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Thursday 19th October 2017

Centrefield has been ranked as a Top-Tier law firm for Sport within the Legal 500 2017 rankings. The firm was described by clients as being ‘among the best specialist sports practices by some distance, and undoubtedly one of the leading firm of solicitors for football’. In addition to its overall rankings, the firm’s partners have also been recognised, with Matthew Bennett is listed in the ‘Leading Individuals’ in UK Sport and noted as having ‘unparalleled knowledge and experience of regulatory law and is very popular with clients’.

David Bentham and Edward Canty are also recognised as leading lawyers within the industry, with David being described as ‘first-class and responsive’ and having ‘excellent industry knowledge and a superb commercial focus’, whilst Edward is noted as a ‘pre-eminent sports lawyer who is knowledgeable, skilful and user-friendly’. Stuart Baird is also listed in the leading ‘Next Generation Lawyers’ in UK Sport, being described as ‘very bright, calm and unflappable’ and someone who ‘knows the football industry inside out and commands respect’.

Having only established the practice in 2015, the firm’s top-tier rankings within the Legal 500 recognise the firm’s success in quickly establishing its position as one of the pre-eminent sports law practices within the UK.

Tuesday 26th September 2017

With the commencement of the Criminal Finances Act 2017 (the ‘Act’) imminent (30 September 2017), introducing long awaited corporate offences for organisations’ failure to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion, sporting organisations need to consider carefully the potential risks to their business. Sporting organisations, including football and rugby clubs in particular, should already be aware that they present high profile targets for HMRC and that their conduct will, undoubtedly, continue to face enhanced scrutiny following the commencement of the Act. Centrefield has set out below five headline thoughts for organisations to consider when assessing the impact of the new offences:

#1 International risks – the Act’s extra-territorial application means that sporting organisations will be liable not only for failing to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion in the UK, but tax evasion anywhere in the world. Organisations will therefore need to identify and consider the potential risk areas within their business both in the UK and internationally, whether through their fixed ground operations or the actions of intermediaries, professional advisors or other service providers.

#2 Identifying associates – the Act creates a broad liability for sporting organisations, capturing the acts of any person acting as an associate of that organisation. This extends not only to employees and those contractually tied to any organisation, but to any person who could be considered to be performing services for or on behalf of that organisation, including any intermediaries or representatives in any proposed transactions. Sporting organisations will therefore need to clearly identify the individuals and organisations who may be considered as performing services on their behalf and how their conduct can be monitored and managed.

#3 Internal procedures – sporting organisations will be able to raise a defence where they can demonstrate the presence of reasonable procedures to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion. Organisations should therefore consider a detailed review of their internal policies, procedures and relevant training, both to help reduce the risk of facilitating tax evasion and provide a potential defence should any breach occur.

#4 Top level commitment – when considering the reasonableness of an organisation’s internal procedures, investigating authorities will consider the conduct of senior management. Directors and senior individuals will need to demonstrate a clear commitment to preventing the facilitation of tax evasion. Even if not personally liable under the Act, directors should consider their conduct in the wider context of their legal duties to act in a company’s best interests and the potential for individual reputational damage in the event of a breach.

#5 Commercial transactions – sporting organisations will need to consider how they can mitigate the risk of facilitating tax evasion in future transactions, whether in respect of intermediary relations, player transfers, image rights arrangements, sponsorship agreements, business partnerships or other business service arrangements. Organisations should have a clear understanding of the relevant transaction and payment structures, and consider whether its existing and future contractual documentation provides adequate protections against the facilitation of tax evasion by any connected parties.

With the potential for unlimited fines and significant reputational damage to organisations found guilty of an offence, it is clear that the sports industry cannot afford to turn a blind eye to potential tax evasion.

The Criminal Finances Act commences on 30 September 2017. If you would like more information on any of the points raised above or any advice in connection with the Criminal Finances Act 2017, please contact David Bentham (Partner), Stuart Baird (Partner) or David Anderson (Associate), or call 0161 672 5450.

Please note the information contained in this briefing is intended as a general review of the subject featured and is not intended as specific legal advice.

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Tuesday 18th April 2017

Major far-reaching changes are coming into effect in the area of data protection law on 25 May 2018 – resulting from the EU ‘General Data Protection Regulation’ (GDPR). Here are Centrefield’s “five thoughts” on the GDPR:

#1. Increased Fines – the GDPR will ‘raise the stakes’ in terms of the financial impact for failures to comply with data protections laws – increasing the maximum fines on a two-tier basis depending on the nature of the breach: up to 2% of annual worldwide turnover or €10 million (whichever is the greater) or up to 4% of annual worldwide turnover or €20 million (whichever is the greater).

#2. Tougher Obligations – as well as introducing statutory obligations on data processors for the first time, the GDPR also places more onerous accountability obligations on data controllers than the current regime, including requirements to carry out data protection impact assessments, implement data protection policies, report breaches within short timeframes and (where applicable) appoint a nominated ‘Data Protection Officer’.

#3. Rights of individuals – in line with the GDPR’s objective to put individuals ‘in control of their data’, it creates some new rights for individuals and strengthens some existing ones, for example: the right to be informed (typically through a privacy notice), the right of access to personal information (organisations will have less time to comply with a subject access request); the right to restrict and object to data processing; and the right to erasure (also known as ‘the right to be forgotten’).

#4. Consent – will be harder to obtain. Silence, pre-ticked boxes/requirements to opt-out or non-specific/‘blanket’ consent will no longer suffice as consent must be “unambiguous”. Importantly, consents already obtained from individuals may be sufficient but only if they meet the new requirements. If not, then you will need to obtain consent afresh – which could be a major task for many data controllers.

#5. Impact – the new regime is likely to have a significant impact on the sports and media world, particularly those entities which collect individuals’ personal information (whether through websites, apps, social networks or otherwise) for any purpose such as for ticketing/hospitality/events, creating a ‘fan’/‘member’ database and sending newsletters and updates etc. Whilst there is just over a year until the new rules go live, the nature and scope of the new regime means that now is clearly the time to review your organisation’s current data protection practices and procedures and to put in place an action plan to ensure you will be ‘GDPR ready’ on 25 May 2018.

If you would like any more information on any of the points raised above or any advice in connection with data protection matters, please contact David Bentham (Partner) or Deirdre McCarthy (Associate), or call 0161 672 5450.

Please note the information contained in this briefing is intended as a general review of the subject featured and is not intended as specific legal advice.

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Friday 24th March 2017

Following Manchester City announcing the Premier League’s first Official Sleeve Partnership (with Nexen Tire) since the Premier League introduced new rules for the 2017/18 season, here are  Centrefield’s thoughts on the introduction of sleeve sponsorship rights in the Premier League, and multi-sponsor kit branding in general:

#1. Value – rights holders will need to take a holistic view, considering aggregate revenues generated across all kit branding assets, taking into account the potential impact of each deal on the others. Whilst appointing a sleeve partner may well result in a short term boost to some Premier League Clubs’ sponsorship coffers, will the increase sustain itself over the longer term or will the values of and appetite for shirt sponsorship re-calibrate to take into account this multi-sponsor branding?

#2. Exclusivity – existing arrangements will be crucial in terms of the rights which may (or may not) be granted to a potential sleeve sponsor. The recent rule change also highlights the importance of rights holders’ making informed decisions in their contractual arrangements in terms of their ability to exploit other sponsorship assets and inventory – whether existing, or ones which may become available in the future.

#3. Related Arrangements – the position of a sleeve sponsor within a Club’s sponsorship hierarchy will be a very relevant issue for both the Club (and its other partners) and sponsor. In practical terms, the application of an additional brand to kit will be dictated by the rights holder’s technical partner / kit supply arrangements, particularly in relation to the relevant costs and time frames and the position around replicas.

#4. Scope of Rights – rights holders and sponsors will need to consider, both from a regulatory and commercial perspective, if and how inventory is to be ‘carved up’. Are rights being granted on all kits, or is there a differentiation, perhaps based on competitions or home/away/third kits? Do rights extend to training kit as well? Does the deal capture all rights holder teams?

#5. Sponsorship – all of the usual considerations for sports sponsorship deals will apply, including any requirements of applicable laws in the relevant product/service sectors. There will also be specific considerations to take into account in the event that inventory is sold on a collective basis (for example, an agency seeking to sell sleeve rights on behalf of a number of Clubs).

If you would like any more information on any of the points raised above or any advice in connection with sponsorship matters, please contact David Bentham (Partner) or Oliver Sadler (Associate), or call 0161 672 5450.

Please note the information contained in this briefing is intended as a general review of the subject featured and is not intended as specific legal advice.

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Monday 16th January 2017

Published in World Sports Advocate, Friday 18th November 2016

The opening panel session at the Player Contracts Conference in October, organised by World Sports Advocate, provided a useful insight into the views of stakeholders and practitioners on the question of whether the current football transfer system, introduced by FIFA some 15 years ago, requires reform. The panel comprised senior representatives from the World Players’ Union, FIFPro, the European Professional Football Leagues (‘EPFL’) and the European Club Association (‘ECA’) as well as lawyers acting for clubs, players and intermediaries. Matthew Bennett, Partner at Centrefield LLP, who was a member of the Panel, provides an overview of FIFPro’s complaint to the EU Commission and a detailed analysis of the discussion had at Player Contracts.

It was perhaps of no surprise that FIFPro’s Legal Director, Wil van Megen, re-iterated FIFPro’s view that the transfer system must be changed – indeed, there was a clue to FIFPro’s position in the title of Mr van Megen’s presentation: ‘Why the transfer system fails.’ In his presentation Mr van Megen made reference to the formal complaint that FIFPro lodged with the European Commission in 2015 into the transfer system.

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Friday 25th November 2016

On 31 October 2016, UK Sport and Sport England jointly published ‘A Code for Sports Governance’ (the “Code”).

The Code will apply from April 2017 to all organisations within the UK to whom UK Sport and Sport England provide grant funding, whether for grass roots or elite sport, regardless of size and sector, including national governing bodies, clubs, charities and local authorities.

The Code comes at a time when sport and its governance is under increasing public scrutiny. According to UK Sport and Sport England, the introduction of the Code will mean that organisations in the UK seeking public funding for sport and physical activity must “meet new gold standards of governance considered to be among the most advanced in the world”.

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Friday 16th September 2016

New sport and media law firm Centrefield is pleased to announce that it has been ranked as one of the leading firms in sport for both the North West and London areas in the Legal 500. The Legal 500 guide, which recognises excellence in the legal profession, published its findings this week and acknowledged that the firm is considered the ‘best in the area for football’. The guide notes that the firm is very active in the football sector as well as advising on a variety of other matters involving an array of sports.

Matthew Bennett, one of the founding partners of Centrefield LLP is recognised as a leading individual and is described as ‘knowledgeable, calm and effective’. The other founding partners of the firm are also recommended in the guide, with Edward Canty described as ‘charming and has great judgement’ and David Bentham being ‘knowledgeable, commercially savvy and offers sound practical advice’. Senior Associate, Stuart Baird is also recommended in the guide and is described as ‘outstanding’.

This ranking in Legal 500 confirms that Centrefield has immediately established itself as a true market leader in advising clients on the most varied and complex matters arising in the sports sector and the findings of Legal 500 reflects the excellent level of service and expertise offered to its clients.

 

Friday 9th September 2016

Newly established Sports & Media law firm, Centrefield LLP, has confirmed its place as the UK’s leading professional adviser in football after working on transfers worth over £400 million in the summer transfer window, including a number of record breaking transfers.

The value of deals worked upon by the firm equates to nearly 40% of the estimated £1 billion plus spent in total by Premier League clubs.

The Manchester based practice, which was only established last December, acted for clubs and players on transactions involving seventeen of the twenty Premier League clubs, as well as clubs in the EFL Championship, League One and League Two.

Outside of the domestic market, Centrefield acted on deals involving clubs and players in China, Russia, Africa, Europe, South America and North America. In addition to player transfers and loans, Centrefield also advised on many player contract renewals, as well as on a number of managerial and coaching staff appointments and departures.

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Wednesday 6th April 2016

A new specialist Sport and Media law firm, Centrefield LLP, has been founded by partners, Edward Canty, David Bentham and Matthew Bennett.

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Based in Manchester, Centrefield is made up of a highly specialised team of ten lawyers with over 15 years’ experience advising exclusively in the sport and media sector – one of the key growth sectors for the legal marketplace both in the UK and worldwide. The team is recognised by clients and the industry generally as a true market leader on a national and international basis and continues to act for an enviable client base of household names.

Nine of the ten lawyers in the team left North West based law firm, Brabners LLP, to form Centrefield. The establishment of the new firm builds on the lawyers’ existing reputation and sees Centrefield become one of the UK’s largest sport and media law specialists.

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