Steven Flynn – Head of Sport, Media and Entertainment Group
Phone: 0161 214 1500
Year of call: 2006Book BarristerDownload Details
“A very grounded barrister with a great intellect.” Legal 500 2019
Steven is head of St John’s Buildings Sport, Media and Entertainment Law Group and is one of a select few barristers who spends the majority of their time dealing with legal issues in a sporting context. This has included advising professional football players and teams on contractual and image right issues; representing governing bodies and participants at disciplinary hearings; defending a professional rugby club against a breach of contact claim by their first-team coach; and appearing for a promising young athlete in a discrimination claim against his sport’s governing body.
Away from sports sector, Steven specialises in commercial and employment disputes. His practice involves him regularly dealing with high profile and complex litigation before the High Court and EAT, as well as arbitration bodies. He is instructed on many high value matters. By virtue of his experience in employment and commercial litigation, he is regularly instructed to deal with issues arising from employment contracts, breach of confidence, restrictive covenants and shareholder rights/obligations.
- Cardiff University
- Cardiff Law School
- Gray’s Inn
- British Association for Sport and Law
- Employment Law Association
- Employment Law Bar Association
- The British Irish Commercial Bar Association
- British Gymnastics Disciplinary Appeal Panel Member
- British Cycling Disciplinary Appeal Panel Chair
- England Boxing Disciplinary Panel Member
- Sports Resolutions’ Pro Bono Legal Services Panel
“Very knowledgeable, thorough and technical.” Legal 500 2017
- For Sports Law updates follow: @uksportslaw
Sport, Media and Entertainment Law
Steven is Head of St John’s Buildings Sport, Media and Entertainment Law Group and is one of a select few barristers who spends the majority of their time dealing with legal issues in a sporting context. His particular expertise is in dealing with contractual/commercial disputes in this sector as well and disciplinary and regulatory issues.
Steven is regularly instructed by players, clubs, agents, governing bodies, players’ unions, fans and sponsors across a wide variety of sports including football, rugby union and league, boxing, tennis and golf. He has advised at all levels of sport and has acted for and against many high profile participants and organisations including matters involving: the FA; the RFU; the Premier League; Manchester United FC; Manchester City FC; Chelsea FC; Swansea City AFC; the LTA; Rotherham Titans RFC; Bradford Bulls RLFC; Toronto Wolfpack RLFC; Chester Racecourse; Archery GB; the PFA; the RLPA; the FSF; and many others. He has also been instructed by high profile companies who wish to enter into commercial rights/sponsorship agreements with such organisations.
In addition to dealing with commercial and regulatory matters, Steven is also regularly instructed in cases relating to discrimination in sport. He has experience in advising on the rights and obligations imposed on players, clubs and governing bodies by the Equality Act 2010 including appearing in a trial due to last 6 weeks where a participant claimed £120 million from a governing body.
Steven’s work also involves him representing participants before disciplinary and appeals panels, as well in court and at arbitration. This has included Rule K arbitration, the EFL Player Related Dispute Commission, the British Boxing Board of Control Regulation 24 arbitration and referrals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Steven has been appointed by British Gymnastics, British Cycling and England Boxing to sit on their disciplinary/appeals panels.
A summary of his work in different areas can be found below.
Steven is regularly instructed by sports agents who seek his assistance in the drafting of agency agreements so as to adequately protect their interests. He also advises participants as to the legal implications of any agency agreement that they are planning to enter and represents both agents and participants in breach of contract/unpaid fee disputes. He has recently:
- Represented a manager in a British Boxing Board of Control Regulation 24 Arbitration in a £30 million claim against his former client
- Represented a player in Rule K arbitration proceedings relating to a claim for commission arising from his transfer to the Chinese Super League
- Advised an English international footballer on the enforceability of a contract he had entered with a sports agency
- Advised a sports agency on a claim for non-payment of fees by a club and the referral of the dispute to the Court of Arbitration for Sport
- Drafted an agency agreement for use by a World Champion boxer
- Advised a footballer as to the potential remedies available to him against an agent whose actions had prevented his move to a Premier League club.
Disciplinary and other internal proceedings
As well as representing clubs and participants who were subject to disciplinary action before the RFU, FA, RFL and PGA, Steven also sits as a disciplinary officer for British Gymnastics, British Cycling and England Boxing. He is regularly instructed by the RFU to represent it at disciplinary hearings relating to both on-field and off-field offences. He has also represented participants seeking to overturn disciplinary sanctions through Rule K arbitration. Recent cases include:
- Representing the RFU at the disciplinary hearing where an England international was found to have made homophobic remarks during the course of the game
- Representing a governing body in a ‘tapping-up’ case where both the agent and the approaching club were fould to have acted in breach of the sports regulations
- Representing an English rugby union international who was cited the week before the 6 Nations Championship. If the citing was upheld, the player would have missed the Championship. The citing was dismissed and the original yellow card rescinded
- Representing a high profile football coach accused of having made racist comments towards players
- Representing a football club charged by the FA with failing to control their players in circumstances where they were alleged to have racially abused their opponents during a match. The club was cleared before an FA disciplinary panel of any wrongdoing
- Advising an owner who was banned from all football related activity as he challenged the sanction through the Rule K arbitration
- Represented a professional footballer accused of match-fixing/manipulation
- Representing a football league that was called before an FA Commission of Inquiry arising from a fundamental breakdown in the relationship between the league and the County FA
- Represented a golfer who was called before the PGA Disciplinary Committee for alleged misconduct.
Discrimination in Sport
Steven has a great deal of experience of cases involving discrimination in a sporting context. He represents participants at all levels, from those who are attending their first coaching session through to elite athletes who have suffered loss of funding or career damage because of discrimination. He also advises service providers (e.g. clubs, governing bodies, venues) as to their duties under the Equality Act 2010. Examples of his work include:
- Representing a talented tennis player in a claim alleging discrimination, harassment and victimisation against the Lawn Tennis Association. The player alleged that the LTA’s actions had caused career long losses exceeding £120 million. The case was listed before HHJ Hand in the Central London County Court for a 6 week trial at which Steven was led by David Berkley QC
- Advising a Paralympian who had been subjected to harassment by the governing body of his sport
- Advising a disabled supporters’ group seeking to challenge a Premier League Club’s compliance with its duty to make reasonable adjustments and failure to comply with the Accessible Stadia guidance issued by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority
- Representing a child who was excluded from a sports club because of his disability.
Player/Participants Contracts and Transfers
Agents, players and clubs regularly instruct Steven to consider issues surrounding employment/funding contracts. He also provides guidance on legal issues that arise during transfers and representation in breach of contract claims. Some of his recent cases include:
- Advising a football scout accused of conspiracy, including a breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duties in a claim for in excess of £4 million
- Representing the owners of a football club in a £20 million plus unfair prejudice claim
- Assisting a football coach to secure a high value exit package from a Premier League football club
- Representing 43 ex-players and staff dismissed by a professional rugby league team
- Advising 3 professional athletes who were subject to disciplinary proceedings following drugs related allegations
- Advising senior coaches/executives on their exit packages
- Representing a professional rugby club in a breach of contract claim pursued by their former first-team coach
- Advising a professional football club on player contracts in light of amendments to the FIFA Regulations
- Representing a footballer before the EFL Player Related Dispute Commission
- Advising a professional football coach as to whether his media work could amount to a breach of his contract of employment
- Advising a Championship level football coach on the form and content of his contract
- Advising on the contractual status of a professional golfer.
Sale and Purchase of Clubs/Sporting Venues
Given Steven’s commercial law background and sports sector experience, he is positioned to advise on issues relating to the sale and purchase of sports clubs and venues. His work has included drafting an agreement for use in a £100 million deal. Some of the work he has done includes:
- Being instructed by the sellers of a Premier League club to advise on the terms of sale and to redraft the proposed Share Purchase Agreement
- Representing the owners of a football club in a £20 million plus unfair prejudice claim
- Advising a ‘fans group’ on their buy-out of a football club in administration. This included advising on the purchase of items that vested with the Crown; drafting a new constitution; and providing guidance on the terms and conditions of player contracts
- Dealing with a minority shareholder dispute in relation to the ownership of a race course.
Steven has a particular interest in sponsorship and image rights agreements. He has been instructed by numerous agents, clubs, participants and sponsors to assist with the negotiating and drafting of such agreements and advise and represent them when such agreements breakdown. Recent examples of his work in this area include:
- Advising a French international football player on his image rights agreement and its interaction with the Premier League contract and other global sponsorship agreements
- Advising a football club in circumstances where their sponsors sought to exert influence over the club’s transfer policy
- Representing a sponsor in a claim against a Super League team for failure to provide services detailed in the sponsorship agreement
- Advising commercial enterprises on the use of player image rights (soft IP)
- Representing a sponsor who sought to terminate their contract with a football club and seek damages in circumstances where the club’s conduct had caused the sponsor reputational damage
- Providing guidance to agents on how to arrange sponsorship deals so as to maximise the value of their players’ image rights across multiple global regions.
Steven also offers his service as an arbitrator in sporting disputes. This includes both sitting as a sole arbitrator or as a member of a panel. Steven has particular experience in arbitrations that involve contractual and employment issues in a sporting context, as well as challenges to the decisions of governing bodies. He is willing to accept instruction to carry out a paper based exercise or to offer a fixed fee service (to include directions, the hearing and drafting of the award).
If you would like to discuss engaging Steven as an arbitrator then please contact Chris Shaw on 0161 214 1500.Book BarristerBack to top
Steven’s Employment law practice involves him advising employers and employees at all stages from contractual negotiations through to final hearing, and if necessary, to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Steven is frequently instructed in cases that involve issues of discrimination, TUPE, restrictive covenants, whistleblowing and unfair dismissal. Many of his cases are of a high value (£250k+). He regularly acts on behalf of national and international companies; local authorities; and government agencies, as well as trade unions and their members. He has experience of dealing with matters both within the Employment Tribunal system and the High/County Court.
Steven has particular interest in the following areas:
- Breach of Contract claims in the High/County Court;
- Breach of confidence
- Misuse of confidential information
- Partnership disputes
- Restrictive Covenants.
Steven is also regularly instructed by Local Authorities and companies to assist in the drafting of their policies. These have included redundancy policies; agency worker policies; and employee shareholder schemes.
Steven has experience in cases involving financial services misconduct (insider trading, market manipulation etc.); blacklisting; and cases involving a jurisdictional element (e.g. whether the Employment Tribunal/British Courts have jurisdiction to hear a case). He also has a growing appellate practice and is regularly instructed to advise and appear in cases before the Employment Appeal Tribunal and, on occasion, the Court of Appeal.
EAD Solicitors -v- Abrams (2015) I.R.L.R. 978: Acting for the successful claimant where Langstaff P held, in the first judgment of its type, that companies can bring claims for discrimination. This decision has been widely reported as ground-breaking as it opens up the possibility of direct and indirect discrimination claims being brought across a number of practice areas.
Old -v- Palace Fields Primary Academy (2015) EMPLR 018: The appellant was a teacher who was dismissed for gross misconduct for her actions following an incident of bullying in which a pupil had written offensive remarks on the picture of a classmate. The appeal related to procedural irregularity and was successful. The case has been cited in the IDS Employment Law Handbooks on the issues of conduct and fees. The case is important as it deals with the width of the EAT’s discretion on the issue of fees.
Graham Hennis -v- Oldham MBC: A claim of unfair dismissal by a social worker who had been dismissed after being accused of neglecting a service user before he committed suicide. The case centred on Oldham’s policy and procedures relating to the allocation of cases. The case lasted three days after which the claimant was found to have been unfairly dismissed. The judgment was a damning assessment of procedure followed by Oldham and was widely reported e.g. The Manchester Evening News.
Examples of work undertaken include:
Contracts & Exit Agreements
- Office Holders – Advising on the establishment of a QUANGO; including the transfer of employees and the employment status of Office Holders.
- Service Agreements – Drafting employment service agreements for company directors.
- Share Options – Advising whether share option entitlements are discretionary or not.
- Exit packages – Advising a senior safety executive on his exit from a market leading automotive company in circumstances where he may be required to give evidence in the event of a product recall.
- Financial Services – Advising a director of a publically traded company on his position in the event that he chose to blow the whistle to the FCA on insider trading and market manipulation within his company.
- Collective agreements – providing guidance as to whether collective agreements were incorporated into contracts of employment following numerous TUPE transfers and an absence of detail as to the date of agreement.
- Advising a senior executive as to whether he had been constructively dismissed so as to render void the restrictive covenants contained within his employment contract.
- Representing a solicitors’ firm in circumstances where an associate who had been made redundant set up in competition and attempted to poach clients.
- Drafting restrictive covenants for former owner/directors where their company has been bought out and they are to be engaged as employees.
- Advising a professional football coach as to whether his media work could amount to a breach of his contract of employment.
- Representing a School and Local Authority in the high profile case of a teacher who had sprayed young children with air freshener.
- Whistleblowing within an educational setting – a claim by three teachers that they had suffered detriment as a consequence of ‘blowing the whistle’ on racial discrimination against NQTs.
- Race Discrimination – Representing a university in a case where it was accused of not offering an academic role to an individual because of his race.
- Detriment as a consequence of trade union membership – Representing a group of university lecturers in a case where settlement terms were reached whereby each member of the group received a sum in excess of £100k.
- Appeal to the EAT on behalf of a teacher who was found to be fairly dismissed even though the investigating officer had withheld material information.
High Court/County Court
- Advising a stockbroker on his claim for breach of contract against his former employer. Value of claim is £800,000 plus.
- Injunction to prevent use of information obtained during course of employment.
- Reference – representing a company that was accused of giving an inaccurate reference.
- Advising a long-term, senior employee who has been promised a payment of £10m upon sale of a company.
- Breach of a restrictive covenant – claim for losses arising from breach of covenant.
- Bonus claim by employee for $300,000.
- Representing a director-employee who was alleged to have misappropriated funds from his employer.
- Claim by company to recover £110,000 that had been lent to an employee but never repaid.
- Sexual Misconduct – Representing a doctor accused of sexual misconduct against a member of the hospital staff where he was a named respondent.
- Whistleblowing – Representing an NHS trust against an employee who claimed they had been dismissed for blowing the whistle on regulatory failures.
- Pharmacy – Advising a pharmacy on the effect of regulatory provisions on their contracts of employment.
- Appeal to the EAT in a case where a care home contended that it was entitled to withhold information during the disciplinary process on the grounds that there was a concurrent police investigation.
- Redundancy – Instructed by a Local Authority to assist in the formation of a redundancy policy that incorporated the possibility of voluntary severance payments.
- Employee Shareholder Agreement – Advising companies on the benefits and drawbacks of offering employees the possibility of becoming shareholders. This has also included drafting such agreements.
- Agency Workers – Reviewing and providing amendments to a Local Authority’s draft agency worker policy.
Trade Union Membership / Collective Rights
- Blacklisting – Representing companies accused of making use of the Consulting Agency’s blacklist.
- Collective Redundancy – Advising a group of solicitors who were subject to a collective redundancy consultation as to their rights and possible exit strategies.
- Detriment as a consequence of trade union membership. As noted above, representing a group of academics who had suffered detriment as a consequence of their trade union membership. Settlement terms were reached whereby each member of the group received a sum in excess of £100k.
- Dismissal for making a protected disclosure in relation to inadequate provision for emergency services.
- As noted above, whistleblowing cases in the context of the education and medical profession.
- Disclosing information to the FCA about insider trading and market manipulation.
- Teaching case in which damages were assessed in excess of £400k.
- Appeal to the EAT in relation to a Claimant’s decision to undertake unconnected academic training rather than seek further employment.
- Appeal to the EAT on whether the Claimant had failed to mitigate her loss in refusing an offer of re-employment when bad faith was found on behalf of the Respondent.
- Pension – Calculating pension loss of those unfairly dismissed and discriminated against using both the simplified and substantial method.
Recent Seminars include:
- Do you know that companies can bring claims for discrimination?
- TUPE: The New Regime
- Restrictive Covenants – Are yours enforceable?
- Employment Law in Education
- Care Quality Commission – The Significance of Registration
- Whistleblowing: The 4 questions that must be asked in every case
- Employment Contracts and the effects of insolvency
Company and Commercial
Steven has a broad commercial practice encompassing duties arising from contractual relationships as well as those imposed by statute. He is regularly instructed by both national and international companies including banks, airlines, construction companies, car manufacturers and those within the financial services industry. Steven also represents directors, company secretaries, office holders and shareholders, as well as individuals in disputes with corporate bodies and other individuals.
Within a commercial context he has particular experience in dealing with directors’ contracts and duties; restrictive covenants; and shareholder right disputes.
Given his commercial and employment background, Steven is often instructed to consider the enforceability of potentially discriminatory contractual provisions. He appeared for the successful claimant in the case of EAD Solicitors v Abrams  I.R.L.R. 978 where Langstaff P held, in the first judgment of its type, that companies could bring claims for discrimination. Steven has also defended banks against claims alleging unlawful discrimination in the provision of services.
Examples of work undertaken include:
- General commercial contract litigation and arbitration
- Sale of goods, consumer credit and leasing agreements
- Construction contracts
- Claims under the Commercial Agents (Council Directive) Regulations 1993
- Discrimination – challenging the enforceability of discriminatory contractual terms
- Partnership, LLP and LP disputes
- Shareholder disputes including unfair prejudice and derivative claims
- Statutory and fiduciary duties of directors, partners and members.
Directors’ Contracts & Duties
Due to Steven’s employment law background, he is regularly instructed to represent both companies and individuals in contractual negotiations and cases involving breach of fiduciary duties.
Examples of recent work include:
- Advising on the TUPE status of directors, shareholders and business owners who are also employees
- Breach of fiduciary duty – Representing a company in a claim for damages arising where a director had set up in competition whilst still engaged
- Drafting employment service agreements for company directors.
- Advising whether share option entitlements are discretionary or not
- Representing a company secretary who was alleged to have received gifts worth in the region of £20,000 from a third party as a reward for ensuring a deal was completed
- Exit packages – Advising a senior safety executive on his exit from a market leading automotive company in circumstances where he may be required to give evidence in the event of a product recall
- Advising a director of a PLC on his position in the event that he chose to blow the whistle to the FCA on insider trading and market manipulation.
Steven has considerable experience in dealing with cases involving the drafting and enforcement of restrictive covenants. He is often instructed to seek/resist injunctions and damages in both the High Court as well as being instructed to provide advice during mediation.
Examples of recent work include:
- Advising a senior executive as to whether he had been constructively dismissed so as to render void the restrictive covenants contained within his employment contract
- Representing a solicitors’ firm in circumstances where an associate who had been made redundant set up in competition and attempted to poach clients
- Drafting restrictive covenants for former owner/directors where a company has been bought out and they are to be engaged as employees
- Advising a professional football coach as to whether his media work could amount to a breach of contact.
Steven regularly advises individuals and companies on the rights, roles and duties of shareholders. This includes both contentious and non-contentious issues such as share sale agreements, minority shareholder’s rights and unfair prejudice petitions.
Examples of recent work include:
- Share Options – Advising a company whether employee share option entitlements were discretionary or not so as to allow for the accurate valuation of the Company prior to sale
- Assisting a group of members in the drafting and presentation of an unfair prejudice petition
- Representing a CEO of a publicly traded company who alleged that he was the subject of anti-Semitic comments by directors in an attempt to force him to resign and sell his substantial shareholding
- Providing guidance to a national company on the offering, implementation and consequences of Employee Shareholder Agreements.
Steven has considerable experience in advising on the establishment and dissolution of partnerships. He is often instructed to advise partners on their legal obligations and, when necessary, to assist them in disputes arising from said partnerships. Steven is also one of a limited number of practitioners who has experience of representing partners and LLP members in claims alleging discrimination against the partnership.
Recent cases include:
- Representing a member who was unlawfully expelled from an LLP because of his age
- Advising as to the division of assets following the dissolution of a partnership
- Providing guidance to an individual who believed he had entered into partnership with a solicitor only for it to become apparent that the solicitor was prevented from doing so by the Code of Conduct (as in operation at the time)
- Representing a former partner in a dispute over whether she was liable to make payment towards an unfair dismissal award where she had opposed the other partner’s decision to dismiss.
Sale of Goods/Supply of Goods and Services
Steven is regularly instructed by both Claimants and Defendants in actions involving the sale of goods and/or the supply of goods and services. These cases range from the sale of horses to disputes relating to the supply and carriage of large quantities of steel to Asia; many of which are in the High Court. He also has experience in assisting in the recovery of possessions that have been the subject of conversion.
- Advising a rider who purchased a horse that she intended to compete. Upon purchase it became apparent that the seller had withheld the material fact that the animal’s leg had been operated upon; thereby making it unsuitable for show jumping
- Representing a potato farmer in his dispute with an international crisp manufacturer who refused to pay for the goods on the basis that a foreign object in the potatoes had caused damage to their factory
- Successfully representing a construction firm in a dispute where a client alleged that a number of buildings were substantially defective and that the value of rectifying the faults was estimated to be in the region of £300,000
- Representing an individual who purchased what he understood to be a fully restored E-Type Jaguar. The vehicle turned out not to have been restored and the individual was allowed to reject the vehicle and recover the money he had paid out.
Banking, Finance and Insolvency
Banking and Finance
Steven is regularly instructed by banks and other companies operating within the financial services sphere to assist in disputes involving issues of guarantees, mortgages, cheques, mistaken payments, negligent advice, undue influence and restitutionary claims. He also has considerable experience in dealing with disputes arising from consumer credit and leasing agreements.
Steven has also been involved in a number of cases that have involved whistleblowing allegations of market manipulation and insider trading.
- Whistleblowing and market manipulation – Advising a director of a publicly traded company on his position in the event that he chose to blow the whistle to the FCA on market manipulation within his company
- Personal guarantee – successfully obtaining judgment for a sum in excess of £250,000 for a bank against a former director of a company who had provided a personal guarantee
- Consumer Credit – Successfully representing a finance company in a conjoined claim where a number of defendants were disputing the enforceability of a credit agreement
- Insider trading – Advising a PLC where it was suspected that a director had been trading in company shares during the closed period
- Hire Purchase – Obtaining delivery up of a motor vehicle following conversion
- Discrimination – Representing banks against claims that they have unlawfully discriminated in the provision of services
- Appeal – Successfully representing a bank in an appeal where the Defendant sought to appeal a judgment debt three years out of time on the basis that the bank had fraudulently withheld details relating to the enforceability of a credit agreement.
Steven appears regularly in the County Court and High Court dealing with matters ranging from straightforward winding up petitions to more complex litigation. His practice covers all aspects of both corporate and personal insolvency, including:
- Voluntary arrangements (whether company or individual)
- Administrative and other receiverships
Steven has experience of undertaking both private and public section 237 examinations. He also has advised and acted for and against office holders in directors’ misfeasance claims and directors’ disqualification proceedings as well as in wrongful and fraudulent trading cases.
Due to his employment law background he has a particular interest in TUPE related matters.
- Public examination of a company director – Examination lasting a full-day in which the director was questioned as to how £500,000+ of the company’s cash had been spent
- Contested bankruptcy – Acting for the creditor in a High Court dispute as to whether the mortgages on a property portfolio valued at over £2 million exceeded the current value of the properties
- TUPE – Advising a company as to their potential liabilities under the TUPE regulations if they were to purchase an insolvent company
- Contracts of Employment – Advising a group of employees (20 plus) as to their employment status following a company entering administration.
Steven is Public Access qualified and is happy to receive instructions in each of his areas of specialism, namely:
- Banking & Finance (including issues of guarantees, mortgages, cheques, consumer credit, hire purchase and whistleblowing)
- Directors’ Contracts & Duties
- Discrimination in the provision Goods and Services
- Employment Law (including issues of discrimination, TUPE, whistleblowing, trade union membership, wages/holiday pay and unfair dismissal)
- Insolvency (both corporate and personal)
- Restrictive Covenants
- Sale of Goods/Supply of Goods & Services
- Shareholder Rights
- Sports Law.
Steven is regularly instructed by national and international companies to assist in both litigation and advisory work (including drafting policies), as well as individuals and groups with shared interests. He is happy to discuss matters on an informal basis to see if he can be of assistance.
Steven is willing to assist at all stages from preliminary advice through to final hearing and, if necessary, on appeal. If instructed, Steven will discuss your needs and will undertake as little or as much work as is agreed.Book BarristerBack to top