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Intellectual Property Protection Sport

Focus on our sport team at Clarke Willmott

Our dedicated teams work hard to look after clients, whatever their legal needs. Our broad expertise across the firm means that any one of our lawyers has access to a network of experts who can be recommended to ensure you are receiving the best holistic legal care at the right time.

In this series, we are speaking with our legal experts to learn more about their areas of expertise, what they enjoy most about their work, and how they work together to provide exceptional legal care to our clients. This time we spoke to specialist sport employment lawyer Tim Copplestone. Tim is head of the sports sector at Clarke Willmott and began his career with the firm as a trainee in 2007. Tim is identified as a ‘Leading Individual’ in Sport in the Legal 500 and has a sporting background, representing Great Britain in kayaking.

Tell us a little a bit about the sport team at Clarke Willmott?

At Clarke Willmott, we are frequently instructed by sports stars and leading sporting professionals, ranging from Premier League football managers and footballers to elite international and Premiership rugby players. We work with athletes, professional clubs, sports executives, national governing bodies, and leading global sports agencies. Professional sport is a fast-paced global business, and the team are highly responsive to clients’ needs and often work across international time zones.

The team also works with major players in the sports business world such as leading global sports agency Wasserman and Decathlon, the World’s largest sports retailer. We are passionate about professional player welfare matters and support the Rugby Players’ Association (RPA), the trade union for Premiership Rugby players, the GB sevens team and the England Women’s team. We represent clients in sport specific arbitration tribunal forums, such as The Premier League Managers Arbitration Tribunal, The Premier League Tribunal, and in-sport disciplinary such as the RFU Disciplinary Tribunal.

The Legal 500 has recognised our team as a Tier 1 Sport team, reflecting the calibre of our client instructions and our pedigree in sport industry legal matters.

How do you work with other teams across the firm?

Our sport sector covers both business and private client needs. Our sport work permeates through all of our teams at Clarke Willmott and all of our corporate, commercial litigation, private client, and property services divisions – with sport matters ranging from: stadia development projects and planning law, to sport related corporate acquisitions, commercial contracts, contentious and non-contentious employment matters, alongside clinical negligence, family law, and high net-worth private client support.

Our specialist employment lawyers represent sport agencies and elite sports players and managers with their employment legal needs, including drafting and negotiating employment contracts.

Our commercial litigation team has advised international sports agencies and player management companies on commercial, employment law, and regulatory sports law issues and litigation including agent fee disputes, club shirt sponsor, and international sports sponsorship disputes.

Our private capital and family teams advise elite-level professional athletes and high net worth sports individuals on private client matters including international player family law issues, wills, inheritance disputes, tax planning, and estate administration.

Our Business Recovery Unit provide cost efficient recovery options for large sporting businesses, and for example represent The Football Association – Club Wembley.

We also work with other teams across the firm for specific sport industry projects including our insolvency and intellectual property teams. More about the work we do in these areas can be found on our sports legal services page.

How do you keep clients informed on latest industry updates?

We frequently attend key industry events and leading practitioner conferences such as Sport. We also deliver in-house training for players and clubs on important issues such as player contract protection, and equality and diversity in sport. We frequently publish insightful articles, and recent examples include: Intellectual property rights in Formula 1, how new legislation could reshape the landscape for sports influencers and issues arising in sport employment contract bonuses. Further sports-related articles can be found here.

Our involvement in the professional sport industry also extends to supporting players in their transition from the game, for example supporting events such as the recent RPA Gain Line session for the Bath rugby senior squad.

What type of service can clients expect to receive when working with your team?

Clients can expect to receive a specialist and high-quality legal service that is tailored towards the individual’s or organisation’s needs. We provide a commercial and highly responsive service. “We understand that sport, as a business, is constantly evolving – the media rights are very lucrative, the sums in dispute can be enormous, and the level of commercial opportunities (and number of professional advisers) is escalating alongside the increasing level of regulation in professional sport. The UK is a leading forum for sports law matters and sport disputes, and our professional leagues, especially the Premier League and Premiership, continue to attract foreign investment and global fan appeal.”

Our commercial and responsive approach to sports matters enables us to offer our clients with sharp cost-effective legal support whenever it’s needed.

We are very accessible to all our clients. Our work reflects the international business of sport – often working across international time zones or to acute deadlines to support our clients.”

Discover what some of our sport clients have shared about their experience working with Clarke Willmott. The below Legal 500 client testimonials provide an insight into what you can expect when instructing the CW Sport team:

Clarke Willmott LLP has ‘first-class expertise’ and ‘excellent service with response times that are second to none.”  The Legal 500

“An absolute superstar in the sporting space, being able to deliver results for clients, be they individual athlete or clubs”  The Legal 500

“Clarke Willmott are a tremendous firm, who deliver outstanding results.” The Legal 500

“Knows professional sports clients’ needs, and can relate to the client in a way few lawyers can”  The Legal 500

Very well connected in sport – cricket, rugby and football in particular. Outstanding ability to find solutions on a commercial and cost-effective basis.” The Legal 500

The RPA also kindly publicly thanked us for our support with securing the maximum protective award compensation for the premiership rugby players at Worcester, Wasps, and London Irish who were faced with the sudden tragic insolvencies of their clubs and made redundant.  This important Employment Tribunal action is an illustrative example of our player protection work, when the playing squads faced a very challenging period.

What are the team’s plans for the sector in the future?

The sport industry continues to evolve, with increased commercial opportunities for sports stars, athletes, and clubs, alongside increasing levels of regulation on and off the pitch. Our team remain at the forefront of sports law matters and, whilst we have been very active in the sector for over 25 years, we are excited by the growth trajectory that our team and our clients are sharing.

For example, we have a real forte in corporate acquisitions within the sport sector, and we continue to support our clients to acquire new sports businesses within their portfolio. Rob Ridd leads our sport corporate projects and we have recently completed an acquisition of Volante Sports Group who represent the nation’s top women’s pro footballers such as Arsenal star and Lioness Alessia Russo.

In the past year, we have also welcomed commercial partner Stephen Green who has expertise in drafting venue hire and sponsorship agreements for sports clubs, and significant industry experience working in-house at international sports events such as the FIFA World Cup, Caribbean Premier League, ATP tennis finals, alongside advising a sporting celebrity on his appointment of a sales, distribution, and multi-media marketing agency for his social enterprise.

Partner Damian Pitts from our litigation team has a wealth of experience in motorsport having previously acted for a Formula E team and in disputes in the National Court of Motorsport UK, alongside commercial partners Amy Peacey and Sarah Coe who advise on sponsorship contracts, commercial agreements, and Data Protection obligations, plus commercial litigation partner Peter Brewer who has a track record in High Court high-stakes contentious sport matters, and notably motorsport litigation.

Family law partner Chris Longbottom was previously a professional rugby league player, and provides support to professional footballers, managers, rugby players and their families with matrimonial disputes and family law matters, which often involve international elements given the high number of elite foreign sports talent the UK attracts.

Insolvency partner Ken MacLennan has significant experience advising distressed sports businesses on insolvency law matters and restructuring, plus expertise advising professional players unions and their members are faced with the insolvency of their employer club.

Tax law partner Chris Connors advises sports business clients on key taxation issues arising in sports transaction and commercial ventures. Chris advises major sports employers on the taxation risks of being deemed to have a ‘permanent establishment’ abroad, alongside guidance on employer and corporate transaction tax considerations.

How can sports clients get in touch with Clarke Willmott?

If you would like to find out more about how our expert sports team can support you or your business, please contact one of our lawyers directly, call us on 0800 652 8205 or request a consultation.

Clarke Willmott has offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Southampton and Taunton.


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Meet our Sport team

With seven offices throughout England and Wales, Clarke Willmott is a national law firm with a local presence. Click to learn more about our wider team of legal professionals and how they can support you.

Meet the team

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