A game of two halves - interview with footballer turned Lawyer

Posted in Interviews on 15 Jul 2014

Completing the summer of sports theme that runs through this month's newsletter we bagged a chat with Gareth Farrelly - an ex-Premier League footballer with Aston Villa, Everton and Bolton Wanderers. Gareth is now a Trainee Solicitor with leading Liverpool based law firm Cassell Moore who provide legal services to businesses and individuals.

Tell us about your firm - Cassell Moore

Cassell Moore was set up last year to offer public and private sector businesses and individuals client led legal services that are tailored to them. In the twelve months since its establishment it has recruited some of the best legal advisors in the business quickly earning it an excellent reputation. I was really impressed with the people here who have helped me to make the transition into a new career. I’m currently based at the firm’s headquarters in the Edward Pavilion building located at Liverpool’s Albert Dock but we also benefit from a have a satellite office in London.

Tell us about your Training Contract - are you specialising solely in Sports law?

No, despite focusing on Sports law I will also gain experience in other key practice areas. Cassell Moore has recently launched its Academy of Excellence Training Contract Programme which aims to give Trainees broad experience and requires us to spend time with different departments. So in addition to Sports law I will follow the standard Training Contract route and sit in three other practice areas. This will invariably include any three of the following departments: Corporate and Commercial; Commercial Litigation; Property; Employment; Family and Wills, Trusts and Probate.

Sports law is a natural avenue for you to follow. If you hadn’t been a footballer - what area of law would you have specialised in?

In truth I am not sure if the legal route is one that I would have given any consideration to if I hadn’t been a footballer. I was extremely fortunate to be a footballer for sixteen years and during my career had a number of legal issues. I have had first-hand experience of taking a case to CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) and additional litigious matters, all unique to being a professional sportsperson.

As a Sports law specialist - what are the main legal challenges facing footballers today?

The challenges are quite diverse and the law encompasses a number of areas including all of the standard issues around: disciplinary matters; contractual issues; negotiations; image rights and disputes but despite the globalisation, wealth and the changing face of football, the game fundamentally remains the same and having experienced all that current players are living I have a unique insight into these challenges and what advice they might need. In addition to current players, former players can also find themselves in extremely difficult situations. These issues are for the most part portrayed as footballers having lived to excess and not looked after their financial affairs when the truth is they have often been exploited; one, having been deliberately targeted during their careers or two, having received bad investment or professional advice.

Your background in professional football must give you a unique insight into your sports clients and give you instant credibility with them…?

Not necessarily, as mentioned earlier, I do have a unique insight as a former footballer but I am in a completely different position now and as with anything credibility must be proven and trust must be earned. Also, I am very much in the learning stage so will draw on the knowledge and expertise of others.

If you hadn’t signed for Aston Villa back in 1992 and become a footballer where do you think your career might have taken you?

In truth, I always wanted to be a footballer and hadn’t given too much thought to any career beyond that.

What was the highlight of your footballing career? Was it scoring the goal that saved Everton from relegation in 1998?

In seeking to avoid the adage ‘the older I get, the better I was’ I would say that I was extremely fortunate to achieve a number of things in football including that goal but I have learned through experience that football as a career and job is not indefinite and I have been fortunate to find something that I am seeking to excel in and forge a new career. They say that athletes die twice and I know that it can be difficult for athletes and footballers when they retire as all the areas surrounding sports are extremely competitive such as coaching, punditry and management etc. It can be a very difficult transition and it can create huge challenges.

For someone who is debating making a radical career change like you did into law - what is the best piece of advice you could give them?

Although this piece is based around sports, the law is equally as competitive and it is important to define exactly what you want to achieve, i.e.; what area of law you want to practice in and how do you plan to achieve this? Also, challenge people and make demands on them to help be it work experience, job opportunity or advice on how to achieve your goal. Without being clichéd you have to be hungry and determined if that is what you really want.

Was it challenging for you to complete your LLB having left education sixteen years previously?

It was a challenge. I think I was fortunate that I liked it. I know that may sound simple but it is far easier to apply yourself to something that you enjoy. I was also lucky that I had a strong support structure behind me and Edge Hill University was equally supportive. As a mature student it is maybe also easier to ask a question or recognise when you don’t know something.  

Thanks Gareth

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