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Maurice Watkins Set for Chairman Role

30 May 2013

Maurice Watkins CBE steps back into football to become chairman of Barnsley Football Club

Former Manchester United director Maurice Watkins CBE is to be appointed chairman of Barnsley FC.

The top lawyer, who holds a string of charity and sports roles, will return to the football boardroom next week - almost a year since he left Old Trafford - to take up the reins as board chairman of the Club.

"It's great to be back in football at club level and my message is loud and clear - 'Barnsley means business'," said Watkins.

Maurice Watkins said it was a privilege to have been asked by the Barnsley board to take on the role and he was eager to meet the challenges which lie ahead.

"The Championship is a hard league with many great clubs and when you think a team was relegated with 54 points that sums up the quality."

“Our task now is to make progress in the league, strengthen our position and get even more fans behind the club. Barnsley FC has to provide a good experience for the fans and look at the way the club is portrayed.

“I can bring a wealth of football knowledge and experience having been involved in the game at the highest level with Manchester United for over 28 years. These are skills which are transferrable and I am used to dealing with players’ contracts, their agents and league officials. 

“I have been heavily involved on the commercial side of football with sponsorships and I know how clubs operate.

“Team performance is key to everything else and the board will look closely at plans for the future.“

Watkins, a Manchester based senior partner with Brabners Chaffe Street, has handled many high value soccer transfers at home and abroad. He has represented clubs and players before FIFA and UEFA as well as the Court of Arbitration For Sport and international and league compensation tribunals. He famously represented Eric Cantona in the “Kung Fu” kick court case.

Barnsley FC owner, retired businessman Patrick Cryne, said the club had operated without a board chairman for some time but he listened to what fans were saying that strong, new leadership was needed to take the club forward.
“Many people will know Maurice from Manchester United, but what they won’t know is that he operates in a range of different commercial spheres and sports interests.

“He is a sound strategic thinker and very clear on how to organise and to say how a football club should be run. He can see reasons for change which will make us a more effective business. Maurice has a raft of experience and he will drive strategy and the change-management agenda. 

Watkins is recognised throughout the professional football establishment for the contribution he has made to shape the framework within which professional soccer operates, having played a significant role in advising on a multitude of regulatory issues at a domestic and international level. 

He was a key participant in the formation of the Premier League and the drafting of its rules, the formation of Manchester United PLC, lead adviser to the FIFA/UEFA Taskforce in its negotiations with the European Commission to agree new rules for international player transfers; advising on the development of the new standard Premier League players’ contract;  appointed mediator by the FA Premier League and PFA to avert a player’s strike; involved on various FIFA committees to deliver new international rules and regulations.

He has spoken at international conferences on footballing issues in Brazil, China, Dubai, Egypt, Kuwait, the Ivory Coast, Japan, Oman, Nigeria, Qatar, South Africa, Thailand, and Trinidad and Tobago.  

Watkins holds a number of key positions:
  • Chairman of British Swimming
  • Chairman of The Greyhound Board of Great Britain
  • Non-executive director of the Rugby Football League since 2002 and former interim chairman
  • Chairman: Rugby League European Federation
  • Regional Chairman for Coutts Bank
  • Director of the British Association for Sport and Law (former President and Chairman)
  • Director Lancashire County Cricket Club
  • Member of the Professional Football Negotiating and Consultative Committee (“PFNCC”)

Former Directorships:
  • Director of Manchester United Football Club Limited (1984 – 2012)
  • Director Manchester United PLC (1991-2004)

Current Charitable Activities:
  • Chairman of Governors – The Manchester Grammar School
  • Chairman of Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Charity
  • Chairman of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer North West Appeal
  • Trustee – Retired Greyhound Trust 

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