Ten firms win spots on panel serving 300 sporting bodies

Ten law firms have been picked for the inaugural legal panel serving 300 national governing bodies of sport.

Last September, Sport England recognised that recreational bodies were finding it difficult to access legal services because of the cost. It joined UK Sport, Sport Wales and the Sport and Recreation Alliance to establish a joint panel for the National Governing Bodies of Sport (14 November 2011).

After 76 firms  submitted applications, 30 firms were invited to tender and 15 were interviewed. The 10 successful firms – Bates Wells Braithwaite, Brabners Chaffe Street, Dolmans, Farrer & Co, Gateley, Moorhead James, Muckle, Pinsent Masons, Thomas Eggar, and Wright Hassall – will advise the 300 sporting bodies for three years with an option of a fourth.

The panel was put together by senior Sport England in-house solicitor Erin Stephens, UK Sport legal adviser Vijay Parbat, SRA governance and compliance officer Joy Tottman  and British Sub-Aqua Club CEO Mary Tetley.

Stephens said the 10 firms were appointed based on “price, value-added services, their understanding and experience of working with sport organisations and commitment to training and development”.

She explained: “The legal panel framework aims to make it easier for national governing bodies and wider sport and recreation organisations to identify and gain access to high quality legal firms at fair rates – delivering better value for money and providing a wide range of value-added opportunities for the sector.

“While we’ve found the procurement process to be at times challenging and time consuming, collectively we feel that we’ve established a panel of law firms who not only understand the day-to-day legal needs of national governing bodies, but who also want to make a positive contribution to the sport sector by assisting national governing bodies in improving standards.”

The areas of law that the panel will advise on are comprehensive, but include administrative and public law; bidding and staging major events ; data protection/privacy; employment law; property, planning and construction law; and publishing/media law.

Bates Wells & Braithwaite partner Thea Longley said: “National governing bodies are facing some challenges in the next few months with Sport England issuing their new funding documentation and many are dealing with selection procedures for the Olympics and Paralympics – so the panel couldn’t have been announced at a better time.”

Jason Smith, a partner at Brabners, which has worked with British Cycling, British Swimming and Commonwealth Games England in the past, said: “This provides us with an opportunity to share the expertise which we acquired from working within the sector for many years, helping sporting bodies face the increasing legal environment in which they operate. For us it reinforces our position as one of leading law firms in the country who advise across all sectors of sport and recreation and follows on being appointed to London 2012 pro-bono service.”

Sport and Recreation Alliance chief executive Tim Lamb said the joint tender process demonstrates the “benefits that can be achieved through collaboration”, adding: “Sport and recreation bodies are very aware of the complex legal environment in which they operate and there’s a real need for them to know which legal firms to turn to and for what issues, in order to get advice and support at a reasonable cost.”