UCL Faculty of Laws


In memory of UCL Laws alumnus Maurice Watkins CBE

26 August 2021

It is with great sadness that UCL Laws shares the news that alumnus Maurice Watkins passed away on Monday 16 August.

Maurice Watkins

Maurice Watkins was an outstanding Honorary Fellow and alumnus, and distinguished ambassador for UCL. He studied his LLB and LLM at UCL Laws graduating in 1963 and 1965 respectively.

Maurice was a British solicitor and sports administrator, best known as being the long-time director and club solicitor of Manchester United for almost three decades. He had represented high-profile clients in criminal trials including Eric Cantona and Stuart Hall.

After leaving Manchester United, he served in multiple other sports administration roles including chairman of British Swimming, overseeing the team's successful Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic cycles. 

He was joint senior partner of Brabners LLP solicitors in Manchester. He oversaw numerous high-profile football transfers both at home in the United Kingdom and abroad and regularly spoke on football and sports law issues.

In June 2012, Maurice stepped down from the board of Manchester United Football Club Ltd after 28 years with the club. In May 2013, Watkins became chairman of Championship football club Barnsley, which he left in August 2017.

Maurice was involved with several charitable causes. Previous roles have included Chairman of the New Children's Hospital Appeal. With his leadership, the appeal successfully raised £20 million to provide beds for parents on wards and additional and up-to-date equipment at the new state-of-the-art Royal Manchester Children's Hospital. In addition to the Royal Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation, he was on the Board of Governors at The Manchester Grammar School and New Islington Free School. He was also a member of the Council of Bradford University.

Maurice was an active member of the UCL Manchester alumni group and was a willing and energetic member of the UCL Campaign Executive Committee and actively encouraged others to support UCL and make their own gifts to the Campaign. He has donated many gifts over the years, including an established bursary for students in financial need that will support current and future generations of students as well as towards the New Student Centre. In recognition of this support, a study space within the centre is named after him.

Maurice spent time speaking at and chairing events both in London and in Manchester. Many of the UCL alumni have benefitted from him sharing his work and life experience, and intelligent and insightful knowledge.  

In 2011 Maurice was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by UCL and the CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List the same year for services to charity.

UCL’s Dean of Faculty of Laws, Professor Piet Eeckhout, said: “I was very sad to learn about Maurice Watkins’ passing.  He was such a loyal and warm friend of our Faculty, and a most generous contributor and sponsor.  Maurice was the kindest of men, and we are tremendously proud of what he has achieved in life and of having been able to count him among our students and alumni.  Our thoughts are with his family.”

Professor Dame Hazel Genn, Vice-President External Engagement & Advancement and Former Dean of UCL Laws, said: “While Dean of Laws I had the privilege of getting to know Maurice a little.  He took a great interest in the Faculty and our students.  He regularly supported social events and graduation ceremonies where his compendious knowledge of sport and, in particular football, was a magnet for animated conversation.  Maurice was a kind and generous friend to UCL who will be greatly missed.  Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”

Our thoughts are with Maurice’s family and friends during this time.