Centre for Sports Law Research
The Centre for Sports Law Research is engaged in funded consultancy for both public and private bodies on issues relevant to the legal regulation of sport. The centre has a particular focus on the intersection between sport and European law, but is also engaged with questions on both global and national levels.
Centre staff have produced reports and expert advice for a number of bodies, including the European Parliament, the European Commission and the House of Lords. Centre staff regularly give papers at professional and academic events worldwide.
The centre welcomes proposals for collaborative ventures.
The director of the Centre for Sports Law Research (CSLR) is Professor Richard Parrish, Jean Monnet Chair of EU Sports Law and Policy. Co-ordinating CSLR activities is Adam Pendlebury with other full-time members being Dr Andrea Cattaneo and Dr Leanne O’Leary who is a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) panel of arbitrators.
We are delighted to have worked with some of the most notable sports law practitioners in the UK and abroad. Currently, we work with Steven Flynn, Barrister at Kings Chambers Manchester, Nick Harrison, Barrister at 18 St John Street Chambers Manchester, Gareth Farrelly, Solicitor at Bermans and CAS arbitrator, and James Pearson, member of the renowned Brabners sports law team.
Our centre regularly collaborates with universities from across Europe. We are delighted that two leading academics are members of the CSLR. Professor Carmen Perez Gonzalez from the University Carlos III (Madrid) and Professor Vanja Smokvina from the Faculty of Law, University of Rijeka are long standing collaborators with us.
A number of our former students have gone on to work in the sports industry. Gareth Farrelly (LLB) is a solicitor at Bermans, member of the Football Association’s Regulatory Commission and a CAS arbitrator. James Pearson (LLB) is a solicitor working within the Brabners sports law team. Dr Alexandre Mestre (PhD) is a sports lawyer in Lisbon and former Secretary of State for Sport in the Portuguese Government. Dr Roberto Branco Martins (PhD) is a sports lawyer in the Netherlands and General Counsel for the European Football Agents Association. Dr Andrea Cattaneo (PhD) is an academic at Edge Hill University. Dr Peter Coenen (PhD) worked at the University of Maastricht.
The centre is engaged in funded external consultancy within its fields of expertise, and has a number of international partners with which projects requiring external expertise can be completed. To discuss a proposal and costings, please contact the director, Professor Richard Parrish.
The centre has undertaken the following consultancy activities:
- Parrish, R. Cattaneo, A et al (2019), Promoting and Supporting Good Governance in the European Football Agents Industry, Final Report.
- Parrish, R. Cattaneo, A et al (2019), National Associations’ Report
- Parrish, Richard, Fourneyron, Valérie and Zintz, Thierry et al (2016) High Level Group on Sports Diplomacy. Technical Report. European Commission, Brussels
- Parrish, R. et al (2013), co-author with the Universities of Liverpool and Loughborough ‘Study on the Assessment of UEFA’s Home-Grown Player Rule’, Study for the European Commission, EAC/07/2012, pp.138.
- Parrish, R. & Miettinen, S. (2011), co-authors with TMC Asser Institute, ‘Study into the Identification of Themes and Issues to be Dealt with in a Social Dialogue in the European Professional Basketball Sector’, Unpublished Report for the European Commission.
- Parrish, R. & Miettinen, S. (2011), co-authors with TMC Asser Instituteand University of Leiden, ‘Study on the Equal Treatment of Non-nationals in Individual Sports Competitions’, Report for the European Commission, pp. 246.
- Parrish, R. (2011), Specialist Adviser, House of Lords Inquiry into Grassroots Sport and the European Union.
- Parrish, R. & Miettinen, S. (2010), co-authors with TMC Asser Institute and Loughborough University, ‘The Lisbon Treaty and European Union Sports Policy’, Report for the European Parliament, pp. 73.
- Parrish, R. et al (2010), Group of Independent European Sport Experts Report on ‘EU Priorities in the Field of Sport’, Report for Commissioner Vassiliou, 2010, pp. 8.
- Parrish, R. (2009), co-author with TMC Asser Institute, ‘Study into the Identification of Themes and Issues to be Dealt with in a Social Dialogue in the European Professional Cycling Sector’, Report for the European Commission, pp. 168.
- Parrish, R. (2008), co-author with TMC Asser Institute, ‘Study into the Identification of Themes and Issues to be Dealt with in a Social Dialogue in the European Professional Football Sector’, Report for the European Commission, pp. 237.
- Parrish, R. (2005), co-author with TMC Asser Institute and Sport2B consultants, Professional Sport in the Internal Market’, Report for European Parliament, pp. 92.
Research in action
The Centre for Sports Law Research at Edge Hill University has been at the forefront of developments shaping the content and direction of EU sports law and policy and influencing standards in international sports governance. Below are a selection of some of our activities.
Dr O’Leary is a specialist in international sports governance and labour relations in sport. Her monograph, ‘Employment and Labour Relations Law in the Premier League, NBA and International Rugby Union’, was published by Springer in 2017. Her expertise means that Dr O’Leary is in high demand from sports bodies wanting to adopt the highest standards of governance in their sport.
Dr O’Leary has conducted a review of disciplinary procedures for an international sports federation. The review led to the sport implementing a new disciplinary procedure to secure the independence and impartiality of its judicial function. Dr O’Leary has also developed a constitutional guidance document which has helped shape standards within the member national associations and the regional federations. She has also facilitated workshops on integrity matters for the international federation.
Dr Cattaneo has presided over a dispute as mediator for the Amateur Swimming Association. Dr O’Leary sits on England Boxing’s Safeguarding Review Panel, British Canoeing’s Disciplinary, Disputes and Appeals Panel and the Premier League Judicial Panel. Dr O’Leary is a Member of Sport Resolutions (UK)’s Panel of Specialist Arbitrators and in 2019 was nominated by FIFPro, the international football players union, to sit as an arbitrator at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), an organisation known as the supreme court of global sport. Dr O’Leary is also a member of the World Athletics Vetting Panel and sits on the Governance Committee for the International Netball Federation. Through these roles, Dr O’Leary adjudicates disputes in sport and assists to shape standards of governance in national and international sport.
If you would like to learn more about this topic, please contact Dr Leanne O’Leary.
For most of the history of the EU, sport did not feature in the EU Treaties. Some sports governing bodies argued that this disadvantaged sport because EU internal markets laws were being applied to sport without any counterbalancing force in the Treaties recognising the ‘specificity of sport’. The infamous Bosman ruling of the European Court is often highlighted as an example of this insensitive application.
The entry into force of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) in December 2009 changed the constitutional landscape for sport. The new Article 165 granted the EU the power to develop a sports policy, and crucially for the sports governing bodies, Article 165 made reference to the ‘specific nature of sport’.
The development and implementation of the EU’s post Article 165 sports policy has been substantially influenced by Professor Richard Parrish, the Director of Edge Hill’s Centre for Sports Law Research. Professor Parrish provided advice and expert testimony to key policymakers: he sat on the European Commission’s Group of Independent Sports Experts (2010), he acted as Special Adviser to the UK House of Lords Inquiry into Grassroots Sport and the European Union (2011) and he co-authored the European Parliament Study The Lisbon Treaty and EU Sports Policy (2010), a study he presented to a European Parliament session in Brussels.
In 2016 Professor Parrish completed a nine month term on the European Commission’s High Level Group on Sports Diplomacy. The group, chaired by former Hungary President, Pál Schmitt, examined how sport can contribute to the delivery of the EU’s external relations agenda. Following the publication of the group’s report, the Council adopted sport diplomacy as a new EU priority in the 2017-2020 EU Work Plan for Sport. He followed this up by securing an EU grant to explore how the EU can act more strategically in the area of EU sports diplomacy.
Professor Parrish has spoken at numerous EU events including successive EU Sports Forums, European Commission seminars and advising EU Sports Directors on EU sports policy during the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU (2018).
If you would like to learn more about this topic, please contact Professor Richard Parrish.
The (CSLR) has long been associated with informing debates on the regulation of football agents. In 2007, Professor Parrish co-authored the first book exploring the regulation of football agents worldwide. Since then, he has been active in helping the European Commission set its approach to the issue of agent regulation. In 2010, he was appointed by European Commissioner Vassiliou to a Group of Independent European Sports Experts to advise the Commission on priorities in the field of sport prior to the adoption of the EU’s Communication on Sport in 2011. The Communication endorsed the findings of the expert group and prioritised, inter alia, “the promotion of good governance in sport” and “transfer rules and the activities of agents”. As one of the follow-up initiatives, on the invitation of the European Commission, Professor Parrish chaired a meeting of sports stakeholders at the European Sport Forum in Malta in 2017 to discuss the regulation of sports agents.
In 2018, Professor Parrish and Dr Cattaneo secured a grant under the EU’s Erasmus+ Programme to investigate this new system and make recommendations on how to promote higher standards of good governance in the European football agents industry. The project was led by the CSLR with partners coming from the Universidad Carlos III Madrid, the German Sport University Cologne, the University of Umeå in Sweden and the University of Rijeka in Croatia.
As part of the project, a number of stakeholder workshops were staged across Europe and the views of the key actors, including agents, clubs, players, leagues and governing bodies, were canvassed. The Final Report, published in late 2019, addressed a number of issues including a return to a licensing system supported by a system of ongoing professional education for agents, limiting who an agent can represent and placing limits on what an agent can earn. FIFA accepted many of our recommendations are in currently in the process of implementing a reformed system of agent regulation.
If you would like to learn more about this topic, please contact Professor Richard Parrish.
Throughout 2019 and 2020, Dr Cattaneo and Professor Richard Parrish led an EU funded study into how the EU can act more strategically in the area of EU sports diplomacy. This is a new policy area for the EU and one substantially influenced by the CSLR. In 2016 Professor Parrish completed a nine month term on the European Commission’s High Level Group on Sports Diplomacy. The group, chaired by former Hungary President, Pál Schmitt, examined how sport can contribute to the delivery of the EU’s external relations agenda. Following the publication of the group’s report, the Council adopted sports diplomacy as a new EU priority in the 2017-2020 EU Work Plan for Sport.
Sports diplomacy is now being increasingly employed by the EU in its relations with third states. For example, in November 2017, sport was integrated into the EU-China High Level People to People Dialogue (HPPD) which has been taking place since 2012. EU sports diplomacy took another concrete step in February 2018 with the agreement between the European Commission and UEFA adopting the Arrangement for Cooperation between the European Commission and the Union of the European Football Associations (UEFA).
Following recommendations made by the High-Level Group on Sport Diplomacy, amendments were made to the 2018 Erasmus+ funding criteria which facilitated participation from third countries. Changes were also made to the European Week of Sport programme permitting participation from Western Balkan and Eastern Partnership states. These developments show a willingness on the part of the EU to use sport to engage with non-EU states.
If you would like to learn more about this topic, please contact Dr Andrea Cattaneo.
As part of the post-Lisbon sports agenda, the Commission funded two studies into nationality discrimination in sport. The first concerned discrimination against non-nationals in individual sporting competitions. Parrish co-authored the study as the high-level EU sports law expert. The study provided advice, inter alia, on the impact of Article 165 TFEU on the ability of sports bodies to discriminate against athletes on the grounds of their nationality. This was a European Commission priority project as outlined in its 2007 White Paper on Sport.
The second study stemmed from a commitment contained in the 2011 Communication on Sport, in which the Commission committed itself to ‘assess the consequences of rules on home-grown players in team sports in 2012’. Parrish co-authored the study as the high-level EU and sports law expert. The study was delivered to the Commission in December 2012 and was published in August 2013. Parrish delivered the findings of the study to the European Commission’s Technical Committee on Free Movement of Workers (11/04/2013).
The results of the studies have informed Commission policy in this field and improved dialogue between the Commission and sports stakeholders. In 2014, the European Commission requested that Spain take action to change its rules on the composition of basketball teams as the quota for locally trained players gave rise to indirect nationality discrimination, a finding suggested by the first study. The second study was cited three times by Advocate General of the European Court of Justice in the ground-breaking TopFit judgment of 2019 (Case C-22/18 TopFit e.V Daniele Biffi v Deutscher Leichtathletikverband e.V). The case involved discrimination in amateur athletics in sport. In its judgment, the Court of Justice broke new ground by adopting our recommendation that EU rules prohibiting nationality discrimination apply to amateur as well as professional sport.
Sports Law Insights
The two faces of sports law
Sports law is a fascinating and rapidly developing field of legal practice and academic inquiry. It is an area of law that presents two faces: a public and a private.
The public face of sports law refers to the approach taken to sport by government, parliament and the courts. The UK operates a non-interventionist sports model which implies an ‘arms-length’ role for the state in sport in which sports are organised by the sporting associations themselves rather than through state legislation. This model reflects the prevailing view in UK politics that sport is essentially a private pursuit to be organised and promoted by private interests. Nevertheless, the state has recognised that as sport performs some public and quasi-public functions, it should retain an interest in the sector, although this interest is generally elaborated through arm’s length / semi-governmental organisations such the sports councils. Consequently, in theory at least, sports bodies in the UK retain autonomy to determine their own organisational and regulatory choices free from state interference. In practice, these choices are restricted by statutory and judicial influences on sport most notably in the areas of:
The public face of sports law has been expanded by the increasing involvement of the European Union in sporting matters. In the 1974 Walrave judgment, the Court of Justice of the European Union stated that sport is subject to European Union law whenever it is practiced as an economic activity, although some sporting rules, such as rules restricting eligibility to represent a national team, were removed from EU oversight if they amounted to rules of purely sporting interest. The recent approach of the court is to treat most sporting activity as falling within the scope of EU law, although the court does recognise that certain sporting rules should be sympathetically treated, particularly within the scope of the Treaty provisions dealing with freedom of movement for workers and competition law. The ability of the European court to recognise the special characteristics of sport when applying these Treaty provisions has been strengthened by the entry into force of Article 165 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) which calls upon the institutions of the EU to recognise the specific nature of sport. Although the relationship between UK sport and EU law is in a state of uncertainty following Brexit, the EU has been particularly influential in developing sports law in the areas of:
The private face of sports law refers to the rules and constitutions of sports governing bodies and the jurisprudence of the specialist sports tribunals and appeals bodies. In football, for example, FIFA rules establish the global parameters in which regional confederations, such as UEFA, and national associations, such as the English Football Association, devise their own set of regulations.
At each level specialist sports tribunals operate to hear disputes arising from these regulations. These decisions, in some cases, can be appealed to the supreme court of sport – the Swiss based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The existence of these sports tribunals and CAS has led some commentators to argue that the public face of sports law should step aside to allow sport to develop its own legal system which is more cost effective and quicker than recourse to ordinary courts.
This system of sporting justice, which is often referred to as the emerging lex sportiva, has substantially shaped a range of sporting rules including those related to commercial and disciplinary matters.
Jean Monnet Chair
In 2016, Professor of Sports Law at Edge Hill University Richard Parrish, was awarded the title of Jean Monnet Chair in EU Sports Law and Policy by the EU. Professor Parrish is the first Edge Hill academic to receive this accolade, which is named after one of the founding fathers of the European Union. The title is awarded by the EU following a worldwide call for applications. The Jean Monnet Chair is awarded to academics, policymakers, professionals and members of civil society who are active in the field of EU studies.
Throughout the duration of the award, running from 2016 to 2019, Professor Parrish has embarked on a programme of activities designed to advance awareness and understanding of EU sports law and policy.
Due to the support from the Jean Monnet Chair scheme, Edge Hill University offers a free annual EU Sports Law and Policy Summer School which attracts attendees from across Europe and beyond. The Summer School is delivered by Professor Parrish with assistance from members of the Centre for Sports Law Research and leading academics and practitioners from across Europe. Materials from our Summer School can be found on our EU summer school section.
In addition to the Summer School, students at Edge Hill have the opportunity to study two sports law modules, one in each semester of year three. Both modules extensively cover issues pertaining to EU sports law and policy including topics discussed on our Sports Law insights section. In 2018, Professor Parrish edited a collection of essays to accompany the modules.
Professor Parrish has been researching EU sports law and policy for over 20 years. A list of his publications can be accessed at on Edge Hill’s institutional repository.
To mark the occasion of his Jean Monnet award, Professor Parrish co-edited an extensive volume of papers on EU sports law and policy with Professor Jack Anderson and Borja García. The Edward Elgar Research Handbook on EU Sports Law and Policy features essays from leading academics and practitioners from across Europe. The foreword is written by Yves le Lostecque, Head of the Sport Unit in the European Commission.
Throughout the duration of the award, Professor Parrish staged a number of events and provided expert advice at a number of high-profile EU events. Further details of these events can accessed at the Centre for Sports Law Research homepage.
Professor Parrish has also used his position as Jean Monnet Chair to use evidence based research to inform decisions on EU sports law and policy at official EU level. For example, during the duration of the Jean Monnet award, he has spoken at the following official EU events:
- The European Model of Sport, EU Sport Directors meeting, Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU, Vienna, 12/12/18.
- The European Model of Sport: How to define it, How to protect it? European Commission, Brussels, 18/09/18.
- The ISU case, EU Sport Forum, Sofia, Bulgaria, 23/03/18. EU Sport Diplomacy Seminar, Brussels, 6/12/17.
- ‘Agents and Intermediaries’ panel at EU Sport Forum, Malta, 08/03/17
- European Week of Sport: Flagship Event, Brussels, 16/09/16.
EU Football Agents Project
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
Promoting and supporting good governance in the European football agents industry
This project received financial support under the EU’s Erasmus+ Programme (Collaborative Partnerships). The project commenced in January 2018 and will conclude in December 2019. The project is led by Edge Hill University (represented by Professor Richard Parrish) and the project partners are the Universidad Carlos III Madrid, the German Sport University Cologne, the University of Umeå in Sweden and the University of Rijeka in Croatia.
The focus of this project is to undertake evidence based research in order to promote and support good governance in the context of the regulation of football players’ agents (now referred to as ‘intermediaries’) in the EU.
Throughout the duration of the project, we will be hosting a series of international seminars designed to foster dialogue between the football stakeholders. We will also be undertaking an ambitious research plan which will detail how the FIFA Regulations on Working With Intermediaries have been implemented by national football associations across the EU.
For further information on the project, see the EU’s Erasmus+ page and follow us on Twitter. If you have any questions regarding the project, please contact Professor Richard Parrish.
EU Sport Diplomacy Project
This project received financial support under the EU’s Erasmus+ Programme (Collaborative Partnerships). The project commenced in January 2019 and concluded in December 2021 following a Covid-19 extension.
Promoting a strategic approach to EU sport diplomacy
The project was led by Edge Hill University (represented by Professor Richard Parrish) and the project partners were the Universidad Carlos III Madrid, The University of Rijeka, Faculty of Law, the TMC Asser Institute, ESSCA, Université Catholique de Louvain and the Macedonian NGO TAKT (Together Advancing Common Trust). We co-operated with our associate partner, the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS) from the Council of Europe.
The project undertook primary research and staged a series of Multiplier Sport Events (MSE) to support EU priorities in the area of sport diplomacy. The project outcomes will help the EU adopt a strategic approach to sport diplomacy and provide evidence of instances where sport can help amplify key EU diplomatic messages and help forge better diplomatic relations with third countries.
Some members of the project team, including the project lead, were members of the EU’s High-Level Group on Sport Diplomacy that produced a report for the European Commission in 2016. Project lead, Professor Richard Parrish, is also a member of a second Erasmus+ funded project examining the development of EU sport diplomacy. For further details see the TES-D project, Towards an EU sport diplomacy.
OutputsFinal report Executive summary Sport and citizenship
EU summer school
In 2016, Professor Richard Parrish was awarded a Jean Monnet Chair in EU Sports Law and Policy. To mark this achievement, the Centre for Sports Law Research now offers an annual EU Sports Law and Policy Summer School. The first such Summer School was held at Edge Hill University at the end of August 2017. With the generous support of the EUs Erasmus + Programme, the events were offered free of charge and they attracted delegates from across Europe. In addition to the classes delivered by Professor Parrish, delegates were able to learn from a number of experts from the Sport & EU community.
To contact the centre, please email Professor Richard Parrish.