“The MIP Alumni Association wants people to take power from the fact that once their playing career is finished, there’s an exciting road ahead. It’s great to meet others that have walked that same path as you and can help you develop.”
MIP Alumni Association President, Gareth Farrelly is passionate about connecting the ex-players of the world and assisting them to unlock a new lease of life.
He wishes to see more players working in executive roles, with the power to be extremely influential.
Where did your love of football come from?
When I look back, it was just something I always did, I just loved the game and it developed from there. As a child you would see the game through different eyes than you do now and it was pure, you just wanted to play and that was where most of your pleasure came from.
I dreamed as a kid to one day be able to play for Everton and Ireland, it was about being able to follow in their footsteps of those people I’d idolised when I was young.
At what point did you shift to a career in law?
After my illness all I wanted to do was play football, but there were huge question marks over my health.
While I was recovering, I had the UK Tax Authority come to my house about a debt that I knew nothing about. This made me look at the financial advice I had received during my playing career. It transpired that I had received a lot of poor advice.
I knew that if I wanted to understand what had happened to me, then I needed to know and understand the law, so I started studying for a law degree. Having been out of education for 16 years, this was a big challenge, before returning to study, I didn’t even have an email address.
What was your experience like with MIP?
I was searching for my next educational journey, and I found out about the UEFA MIP course. I graduated in 2019 with an incredibly strong group within an incredibly strong network.
The objective of the course is to give people a broader understanding of how football works that will hopefully then translate into opportunities for people to work in associations, federations or executive roles within clubs.
What kind of roles have alumni gone into after their playing career?
It is a different journey for everyone, we want to create opportunity so that people can look at the alumni and think they are formidable, educated, motivated and worth having a conversation with.
Amongst the alumni, Lise Klaveness is the president of the Norwegian Football Federation, Sebastian Kehl is the sporting director at Borussia Dortmund, Simon Rolfes is the director of sport at Bayer Leverkusen, it’s a formidable group and there’s many more to name.
What advice would you give to ex-players?
You don’t need to find your next career immediately, you have the ability to try different things before you settle.
Speaking to different people within the alumni, everyone’s journey is different. It is important to see that there are opportunities out there and recognise the importance of education and investing time in themselves.
You will be better equipped to deal with different challenges, the MIP alumni continue to be excellent role models.
You’ve just launched the Union of European Clubs, what is the idea behind that?
We wanted to provide a voice and representation for smaller and medium-sized clubs that don’t really have that within the football ecosystem.
People are informed of the decisions, but they haven’t necessarily been involved in any debate, or discussions as to how those decisions are arrived at.
There are over 1,500 clubs playing football in Europe. At this time, 130 clubs are granted voting rights within the governance of European club football. The UEC is seeking to represent and give a voice to the 1,400 who are not.
I think it comes back to a degree of activism and educating people how football really works and improving support and advocacy for those other professional clubs across Europe.
What is your mission as MIP Alumni President?
I want people to take power from the fact that once their playing career is finished, there’s an exciting road ahead. It’s great to meet others that have walked that same path as you and can help you develop and forge an equally fulfilling second career, wherever that may be.
Having more ex-players involved at executive level within the game is something that is very important.
It’s important for players to use their transferable skills and have a purpose off the pitch. You’ll always have the recognition of what you’ve achieved previously, but having a strong network around you as you advance into your second career helps to drive ambition.
I hope to showcase the amazing alumni in a small way and see them achieve their chosen personal ambitions, in a second career, and period of their lives.
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