‘Super silk’ lawyer who took on Man City lined up as Premier League’s first regulator

Mark Phillips KC
Mark Phillips KC has plenty of experience working in football

The barrister who represented Uefa’s financial breach prosecution of Manchester City is a serious contender to run football’s new independent regulator, Telegraph Sport understands.

Mark Phillips KC is favoured by senior voices in the game and has already figured in early discussions as the Government prepares to formalise its search for a first chairman.

Phillips was one of the leading lawyers representing the European governing body in 2020 as City eventually overturned a two-year Champions League ban at a Swiss appeal court.

Although his appointment might have to be handled sensitively with City as they face separate Premier League charges, a host of influential figures are willing to champion Phillips for the role.

The Football Governance Bill is to be published by the summer, but the process for appointing a chairman is set to be confirmed in the coming weeks. It is expected that the regulator – aiming to ensure clubs are financially sustainable – will be fully operational by the summer of 2025.

Phillips, a prominent legal figure in football who also advised the Football League through the pandemic, has championed watchdog-style oversight.

“The establishment of an independent regulator for football represents a huge opportunity to put the house of football in order,” Phillips has previously written in response to proposed reform.

The South Square silk, called to the bar in 1984, has also previously represented the Football League in prosecutions of Sheffield Wednesday and Derby County. There are no conflict of interest concerns, with the Culture Secretary underlining this week the regulator will not intervene in sporting sanctions.

Phillips is understood to have been identified in very early talks as the Government prepares to launch a formal recruitment process. “Ideal candidate would be primarily from a financial regulatory background, but gets football,” said one insider.

The lawyer was among contributors ahead of Tracey Crouch’s 162-page fan-led review of football, which included 10 strategic recommendations, including a new independent regulator.

When contacted by Telegraph Sport, Phillips said in a statement: “I contributed to Tracey Crouch’s football review and I’ve long been a supporter of an independent football regulator.”

Phillips has extensive legal experience in football extending to the 1992 formation of the current top tier. In his autobiography, David Dein, formerly the vice chairman of Arsenal, credits Phillips with playing “a significant part in the legalities when we formed the Premier League”.

Insiders acknowledge he makes a significantly more “logical” fit for the role than other names touted, including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Mervyn King, the ex-Governor of the Bank of England.

In an article digesting regulatory reform, Phillips wrote: “The focus on financial regulation should result in a system that helps avoid the corporate insolvencies of football clubs of the past 30 years.

“The threshold conditions will go a long way to ensuring that clubs are financially sound and the owners and directors involved in making decisions for those clubs are fit and proper to hold those positions.

“It will require a sea change in the thinking of those involved in football and those who advise them. The focus should turn to the substance of how the club’s finances are made, managed and away from how rules are implemented or enforced.”

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