-the-field. With every day-to-day and season-by-season challenge and opportunity for the client, we have a ‘24/7 availability’ mentality to ensure that we fully understand the client’s objectives and react quickly. Indeed, Walker Morris is an integral part of the team in this results-driven business.
Supporting business goals
The Walker Morris Sports Group was instructed by the then owners of Watford FC to provide corporate finance and restructuring advice – with a clear aim for the Club to provide a financial bedrock for gaining promotion to the Premier League, which was achieved soon after. We ensured we fully understood the business goals and we identified various investment and finance options that culminated in Walker Morris identifying a buyer for the Club. We were then instrumental in negotiating and concluding the deal to provide a highly successful outcome for the Club, and the achievement of its business goals.