Who are Bird & Bird? A look at the legal firm named in Newcastle United takeover statement

Referenced in tweets, talked about in statements.

Monday, 23rd November 2020, 4:45 pm

Law firms aren't often mentioned in dispatches when it comes to football stories, but Bird & Bird have been right, front and centre when it comes to the Newcastle United takeover this week.

Liam Kennedy takes a look at the firm, who they represent and why Newcastle United and Newcastle Consortium Supporters Ltd saw fit to mention them in recent takeover statements.

'There are law firms & there's Bird & Bird' - who are they?

St James's Park, home of Newcastle United.

The company website gives the most succinct analysis of what the law firm are about.

Their description reads: "Bird & Bird is an international law firm... with over 1,300 lawyers in 29 offices across Europe, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and North America, we're ready to help you wherever you are in the world."

It continues: "Almost 180 years later, Bird & Bird has 29 offices across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America with clients based in 118 countries worldwide."

Why are Bird & Bird relevant to the Newcastle United takeover?

The firm were named twice in statements last week in relation to the legal proceedings around the Newcastle United deal.

The statement read: "The Newcastle Consortium Supporters has received a reply from the EPL’s lawyers, Bird & Bird that has confirmed that the club is currently in a legal dispute with the EPL regarding the proposed acquisition, which may lead to a duplication of the issues raised by the fans consortium. The

EPL have said it would therefore be premature for us to bring our claim now. However, the EPL have not said who is to determine these proceedings, nor when they will be determined. We, the fans, feel we have a right to know and to be kept informed."

The statement concluded with: “The club understands that these will be matters of great concern to its fans and therefore considers that, in light of the information disclosed by the EPL, it has no choice but to respond and update its fans in response to this coverage.

"The club makes no comment on the substance of the arbitration, but it can confirm that it has issued arbitration proceedings against the EPL.

"It is unclear when those proceedings will be resolved, given the approach of the EPL and its lawyers, Bird & Bird. Nevertheless, the club will continue to use its best efforts to press for a fair, full and timely hearing of its claim.”

What is the significance of this?

Bird & Bird have been criticised by Newcastle United for their approach in the arbitration process, as per the above statement.

The arbitration - totally separate from the NCSL legal case - is currently ongoing but is understood to be working at a 'snail's pace'.

Who else do Bird & Bird represent?

Bird & Bird have an International Sports Group who "work exclusively on sports-related matters and have been recognised as undisputed market leaders for several years".

Their website states clients include 'international federations, national governing bodies, public agencies/ bodies, event organisers and other sports rights-holders, anti-doping organisations, sponsors, clubs and teams, broadcasters' among others.

They specialise in sports governance, the drafting of rules and regulations, anti-corruption and dispute resolution, headed up by Jonathan Taylor QC from their London office.

High profile clients have included the Rugby Football Union (RFU), Football Association (FA) and International Cricket Council (ICC).

EPL and EFL representation

Bird & Bird confirm on their website they have worked on behalf of the Premier League and the EFL.

"We have been engaged by the English Football League (EFL) to undertake a review of the EFL's governance systems and structures, in order to identify and implement any improvements that are required to ensure that the EFL is governed effectively and efficiently, in accordance with best practice, and to the satisfaction of all its stakeholders, in particular member clubs," their website reads.

Further to that they confirm their Premier League work - on top of the representation of the league in their fight against both Newcastle United and NCSL.

Adding: "We act for the Premier League on a number of academy transfer investigations. When a player from a Category One club academy applies to register with another Category One club academy, a five-step registration process is in place to help ensure that there have been no breaches of the youth development rules in respect of early approaches or inducements."

Key players adamant there is no conflict of interest

The Gazette has been verbally advised by the EFL that Bird & Bird, often known as 'Two Birds', represent them.

Further to that we have been told by two prominent Football League clubs, both formerly of the Premier League, that 'Two Birds' represent their interests via the EFL.

Bird & Bird also represent the Premier League in the legal case with NCSL, as per the group's statement to the Gazette, and against Newcastle United, which is a live arbitration.

One source described Bird & Bird as the EFL's 'go-to law firm' - so what happens if, as predicted by the recent Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, 10 clubs who cannot make payroll this month go 'cap in hand' to the Premier League for their bail out cash?

With Project Big Picture 2.0 on the horizon - some even hint developments could come on that front this week - we asked the question whether representing both parties on separate legal issues could potentially bring up a conflict of interest?

The EFL, EPL and Bird & Bird all confirmed they believe there is no conflict of interest and no legal representation on Project Big Picture or EFL 'bailout' negotiations.

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