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David Phillips QC

Call: 1976    QC: 1997

+44 (0)20 7306 0102dphillips@wilberforce.co.uk

Sports

David has had extensive involvement with sport related matters as an advisor, a litigator and an arbitrator for very many years. What is commonly referred to as “Sports Law” regularly involves substantial issues of commercial, financial, property and regulatory law – it is not all about the off-side rule. The sums of money involved are frequently significant: football, for example, (a field in which David is regularly instructed both as an advocate and as an arbitrator) is a multi-billion pound industry generating complex, high value claims. David has extensive experience both as an advocate and chairing arbitrations and similar tribunals: he is joint Legal Chairman of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain, a member of the FA judicial panel and the FA Premier League Panel, and is a Sport Resolutions arbitrator.

David has been involved in high profile sporting issues for a long time. In 2004 he was instructed in the Tigana litigation on behalf of Fulham FC – claims by Fulham against Jean Tigana, its former manager. The core allegations were of fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and dishonest receipt. The litigation included a three-week trial in the Queen’s Bench Division, appearances before the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal, as well as appeals from FIFA rulings to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland. The litigation is a clear example of the complexities and high value claims that Sports Law can generate. In 2007 David acted for Leeds United in the 15 Point controversy. Although the arbitration proceedings remain confidential, David’s involvement is a matter of public record (https://www.mightyleeds.co.uk/pdf/season200708paneldecision.pdf). David represented Leeds at every stage of the matter – from a members’ meeting of the Football League through to the final determination by the arbitration panel. Also in 2007 David represented Renault Formula 1 in proceedings before the World Motor Sport Council in Monaco, arising out of Renault’s alleged misappropriation of confidential material from Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.

Most recently David has chaired a FA Regulatory Commission investigating regulatory breaches. The proceedings, and particularly the identity of the individuals and club, are confidential: no details that might enable them to be identified can be given. The issue before the Commission was the application of the regulatory regime created by the Rules. The question at the heart of the investigation was the concept of ownership of and control of a club. The eventual decision involved an examination of the operation of a creative ownership structure, including the practical implications of discretionary offshore trusts.

David is currently chairing a FA Appeal Board involving a challenge to a regulatory sanction. The issues concern the regulatory implications of company director disqualification.

Recent decisions that are in the public domain include:

  • The Appeal Board decision (chaired by David) in the appeal of Paul Bignot – a biting case.
  • The Regulatory Commission (chaired by David) in the disciplinary hearing against Wayne Shaw (the “Roly-Poly Goalie”) – a betting case.
  • Another (presently confidential) disciplinary matter concerned a player who was made the subject of an interim suspension for betting infringements: David dealt with the matter at short notice as the sole member of the Regulatory Commission.
  • David has chaired a large number of arbitrations and similar tribunals. They have involved disputes between players and clubs, players and agents, clubs and agent. Many have raised the type of issues conventionally seen in commercial litigation. One decision that is in the public domain is Fulham FC v West Ham United (https://www.5rb.com/case/fulham-fc-v-west-ham-united/). This was a claim arising out of the Tevez registration controversy. The issue before the Panel was whether, and if so to what extent, the decision of another Panel was admissible in the current arbitration.
  • David has chaired tribunals adjudicating on selection and funding challenges made by athletes against national bodies relating to Olympic and other competitions. The nature and detail of those decisions are confidential.
  • David has acted an advisor and has appeared as an advocate in a large number of arbitrations and related matters. The matters at issue have ranged across the full breadth of the sporting industry – regulatory, contractual, financial/insolvency, and property matters.