Sports Law

Members of 2 Hare Court possess a breadth and depth of expertise across a range of areas of sports law.

Members of chambers regularly appear before a range of sport governing bodies and adjudicative tribunals, including the Football Association, the National Anti-Doping Panel, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport. As such, we are able to offer a comprehensive service of advice and representation to individuals, clubs, and corporate clients, as well as various sports governing bodies. Demanding the very highest standards of all of our members, Chambers’ expertise in sports law extends across all levels of call. This breadth of experience and expertise can and does, where necessary, extend to representing clients in criminal proceedings at the most serious level.

The great strength of Chambers in sports law is being in a position to marshal the highest standards of written and oral advocacy, and keen tactical judgement honed in other areas of practice, such as regulatory law, professional discipline and crime, and deploying them in the sports law setting.

As well as achieving the best legal and/or disciplinary outcomes for clients, we understand the commercial and reputational concerns that clients, as professionals in their own right, often have in this context. We provide advice and representation that is directed to those concerns.

In addition, a number of senior members of Chambers sit on various sports adjudicatory bodies.

Areas of Sports Law Expertise:

  • Gambling regulation
  • Corruption
  • Inquests and public inquiries
  • Anti-doping
  • Licensing
  • On-field and off-field violence
  • Disorder by athletes

Some Notable Sports Law Cases

FA v Jose Mourinho

Jonathan Laidlaw KC represented the Football Associations in proceedings brought against the then Manager of Manchester United FC, Jose Mourinho, for the use of abusive and/or insulting and/or improper language at the conclusion of a match against Newcastle United FC. An initial finding that Mr Mourinho had not used words that were abusive and/or insulting and/or improper was overturned on appeal. When the case was remitted back to the Regulatory Commission, however, Mr Mourinho’s defence of legitimate expectation was upheld.

BHA v Jim & Suzie Best

Jonathan Laidlaw KC successfully appealed the British Horseracing Authority’s four year suspension of Jim Best – owner of Grandstand Stables in Lewes – for instructing a jockey to ride two horses other than on their merits. Having found that a there was the potential for an appearance of bias on the part of the Chair of the Disciplinary Panel, and that insufficient reasons were given for the Disciplinary Panel’s decision, the Appeal Board allowed the appeal and ordered a re-hearing of the case. At the re-hearing of the case Mr Best admitted the charges and was suspended for six months.

BHA v Jim & Suzie Best

In subsequent proceedings following from the above case, Mr Best’s wife, Suzie Best, represented by Brendan Kelly KC, was successful in her own application for a trainer licence, despite her application being strenuously resisted by the BHA.

FA v Joey Barton

Christopher Coltart KC represented the Football Association in proceedings brought against Joey Barton for his placing of over 1,200 bets on football in breach of the FA’s Rules. An 18 month suspension imposed by the Independent Regulatory commission was subsequently reduced on appeal. Mr Barton’s suspension ended on 1 June 2018.

IAAF v Valentin Balakhnichev & Others

Jonathan Laidlaw KC represented the International Association of Athletics Federations in an appeal brought before the Court of Arbitration for Sport by a number of top Russian athletics officials. The case concerned the blackmailing of former London Marathon winner Liliya Shobukhova in order to cover up positive doping tests. Following a hearing in November 2016, CAS announced that the lifetime bans were upheld against the former head of the Russian Athletics Federation, Valentin Balakhnichev; the former Head Distance Coach for Russia, Alexei Melnikov; and a former marketing consultant to the IAAF and son of the former IAAF President, Papa Massata Diack.

R v Chris Cairns 

Orlando Pownall KC represented former New Zealand cricketer Chris Cairns, who was charged with perjury and perverting the course of justice following a libel case he brought against Lalit Modi, the former chairman of the Indian Premier League. The case centered around whether evidence given by Mr Cairns at that libel trial, that he had never cheated, was true or not. Mr Cairns was acquitted of both counts on the indictment.

Hillsborough Inquest

Jonathan Laidlaw KC and Tom Day were instructed to represent the FA in the inquest into the Hillsborough football disaster in which 96 football supporters lost their lives. The inquest was historic both in its scale and its conclusion. It sat for 319 days, and heard live evidence from 620 witnesses. The verdict of the inquest jury included the finding that the 96 who died had been unlawfully killed. Nikita McNeill was instructed by Sir John Goldring as Junior Counsel to the Inquest, and a number of members of Chambers were involved in the disclosure of material to the Inquest.


Julian Campbell
Julian Campbell, Director of Clerking
Sports Law Team

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