Review: A lawyer’s sporting life

Review: A lawyer’s sporting life

It is rather sad that the manuscript for this book was completed by its author, Maurice Watkins, a solicitor to and director of Manchester United, shortly before his death in 2021.

His relatives and others have assisted with the work to ensure publication. Commendably, profits from the book go towards the provision of bursaries at the secondary school attended by author.

The firm of James Chapman & Co., solicitors, had become solicitors to Manchester United after the Munich air disaster. While expecting to be at the firm as an assistant for only a short while, Maurice Watkins was there for 38 years.

In its way this book has something for everyone. Those interested in legal education will find interest in the secondary education that lead to the author graduating LLB (hons) LLM (both London) and then qualifying as a solicitor in Manchester.

Sports lawyers will find the details of the practice of the author of interest with the discussion of the various areas of law emerging in what was a niche practice, and certainly one extending far beyond the law of contracts.

The practice of sports lawyer, on this narrative, has its own particular demands, not least of which is concerns about reputational damage to a client’s business, a number of apparently unreliable agents engaged in transactions around players, and a need to avoid conflicts of interest.

If money is the principal interest, then the developing business of professional football is explained, and appears to be anything but mere outdoor entertainment. There is much explanation of the professional structures within professional and international football, and other such bodies. The legal experience of the author extended to other sports after demitting office as director on Manchester United.

This sports lawyer had an endless number of meetings at home and abroad in hotels, at conferences, domestic travel (team flights, for example, from Gatwick to Manchester) and international travel. Perhaps more should have been acknowledged of personal assistants and their organising skills.

There may be a disappointment that the author, who must be seen as an authoritative sports lawyer and profoundly influential as such, has tried for the best reasons to present his tales for different interest groups, but spread some topics too unevenly.

It would have been interesting from the lawyers’ view, to know more of the nature and extent of his legal studies in London, and how that influenced his evolution into being a sports lawyer, and the nature and extent of the overall business of the large firm of which he became a partner.

Legally Red by Maurice Watkins. Published by Hodder & Stoughton, 368pp, £30.

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