“I took a holiday at the worst possible time”

Top UK sports lawyer Daniel Geey thought he’d cleared the decks to go away with his family, but football deals will wait for no man.

As one of the UK’s most highly respected sports lawyers, Daniel Geey’s clients include Europe’s top football clubs and players. His day-to-day role comprises everything from navigating multimillion-pound club takeovers to the signing of star players. He has to do battle with a punishing schedule that was made all the more brutal when he decided to write a book about his experiences. So, perhaps naturally, it was only a matter of time before he dropped the ball…

I have always been a huge football and Liverpool fan. When I was younger, I was the biggest consumer of football news and when I went to university, both my dissertation and my master’s were on football issues. You could say that my passion became my job.

When that happened, I found that I needed a new pastime. Exercise is a huge part of my life and I do it to keep up with the pressures of the job – I love the fact that you can’t think about anything else when you’re training. It’s a real release.

The first big case I had was when I was still a trainee. The head of the corporate team at the law firm I was with said he needed assistance on a finance deal for a group of bankers on how Premier League modelling worked. This was three weeks into my job and there were over 400 pages of regulations for me to get my head around. It was a baptism of fire but, thankfully, my presentation went well and my career got off to a good start.

My workload ramps up when the transfer window is open, which is usually around June, July and August, and again in January. A few years ago, we had planned a family holiday over the summer, so I called all the agents that I deal with to check that nothing was on the horizon for the next few days. Of course, just as I hit the beach in France, my phones started buzzing. One of the agents had got the all-clear for a deal that had to be done that day.

I had to explain to my wife that I was going to be out of action for a while and spent most of the day sorting it out – before the agent called again to say we had to do it all over again the next day.

Being on call like that is something you have to embrace. Agents and players have reactive problems and issues that I’m paid to sort out. Maybe a player has tweeted something he shouldn’t have or there’s a negative story coming out in the press. My job is all about problem-solving.

The most difficult cases are those that could potentially affect a player’s livelihood through being sued for a significant amount of money or a long suspension from the game. A lot of the time, when you’re dealing with disputes, you’re not only managing the other side and putting a strong case to them, you’re also managing your own client. They need to know what their situation is, what can go wrong, and you have to work on finding the best outcomes and solutions for them.

I try not to go to as many games at the weekend anymore. I have to draw the line somewhere.

Writing my book took three years. I did it outside my normal working hours and it was a big sacrifice for my nearest and dearest. That said, my wife is very understanding. She comes from an incredibly hard-working family, so she understands.

When I was a student, I discovered that you could play at Anfield [Liverpool’s ground] in a special charity game if you donated a certain amount of money. I persuaded my dad to give me birthday money early and took my place on the pitch. It was incredible – but then I tried to do an overhead kick at the Kop end and missed horrendously in front of everyone.

Funnily enough, the chief exec of a charity called Football Aid was there that day and he recalled this when we met some time later. I was invited to get involved and I’m now proud to be the charity’s chairman.

I’m in a family WhatsApp group chat and there’s always a lot of football talk – up to a point. Once there was a particularly interesting Liverpool transfer rumour that I knew all about, but obviously couldn’t talk about. When the deal was done and my cousin found out, he was disgusted that I hadn’t mentioned it.

Daniel Geey is the author of Done Deal: An Insider’s Guide to Football Contracts, Multi-Million Pound Transfers and Premier League Big Business, published by Bloomsbury.

This interview was carried out by SIM7’s Simeon de la Torre and first appeared in easyJet Traveller magazine. To read the latest issue (and the entire back catalogue of magazines), visit: https://ink-global.com/our-clients/portfolio/easyjet-traveller/