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Specialist Sports Disputes

We are a specialist litigation firm, led by partners renowned for their excellence in this field – with real sector experience in representing sporting professionals, their agents and managers.

We are a specialist litigation firm, led by partners renowned for their excellence in this field – with real sector experience in representing sporting professionals, their agents and managers.

We have experience across the full spectrum of sporting disputes – from dealing with commercial contract disputes to regulatory matters. We also have significant knowledge of media law and reputation management.

Below we offer some insight into our key areas of work. If you are a club, a sportsperson, an agent, intermediary or representative, please get in touch today to discuss how our disputes team can assist you and your clients. We treat all matters with the utmost confidentiality and are on hand to offer you the advice you need, with discretion assured. We can be tactically aggressive or conciliatory, depending on what you and your clients are seeking to achieve.

You can expect from us, what others expect from you

We are passionate about what we do. We act with professionalism, a hunger to succeed, using strategies to win, and are prepared to go the distance and not give up until the final whistle.

Our competitive edge is even reflected in our costs.

Wide-ranging expertise

Our team have advised:-

  • A world-renowned celebrity personal trainer in a dispute involving alleged client poaching, in breach of restrictive covenants, settled successfully in favour of our client.
  • A former Premier League, International footballer in relation to a multi-million Euro dispute with his former lawyers, following the termination of his contract with a club
  • An FA intermediary in a dispute with a premier league footballer
  • The Jockey Club (as it was then) in a professional regulatory dispute involving a high-profile jockey
  • A national hockey club in relation to its internal rules and regulations
  • An appeal to the British Horseracing Authority in relation to a book-maker who had been “warned-off” for two years, where we succeeded on appeal, reducing the “warning-off”.
  • A section of a national charity in relation to the negligent building of an enclosure for a specialist hydrotherapy facility for children with learning disabilities.
  • Gym members in relation to a group contractual dispute arising out of misrepresentations made by the gym organisation
  • A riverside association in a dispute concerning sailing clubs’ rights to access the river
  • Our consultants and closely associated firms also have a depth of experience in motorsport and F1 related disputes, regulatory matters and MSA Tribunals, including advising John Surtees.

Regulatory Disputes

For any professional, facing a regulatory dispute can be a challenging experience. For sportspeople, it is particularly important that the impact of any regulatory dispute is expertly handled. In the most extreme cases, sanctions can be put in place meaning that you are ‘banned’ from the sport. This can have a devastating impact personally and financially. It is therefore crucial that you put your best case forward in any regulatory dispute.

We are experts in preparing strong, thorough submissions in disciplinary cases, and work closely with barristers providing advocacy and representation at courts and tribunals. We will also ensure that the process is fair and that your rights are respected throughout. If you are undergoing investigation by your professional body, we will assist you in understanding the process and the potential outcomes and will help you every step of the way.

We also have extensive experience of arbitration. At Saunders we pride ourselves on our knowledge of alternative dispute resolution methods. Arbitration is common in sporting disputes, particularly where regulatory issues are at play. Arbitration involves the appointment of an arbitrator who will make a legally binding-decision based on the evidence provided. Again, our team at Saunders are familiar with this process and can assist you throughout the arbitration procedure.

We can advise on matters that are referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (commonly known as CAS) and / or to professional governing bodies, for example:

  • The FA, UEFA, FIFA;
  • The RFU, World Rugby;
  • The LTA, International Tennis Federation;
  • The ECB, International Cricket Council;
  • UKA and World Athletics (formerly the IAAF); and World Para Athletics and the FIA.

Contractual Disputes

Commercial contracts are at the heart of many sports law disputes. Commercial contracts govern the entire spectrum of sports law, including relationships between players and intermediaries/agents; the employee/employer relationship; merchandising agreements; and advertising and sponsorship arrangements, amongst many others.

At Saunders, we are expert civil litigators and have experience across a wide range of contractual disputes. If you are in a contractual relationship and the other party is in breach of the contractual terms, we can assist you with achieving performance of the contract or obtaining compensation for any loss suffered.

We can advise you on the best course of action available to you. In sporting situations, it can often be appropriate to take a contractual dispute through the courts / tribunals. However, we are also well-versed in all manner of alternative dispute resolution options. We have a strong team familiar with running complex mediations and negotiations. We can assist you in negotiating a settlement and can liaise with the other parties involved on your behalf. We are flexible in our approach and seek to pursue every case in accordance with our client’s needs. We will help you assess your options in resolving a contractual dispute, providing you with plain language English advice which takes into consideration any likely costs of pursuing the matter.

We also have an experienced employment service which can help sportspeople understand their contracts of employment and any disputes which may arise. We can offer advice on dealing with harassment and bullying, as well as stress at work. For sports stars, it can be difficult to admit that their workplace is becoming a negative space. We will seek to help you resolve any dispute or contentious situation that arises, in a manner that is both efficient and discrete.

Media Law Disputes

Our team also understands the importance of maintaining your reputation as a sports personality. We have a strong background in a range of media law issues. We can provide specialist advice on areas of law such as defamation and breach of privacy.

For many sportspeople, it is vital that their private lives are not jeopardised by their professional persona. With the ever-increasing use of social media, we understand that reputation management is growing ever more complex. Our team has significant experience in dealing with claims involving libel, slander and defamation. We are here to assist you to tackle these issues and protect your private life. We can advise on whether you have a claim for damages and whether you should be seeking an injunction.

We also understand that sportspeople are ‘only human’ and can make mistakes. This can be in the form of conducting themselves in what is deemed an ‘unprofessional’ manner in their private life, or by making social media posting blunders (either directly or via a PR team). On the other side of the coin therefore, we can advise you in relation to any potential claims that may be brought against you by an impacted party, as well as dealing with any resulting disciplinary action.

We have a wide array of options available in solving a media law dispute, including obtaining apologies and corrections from publications. We are also renowned for our robust and discrete approach when it comes to media law litigation. We represented individuals in the Leveson Inquiry and in Parliamentary Committees following the News of the World hacking scandal. We also have experience in obtaining injunctions to protect reputations and prohibit publication of defamatory material. Whatever the media law dispute, our partner led firm with over 40 years of experience are here to assist you.

Directors and Shareholders

At the heart of every successful sporting club or organisation, there are happy owners and a happy boardroom. We understand though, that things can become tense and conflicts can arise in times of unrest, uncertainty and negative publicity (whether due to ‘on-field’ performances or ‘off-field’ matters). We are adept at advising where:-

  • shareholders are in dispute with other shareholders;
  • shareholders are unhappy with how the club / organisation is being run; and
  • directors are not acting in accordance with their statutory and / or fiduciary duties owed to the club or organisation, for example: not acting in the club’s best interests.

Contact our Specialists Today

At Saunders, we are expert dispute resolution lawyers with expertise in all manner of sports law disputes. We are a team of seasoned litigators, recognised for our advocacy skills and in-depth knowledge. We will always offer a free initial consultation to establish if we can assist you. Our advice is clear, simple and designed specifically to meet your needs. We are approachable, discrete and familiar with dealing with high profile individuals and cases. You can rest assured that our team will tirelessly fight your corner, ensuring that the best result possible is achieved for you.

Call us on 020 7632 4300 or make an enquiry online.