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Robert Weekes KC and Ava Mayer acted for the English Football League (EFL) in an arbitral appeal brought by Blackburn Rovers Football Club (BRFC) against the EFL’s refusal to register the proposed loan transfer of a Nottingham Forest Football Club player, Lewis O’Brien. Finding for the EFL, the arbitral panel concluded that the EFL had been entitled to refuse that transfer on the basis that the application was late.

On 9 February 2023, the EFL Board upheld a decision by the EFL Executive to refuse to register the proposed loan transfer on the basis that BRFC had failed to complete the application before the winter transfer window closed.

BRFC had initiated the transfer application before the deadline of 23:00 on 31 January 2023 and used the ‘Quick Application’ process. However, it had failed to upload all the necessary documentation before 23:15 as was required. The EFL Board concluded that the application was late and refused to register the transfer.

BRFC appealed to the League Arbitration Panel. It contended that the EFL Board had erred in law and/or acted ultra vires by failing properly to construe guidance to the EFL Regulations which referred to the need for the necessary documents to be submitted “either before the specified deadline or immediately following”.

Accepting the submissions made on behalf of the EFL, the League Arbitration Panel (William Norris KC, sitting as a sole arbitrator) concluded, in summary, that the EFL Board had been entitled to find that “immediately following” the deadline meant before 23:15, and that it was the EFL Regulations rather than the guidance which was binding. BRFC’s appeal was dismissed and the decision of the EFL Board was upheld.

The official statement made by the EFL and the LAP’s decision is available here.

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