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“I left school at 16 and had never sent an email before”

Career Transition Player story

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Gareth Farrelly has progressed from playing in the Premier League to becoming a member of its prestigious judicial panel.

Farrelly, who left school at aged 16, admits he had never sent an email as a player in the top English league for Everton and Bolton. He played against some big names in football including Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand (see picture).

But when Farrelly was side-lined with a serious illness at age 32, he found himself facing up to life after football sooner than expected. A surprise phone call informing him he owed a lot of tax that worried him even more.

The tax bill resulted from an investment scheme recommended to him by advisors, who he felt should be held accountable.

“I thought that if I want to deal with this, I’m going to have to develop some more skills myself,” Farrelly told FIFPRO's Mind the Gap campaign. While his teammates went on holiday for the summer, he knuckled down and did a foundation course that allowed him to get on a university law course.

Gareth Farrelly speaks to FIFPRO's Mind the Gap campaign

His first day at Edge Hill University near Liverpool was daunting.

“I’d been out of education for 16 years: I hadn’t got an email address, I’d never sent an email,” Farrelly said. “You are petrified. You start off on a new path and you don’t know how it’s going to be.”

But, four years later, he graduated. He has since become a qualified lawyer specializing in the tax affairs of professional footballers and other athletes, and this year was selected to join the Premier League judicial panel.

“The challenge is to surround yourself with good people to help you with whichever route you choose to navigate”

— by Gareth Farrelly, lawyer

His advice to players considering a second career is to ask people you trust for advice, and don’t panic.

“Try things, go and speak to people,” Farrelly said. “It might take someone working in an academy or coaching for a year before they realise” they’d prefer to do something else.

“You don’t have to be worried with respect to finding it immediately but the challenge is to surround yourself with good people to help you with whichever route you choose to navigate.”

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Gareth Farrelly, playing for Bolton Wanderers