21 January 2019

Footballers' lives- family law for sports professionals


James Copson
Partner | UK

There are some categories of cases that have such individual defining components as to mark them out from the mainstream. It is unsurprising that those involving professional sportsmen and women will often fall within one category of special cases.

For professional footballers in particular players will be young, often have short-lived relationships and many have a time-limited, substantial earning capacity, an enviable lifestyle and little capital. If any children are added to the mix family breakdown for footballers will usually result in a dependency lasting beyond the footballer’s playing career.

Many will live life to the full and indulge themselves and their families in upscale discretionary spending on cars, clothes, jewellery, holidays and the like. Those lifestyle choices will form a feature of any financial claim. A further key element is choice and quality of housing, home furnishings and gadgetry.

Upon divorce the footballer will often be faced with aspirational claims that are unaffordable from liquid capital. The solution devised in a number of cases, but, most notably in my firm’s case of B v C, is that the claimant’s housing needs will be met from a share of the available capital plus a mortgage guaranteed by the footballer and payment of maintenance in a sum significantly beyond day to day needs. This enables the claimant to pay off the mortgage during the player’s career and to save a sum of money to live reasonably comfortably after the player’s retirement. This solution is applied especially where there are young children. The term applied to this device is stockpiling.

For the footballer about to get married a pre-nuptial agreement or prenup can be useful tool in limiting those claims. Any footballer transferring from abroad to a club in England or Wales who is already married should negotiate a post-nuptial agreement or postnup to similar effect.

Those footballers who are not married fall into two camps. Those with no children have no financial responsibility towards their partners beyond acquired rights (such as sharing the equity in a jointly owned home). Where children are involved a form of stockpiling is often applied. The difference between the divorcing player and the unmarried one is that any home acquired at the end of cohabitation will be sold once the children fly the nest and the sale proceeds are returned to the footballer and the maintenance for the children’s main carer will be both much less and will last only until the children have grown up.

Cases involving footballers have other special features we encounter frequently. One of the most common challenges is the negotiation of visiting time for the children with the football player. With football games no longer the preserve of a weekly 3 o’clock Saturday kick off flexibility over weekend arrangements is a must and a degree of flexibility over weekday arrangements has to be built in too.

As with all family cases there will be plenty of moving parts to provide challenges along the way. We aim to provide a pathway from the outset to overcome those challenges with discreet, practical advice. Cases involving elite sports professionals are not mainstream. Our role is to achieve solutions with the minimum of fuss so that they can get on with their day jobs and be able to continue to perform at their highest level.

Category: Article