Sports & Employment

In the world of professional sport, where there is so much emphasis and media coverage of the commercial picture, it is easy to overlook that sports people such as players, coaches and other key talent are employees as well, and therefore are subject to the same obligations and entitled to the same protections as "regular" employees. It is important for our clients to ensure that HR legal issues (including business and sports immigration) are properly addressed across all aspects of business in sport.  

Our employment sports law specialists support our sports sector clients - such as clubs, players, governing bodies etc. - with the regular and standard day-today employment and HR queries for the employees within their offices, but we also help clients with more niche requests that are specific to the sports industry. We assist our clients in achieving the following key aims and objectives, among others:

General business employment support:

  • disciplinary and grievance issues and employee investigations;
  • restructuring, redundancies and business re-organisations;
  • advising on the application of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations on sports-related contracts such as stadium catering and online merchandising;
  • immigration applications for non-sporting talent and immigration compliance for sports organisations;
  • protection of trade secrets and confidential information; and
  • Employment Tribunal and HR-related litigation for a variety of claims.

Employment support for players, coaches, and key talents within sport:

  • drafting employment contracts for key sporting talent, for both physical and esports organisations;
  • advising on rules relating to the employment of children and young people in conjunction with the Sports Group’s safeguarding specialists;
  • advising on the impact of Brexit on player quotas in European tournaments;
  • advising on the impact of Covid-19 on sports employees and tournaments, including return to play protocols and the rules of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Coronavirus Job Support Scheme;
  • advising on the application of restrictive covenants for players and coaches; and
  • advising on the sporting visa categories under the UK's Immigration Rules, including applications for Governing Body status, applications under the Tier 2 (Sports) and Tier 5 (Creative & Sporting) and challenges to Home Office criteria.

Case studies

Johanna Konta: We started working with Johanna when she was a junior tennis player who had recently relocated to the UK with the aim of representing Team GB. We advised on how to keep her absences from the UK (for example, warm weather training and tournaments) within acceptable limits for settlement purposes and on all other immigration preparatory steps for a citizenship application. We submitted Johanna’s application to be naturalised as a British citizen and liaised with the Home Office to expedite processing in order that Johanna could obtain a British passport in time to represent Team GB at the 2012 Wimbledon Championships.

British & Irish Lions: We advised the British and Irish Lions on the appointment of Warren Gatland as Head Coach of the Lions tour of South Africa in 2021. This involved managing the inter-relationship between “pure” employment law and the particular terms relating to the organisation and management of a professional rugby team as well as wider sports/commercial terms such as image rights and publicity. We also prepared the contracts for a number of other senior employees for the Tour and have advised on employment law issues relating to the potential impact of Covid-19 on the Tour.

Key Contact

Jonathan Goldsworthy


The advice and support we get from the team is consistently of a very high quality,” one client comments, adding: “They're very knowledgeable, flexible and hard-working.”

Chambers, 2020