After a recent spate of high-profile cases, Spurs director of football administration and barrister Darren Eales is aiming to keep future disputes out of court
Tottenham Hotspur FC has had more than its fair share of press attention in the past year, even for a Premiership side.
Apart from run-of-the-mill football fodder such as the team losing its large points lead over arch-rivals Arsenal FC and manager Harry Redknapp’s anticipated defection to the England set-up, the club has also been involved in a number of headline-grabbing court cases.
There was a judicial review (JR) – dropped in October 2011 – into the Government’s decision to award West Ham United FC the mandate to take over the Olympic Stadium after 2012.
Then there was a claim from West Ham and its vice-chair Karren Brady alleging that Spurs asked corporate investigators PKF to access Brady’s telephone records.
And at the start of this year Redknapp defeated claims suggesting he was involved in a tax evasion scam during his time as manager of Portsmouth FC.
For barrister Darren Eales, who has been director of football administration at Spurs since July 2010, it has been a busy time. Although he was not involved directly in any of the actions, with Olswang and Blackstone Chambers handling the JR application and Russell Cooke and 5RB dealing with the telephone records case, he had to make sure he was kept informed at every stage.
Despite the Redknapp case being a personal matter, Eales and the club’s other directors accompanied their team’s manager to court every day to show solidarity in what they felt was a misguided claim.
For the most part Eales relies on Mishcon de Reya consultant Selwyn Tash, who he calls “very sharp and thorough”, to handle commercial legal work – a relationship he describes as “the perfect partnership”.
This allows Eales to focus on matters such as overseeing the development of a state-of-the-art training ground in Enfield that will boast 14 outdoor pitches, a full-size indoor pitch and two floodlit artificial playing areas.
Which is not to say that Eales, who is still a door tenant at 2 Temple Gardens, has no involvement in legal matters. As a member of both the Premier League Legal Advisory Group and the European Club Association’s (ECA) Legal Advisory Panel, there are inter-club issues aplenty to keep him occupied.
On UK legal issues that affect the league generally or individual clubs specifically, Eales works alongside Chelsea FC chairman and Skadden partner Bruce Buck, Manchester United director and Brabners Chaffe Street partner Maurice Watkins, Manchester City general counsel Simon Cliff and Sunderland FC chief executive Margaret Byrne, a solicitor.
“Fifa is changing the rules on agents and we’d give advice on that,” explains Eales. “We’re also advising on the Elite Player Performance Plan, a restructuring of the development of talent from age six to the under-21 level. The idea is to improve the system. We set up a taskforce that went to look at other countries and came up with recommendations to put in place. Our group will do the drafting.”
At the European level, Eales is part of the 20-member ECA panel, which is putting together a mediation system to deal with inter-club disputes. Currently these are handled by Fifa’s dispute resolution chamber, with appeals dealt with by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The trouble is, says Eales, that Fifa has a big backlog of cases, meaning any club chasing payment to do with a transfer, say, faces a wait of anything up to two years.
“There’s no doubt that it’s good to have a football matter resolved in a football arbitration rather than at the High Court,” says Eales. “The ECA came up with the idea that if there’s a dispute between clubs in the association, rather than have the Fifa process there’s the option to go to the ECA for mediation. We’re about to roll out a year-long pilot and will see how it goes. The idea is that if, for example, Arsenal had a dispute with Barcelona over a clause in a contract, they would jointly pick a mediator from the ECA panel and then meet at ECA’s offices in Nyon, Switzerland.
“What’s interesting about it is that it’s football-specific so I think it’ll be quite effective.”
In the meantime, with Spurs securing planning permission last year for a new stadium at its White Hart Lane home, Eales and his fellow directors are focusing on securing finance and naming rights so they can stick to their 2015-16 completion plan. Then all they have to do is work out how to build a 60,000-capacity stadium around the club’s existing ground without disrupting the team’s fixtures. Easy, right?
Position: Director of football administration
Reporting to:Chairman Daniel Levy
Annual legal spend:Approximately £500,000 (cost of recent extraordinary matters around £2.5m)
Global legal capability:One
Main external law firms:Brabners Chaffe Street, Mishcon de Reya, Olswang
Richard Garlick, legal director/club secretary, West Bromwich Albion FC
From the moment I joined West Bromwich Albion FC as legal counsel/club secretary in 2010, I was aware that the club was very forward-thinking and operated a little differently to a lot of other professional football outfits. Whether it is my combined role or the club having a head coach rather than a manager,
West Brom is in many ways unique in this country.
Challenging the traditional way in which the football industry operates on both a sporting and commercial front throws up different issues and challenges. While some parts of the football industry, such as the Premier League, are innovative and proactive, others are more set in their ways – “it’s a traditional football thing” is often used as a justification for resisting changes to the way in which the industry operates.
The exciting thing about working at West Brom is that the club is trying constantly to push the boundaries regarding how it conducts its business.
Of course, it is the prerogative of each and every club or organisation to run its affairs
how it deems fit. We, as a club, are very respectful of Fifa, Uefa, the Premier League, Football League and the FA, under whose prescriptive rules the club operates. It is essential to build strong relationships with these regulatory bodies and earn their respect so that they will work with the club in finding ways to achieve our sporting and commercial aims.
Alistair Maclean, company secretary/group legal director, Football Association
The Footbal Association (FA) is the national governing body for football in England. Its regulatory functions relate to the sanctioning and administration of the game and it deals with disciplinary matters on and off the field through our governance division, headed by Darren Bailey.
The FA generates revenue from the commercial rights it owns or controls, such as the FA Cup and the 24 England teams; as a not-for-profit organisation it distributes this revenue back into the game. The FA has a number of subsidiary companies, including Wembley Stadium, which hosts multiple events, including concerts; FA Learning, our educational business that trains coaches and others within the game; and St George’s Park, the training home of the England teams and a national coach education, development and sports medicine centre for football, sport and business.
The FA is more than a governing body: my team deals with a diverse range of legal matters, such as commercial contracts, from multimillion-pound media rights agreements to staging a Coldplay concert; litigation, including high-profile media litigation; and corporate support, from an employment contract with the England manager to the mini bars being installed in the Hilton hotel at St George’s Park. In addition, as company secretary I oversee the corporate governance issues of the organisation and have been heavily involved in the ongoing Select Committee review.