A sports lawyer from Victoria, Earl moved to the UK in 2005 and heads the sports affairs group at London law firm Fladgate.
In England he has become a major player in the football scene, working on high-profile transfers and deals involving some of the biggest names and clubs in the world.
After starting his career as a tax lawyer in Adelaide, Earl has come a long way to now be involved in major deals like Gareth Bale’s loan to Tottenham or the transfer of Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid to Chelsea.
âFootball has become a big part of life here,â he said. The game of the world.
âIt’s a massive industry all over the world, but particularly here in Europe and the UK.
âWe worked with a lot of clubs and back then a lot of clubs tended not to have in-house lawyers.
âIn the mid-2000s there was a lot of legal work around these football clubs and we were working with 10-20 football clubs from the English Premier League, the English Football League and below.
âOver time that has changed, many clubs now have in-house legal teams.
âThen from 2008 to 2009 we started to get involved quite heavily in football financing. We were doing that a bit in the player transfer market, debt financing for football clubs, but it was not. not that important.
âThe idea of ââsports finance has exploded since then in a beautiful way.
âIf I look at – a) my practice – and b) the size of the transactions we do these days – it just got huge in terms of funding opportunities for banks and investors.
âFootball clubs have gotten more sophisticated and they use it a lot to cash in their business or manage their finances.
âAnd that put us in touch with football clubs all over the world, but particularly in Europe, southern Europe is a big user of it. Many funders are based in the UK. It’s been really interesting and it’s kind of a niche.
âSo we have a certain reputation for that and a lot of funds come to us for that, which is good.
âIt’s something that doesn’t really exist in Australia. The way the sport is set up in Australia is franchise and center control.
âAnd the fact that there isn’t really a transfer system and, let’s be honest, it’s not a big transfer window either.
âBut there’s no reason it can’t change over time, and maybe it will. It’s one foot at a time.
âI wonder over time how it might turn out for Australia if football starts to become a more important mainstream sport.
“If you go back 10 years or more, it was still a marginal and minority sport and nowadays it is recognized to be on the verge of being mainstream, if not mainstream.”
Earl began his legal career in South Australia and entered the sports world working for a firm called Kelly & Co, whose clients included tennis star Lleyton Hewitt. He then moved to the UK to join his wife and now advises in football on sponsorship, image rights, commercial rights, finance, immigration and tax rights.
One of the biggest transfers Earl has been involved in was the transfer of Spain striker Morata in 2017 from Real Madrid to the Blues.
“It was a record deal for them, around Â£ 65million [A$120m], “he said.” And again, that was really interesting.
âHe had come from Spain to move to the UK so there is a big tax challenge and we had about 48 hours to close the deal which didn’t really help.
âThey wanted him to be on a plane to Singapore to play on tour. It was a great way to focus the minds, as we are told that no matter what, he gets on this plane. So that was great, and we did it.
Earl may not have grown up as a football fan in Australia, but he now has a special appreciation and understanding of the sport after working at such an elite level for several years.
European football is a multi-billion dollar industry, subject to scrutiny and intense consequences, but the Australian lawyer has thrived in this particular environment.
âI was really an Aussie Rules player and fan,â Earl explained.
âWhen I was in school I remember watching Match of the Day and thinking it was like a world far away, these brands, these football clubs looked like institutions. They were so big. I guess that I did not expect to work in the industry.
“It only really started when I came to the UK and started to understand how football worked and what was going on behind the scenes.
“It’s not all about the money, but I have to say that working on these kinds of deals gives you an insight into what drives these clubs and understand the pressure they are constantly under to acquire the right talent. .
âA lot of people will look at these offers and say they’re crazy, how the hell can you pay so much money.
“Whether that makes sense or not, that’s the way it works and it’s hyper-competitive and that’s why they have to pay talent what they need to score that goal that could bring them that vital point. because the stakes are so high. “