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Press Release

Howard Kennedy calls on football clubs to pay closer attention to the early warning signs when acquiring players

Nip it in the bud!
Problem-solving for sports clubs

22 November 2016


Howard Kennedy has called on football clubs to pay closer attention to the small signs that something is amiss with players or staff, and for professional players to be given greater levels of personal support throughout their career.

The call was made at a seminar – called Nip it in the bud! – for agents, advisers, insurers and lawyers advising professional sportsmen and women, hosted by HK Sport.  It follows a spate of recent high profile cases and reports where professional football players and managers have been accused, jailed or fired for illegal and/or unprofessional behaviour. 

Fiona Hinds, Partner and Joint Head of HK Sport Fiona Hinds, Partner and Joint Head of HK Sport said:

Clubs invest vast sums of money in their players, yet sometimes fail to spot the signs of a problem brewing.  There are often early indications that something is not right – for example, in social media posts or ‘locker room chat’ – which is actually valuable information about a potentially serious issue.  That’s not to say that all chat foreshadows disaster, but clubs need to take note of what’s happening with their employees.

Clubs should also make sure that they conduct personal due diligence on players in advance of acquiring them to spot any troubling behaviour, which echoes best practices from the wider corporate world.

Fiona Hinds

Joint Head, HK Sports


Delegates heard that young players should also be given a wider support network that extends beyond the management of their finances and physical health.  One solution is a comprehensive crisis management plan, which supports both a player and the club and can be activated at any time should an individual find themselves in trouble.  It should include personal, legal and reputation management specialists who can be deployed as needed, as well as triggering appropriate responses within the club.

An action plan isn’t only relevant when there is an external issue – access to an independent specialist can also help to resolve internal conflict.  It is important to provide a confidential forum where the issues can be aired, without judgment or blame, and this is often best facilitated by a third party because the club will almost certainly be conflicted.  Informed decisions can then be taken that balance the reputational risk to the club and the benefit that player might bring.

Senior management teams in clubs need to be aware of the risks not only to their players, but to the club’s reputation and commercial interests if disquiet is allowed to fester.  Things will bubble over at some point, in a way which is often avoidable.

Lois Langton

Joint Head, HK Sports

Sitting on the Nip it in the bud! panel was Anthony Douglas, CBE, Chairman of Cafcass; Ian Ryan, Partner and Head of Business Crime at Howard Kennedy; and Jane Amphlett, Partner and Head of Employment at Howard Kennedy.  The seminar was chaired by Mark Stephens, CBE, Partner and Head of Media and Entertainment at Howard Kennedy.

Howard Kennedy acts for a significant number of sportsmen and women and we understand the sports industry from both a legal and commercial perspective. We are here to help you with issues that affect your business and personal life.

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