Steven is recognised as ‘one of the top sports law juniors in the UK’ (Legal 500), dealing with contractual and commercial disputes in this sector, as well as disciplinary and regulatory issues. He is noted as having ‘best knowledge of on-field disciplinary work and [as] a go-to in this area’ (Chambers UK) and for his ‘niche experience of handling employment disputes within the professional sports world’ (Legal 500). He regularly appears on his own against KCs or leading a multi-disciplinary team in complex disputes, and has been described as ‘a great advocate’.
Steven is regularly instructed by players, clubs, agents, governing bodies, players’ unions, fans, and sponsors across a wide variety of sports including football, rugby union and league, boxing, tennis, and golf. He has advised at all levels of sport and has acted for and against many elite level participants and organisations, including matters involving the FA; the RFU; UK Sport; the Premier League; Manchester United FC; Manchester City FC; Chelsea FC; Liverpool FC; the LTA; Leicester Tigers, Gloucester Rugby Club; Chester Racecourse; Archery GB; British Ice Skating; UK Athletics; the PFA; the RLPA; the FSF; and many others. He has also been instructed by high profile companies who wish to enter into commercial rights/sponsorship agreements with such organisations.
In addition to dealing with commercial and regulatory matters, Steven is also regularly instructed in cases relating to discrimination in sport. He has experience in advising on the rights and obligations imposed on players, clubs, and governing bodies by the Equality Act 2010.
Steven’s work involves him representing participants before disciplinary and appeals panels, as well in court and at arbitration. This includes Premier League Section X arbitrations, FA Rule K arbitrations, the EFL Player Related Dispute Commission, the British Boxing Board of Control Regulation 24 arbitration, and before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Steven also has a wealth of experience chairing disciplinary/appeals panels, as well as chairing arbitral tribunals. He is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and has been appointed to the Sport Resolutions Panel of Arbitrators.
Reflective of his experience and expertise in the sector, Steven has been appointed a Visiting Sports Law Fellow at the Centre for Sports Law Research at Edge Hill University and is regularly invited to lecture on sports law LLMs at a variety of universities.
A summary of his work in different areas can be found below:
Steven is regularly instructed by players, clubs, and the world’s largest sports agencies in relation to disputes over breaches of contract, fees, and inducements. He has recently:
- Successfully represented a football agency in a seven-figure claim before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
- Assisted an agency in successfully resisting a claim for inducing a breach of contract after a Premier League player joined their agency.
- Advised and mediated a settlement for a footballer whose agent’s actions had prevented his move to a Premier League club.
- Resisted applications for springboard injunctions where agents have left and established their own agency.
- Successfully representing a football agent in Rule K arbitration for unpaid commission. This case involved cross-examining a Premier League Chairperson.
- Perused agents who have misused confidential information, obtaining measures to prevent its use.
Anti-Doping & Mechanical Doping
Steven represents governing bodies, clubs, and participants in relation to anti-doping matters. This includes investigations, internal disciplinary proceedings, and hearings before the National Anti-Doping Panel and the CAS.
Steven also has experience of dealing with mechanical/electronic doping in cycling, having represented a cyclist who was accused of manipulating data to improve his access enhanced eRacing equipment.
Recent cases include:
- Football – Representing a professional footballer alleged to have provided a sample that contained a Higenamine.
- Representing a governing body before the NADP in a case where the athlete contended that the source of the prohibited substance was training supplements that he had been provided with from a reputable source.
- Rugby – Acting for a player who was accepted that he had committed an ADRV but who sought to argue that he bore no fault, or, in the alternative, no significant fault.
- Rugby – Acted for a coach who had ordered a prohibited substance for personal use when drunk, and was faced with loss of his livelihood.
- Boxing – Instructed by the boxer’s manager to review and advise on tactical response to an allegation that the boxer had injected nandrolone. The boxer contended that the source of the nandrolone was contaminated food. This involved an examination of the testing process and expert evidence as to whether the source of the elevated nandrolone was exogenous and endogenous.
Steven regularly appears before arbitral tribunals; both in the UK and Internationally. He has appeared before British Boxing Board of Control Arbitration Panels; the Court of Arbitration for Sport; FA Rule K panels; the ICC; the EFL League Arbitration Panel; the LCIA; the Managers’ Arbitration Tribunal; the Player Related Dispute Commission; Premier League Rule X panels; and those convened by Sport Resolution. Steven is extremely familiar with arbitral procedure and the law surrounding arbitration.
Steven also offers his service as an arbitrator in sporting disputes. This includes both sitting as a sole arbitrator or as a member of a panel. Steven has particular expertise in arbitrations that involve contractual and employment issues in a sporting context, as well as challenges to the decisions of governing bodies. He is a member of the Sport Resolutions Panel of Arbitrators.
Boxers, Managers & Promoters
Steven is particularly active in the boxing world, have represented many of the world’s leading managers and promoters. He also represents boxers who are active at both the amateur and professional level.
- Successfully represented a manager in a British Boxing Board of Control Regulation 24 Arbitration where the claim was for £30 million against his former client.
- Currently representing boxing promoter in a £10m+ claim against a former member of its stable for breach of a promotional agreement.
- Advising England Boxing on a wide-range of issues relevant to the governance and administration of the sport.
- Representing a boxing promoter in an LCIA arbitration against a boxer who had failed to honour a matching right.
- Successfully representing a boxing promoter in a claim for £2,4m against a client who terminated their contract in breach of the notice provisions.
- Advising World Champion boxers on the form and content of promotional agreements that they are proposing to enter.
- Representing a boxing promoter in a claim against a broadcaster for breach of contract.
Disciplinary & Other Internal Proceedings
As well as representing clubs and participants who were subject to disciplinary action before a wide plethora of governing bodies (including, the FA, the RFU, the RFL, and the PGA), Steven has also sat as a disciplinary and appeal officer for a variety of sports. He has represented participants seeking to overturn disciplinary sanctions through arbitral proceedings, and represented governing bodies before the Courts when resisting such challenges.
Recent cases include:
- Represented a professional footballer accused of match-fixing/manipulation.
- Representing a high-profile football coach accused of having made racist comments towards players.
- Representing the RFU at the disciplinary hearing where an England international was found to have made homophobic remarks during the course of the game.
- Representing a governing body in a ‘tapping-up’ case where both the agent and the approaching club were found to have acted in breach of the sports regulations.
- Representing an English rugby union international who was cited the week before the 6 Nations Championship. If the citing was upheld, the player would have missed the Championship. The citing was dismissed, and the original yellow card rescinded.
- Representing a football club charged by the FA with failing to control their players in circumstances where they were alleged to have racially abused their opponents during a match. The club was cleared before an FA disciplinary panel of any wrongdoing.
- Representing the EFL to assist with prosecuting numerous breaches of the EFL Regulations, including charges that led to Clubs being relegated from the Football League.
- Represented a footballer who assaulted a referee. In doing so, Steven managed to have his ban reduced by 50%.
- Advising an owner who was banned from all football related activity as he challenged the sanction through the Rule K arbitration.
- Representing a golfer who was called before the PGA Disciplinary Committee for discriminatory misconduct.
Discrimination in Sport
Steven has a great deal of experience of cases involving discrimination in a sporting context. He represents participants at all levels, from those who are attending their first coaching session, through to elite athletes who have suffered loss of funding or career damage because of discrimination. He also advises service providers (e.g. clubs, governing bodies, venues) as to their duties under the Equality Act 2010.
Examples of his work include:
- Representing a talented tennis player in a claim alleging discrimination, harassment, and victimisation against the Lawn Tennis Association.
- Advising a Paralympian who had been subjected to harassment by the governing body of his sport.
- Advising a disabled supporters’ group seeking to challenge a Premier League club’s compliance with its duty to make reasonable adjustments and failure to comply with the Accessible Stadia guidance issued by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority.
- Representing a child who was excluded from a sports club because of his disability.
Player / Participants Contracts & Transfers
Agents, players, and clubs regularly instruct Steven to consider issues surrounding employment/funding contracts. He also provides guidance on legal issues that arise during transfers and representation in breach of contract claims.
Some of his recent cases include:
- Advising a variety of football managers and clubs on disputes before the Managers’ Arbitration Tribunal.
- Representing a Premier League football club in a £multi-million claim brought before the Professional Football Compensation Committee relating to the poaching of a talented youth player.
- Representing 3 professional footballers who successfully terminated their contracts due to persistent late payment of their wages.
- Representing an England international rugby player in his claim against his former club for breach of contract following the imposition of a salary reduction.
- Representing a WSL player in a grievance appeal related to bullying by her manager.
- Representing a football club in 6 claims presented by its former manager and coaches for breach of contract.
- Advising a football scout accused of conspiracy, including a breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duties in a claim for in excess of £4 million.
- Successfully recovered 4 weeks’ wages for a footballer subject to disciplinary proceedings.
- Assisting a football coach to secure a high value exit package from a Premier League football club.
- Representing 43 ex-players and staff dismissed by a professional rugby league team.
- Advising 3 professional athletes who were subject to disciplinary proceedings following drugs-related allegations.
- Advising senior coaches/executives on their exit packages.
- Representing a professional rugby club in a breach of contract claim pursued by their former first-team coach.
- Advising a professional football club on player contracts arising from amendments to the FIFA Regulations.
- Representing a football player before the Player Related Dispute Commission in an appeal against dismissal following him being charged with a criminal offence.
- Advising a professional football coach as to whether his media work could amount to a breach of his contract of employment.
- Advising on the contractual status of a professional golfer.
Sale & Purchase of Clubs / Sporting Venues
Given Steven’s commercial law background and sports sector experience, he is positioned to advise on issues relating to the sale and purchase of sports clubs and venues.
Some of the work he has done includes:
- Representing the owners of a football club in a £20 million plus unfair prejudice claim presented by a fans’ group.
- Advising a ‘fans group’ on their buy-out of a football club in administration. This included advising on the purchase of items that vested with the Crown; drafting a new constitution; and providing guidance on the terms and conditions of player contracts.
- Dealing with a minority shareholder dispute in relation to the ownership of a race course.
Sponsorship / Image Rights
Steven has a particular interest in sponsorship and image rights agreements. He has been instructed by numerous agents, clubs, participants and sponsors to assist with the negotiating and drafting of such agreements and advise and represent them when such agreements breakdown.
Recent examples of his work in this area include:
- Advising a French international football player on his image rights agreement and its interaction with the Premier League contract and other global sponsorship agreements.
- Advising a football club in circumstances where their sponsors sought to exert influence over the club’s transfer policy.
- Representing a sponsor in a claim against a Super League team for failure to provide services detailed in the sponsorship agreement.
- Advising commercial enterprises on the use of player image rights (soft IP).
- Representing a sponsor who sought to terminate their contract with a football club and seek damages in circumstances where the club’s conduct had caused the sponsor reputational damage.