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In-house: RFU rejigs legal team as deputy head joins sports firm Couchmans

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has reconfigured its in-house legal team recently, promoting in-house lawyer Angus Bujalski (pictured) to lead its legal team following the recent departure of deputy head of legal Polly Handford to become a partner at sports law firm Couchmans.

The RFU has now appointed former Slaughter and May lawyer Bujalski as head of legal, who will report directly to the organisation’s legal and governance director Karena Vleck. While Vleck has oversight of legal as well as other sports-related areas such as player discipline and child safeguarding, Bujalski will have specific responsibility for the legal function.

During her time as deputy head, Handford dealt with a wide range of sports-related issues and was responsible for all contentious matters, including anti-doping, disciplinary, regulatory and sporting integrity. High-profile work during her time in-house included leading the RFU in a joint intervention, together with other sports governing bodies, in support of the appeal by the Premier League and Sky against media watchdog Ofcom in relation to Pay TV.

On Handford’s appointment, Couchman’s chairman Nic Couchman, said: ‘Polly has the perfect combination of skills and experience. Not only has she worked in-house ‘at the coal face’ with a major sports governing body gaining invaluable experience of topical matters relevant to many of our other sports clients, Polly also has a strong background in [the] High Court and international litigation.’

Handford added: ‘Having had three and a half great years at the RFU, I was keen to return to private practice to apply the wide experience I gained whilst at one of the UK’s major sports governing bodies.’

The RFU has made other changes to its internal legal function recently, having hired Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer corporate partner and former City head Tim Jones as general counsel to England Rugby 2015 ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup.

England Rugby 2015 will employ the corporate heavyweight three days a week, which began on 1 November 2013. Jones, however, continues to work on a part-time basis for the Magic Circle firm, and carries on with client matters.