Eniola Aluko

ENIOLA ALUKO: WHY I’M PUTTING MY LEGAL CAREER ON HOLD FOR FOOTBALL

Super Eagles star, Sone Aluko’s sister, Eniola  who plays for Chelsea Ladies and England is carving a niche for herself. Born 21 February 1987, Nigeria, Eniola Aluko is a qualified sports and entertainment lawyer, has played for the ladies outfits of Birmingham, Charlton, St Louis Athletica, Atlanta Beat and Sky Blue. Eniola speaks to BBC Sport’s Alistair Magowan on her world of football and law careers.

England and Chelsea forward Eniola Aluko will be writing a regular column for the BBC Sport website throughout the season.

Ahead of Chelsea’s first Women’s Super League game on Sunday, she explains how qualifying as a lawyer will allow her to concentrate on football during a vital World Cup season.

For the first time in eight years my double life as a striker and trainee solicitor will be on hold.

You may know that I play for Chelsea and England, but I am also a recently qualified sports and entertainment lawyer.

The certificate came through the post earlier this month and it was a very proud moment for me; it’s taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to this point. Sometimes after a tough training session, the last thing you want to do is go into the office.

The timing has been excellent, though.

Like many other clubs in the Women’s Super League, we are full-time professionals at Chelsea. So now I’m qualified, my plan is to put law on the backburner and give football my full attention. It coincides nicely with what is the biggest year of my football career.

The competition for places in the England squad has never been stronger ahead of the World Cup in June and hopefully training every day will also boost our chances of winning silverware at Chelsea this season.

Being pipped to the title by Liverpool on the final day of last season was painful, but we are stronger for going through that experience. And with August’s FA Cup final also due to be played at Wembley for the first time, there is plenty to be excited about.

Dealing with Beckham and Boyle

Usually it takes five or six years to qualify as a solicitor but after spending some time studying and playing in the United States, my journey has taken a little longer.
The last two years of my legal training have been a bit of a slog, fitting it around football, and in that sense I’ve been fortunate to work for two very understanding law firms.

Aluko says she was inspired by fictional lawyer Atticus Finch in the book To Kill a Mockingbird
Both have given me a wide and varied taste of the sports and entertainment world, from working on commercial deals for David Beckham through to divorce cases and the hacking trial.
Much of this world involves contract law; basically negotiating on behalf of artists or sports stars, and their employers, to get your client the best deal possible.

At one firm, I helped the likes of One Direction and artists from the X-factor negotiate with their record labels, and I even helped represent comedian Frankie Boyle in his defamation case against the News of the World.

During my time at a sports law firm, we did a lot of work with Olympic athletes such as cyclist Victoria Pendleton and snowboarder Jenny Jones, while working on Eden Hazard’s image rights is something that will stand me in good stead for working in that field.

My plan is to work in sports law when I finish playing and, even now, I occasionally get team-mates asking about their deals with clubs and what my opinion is.

Women’s football is still quite young so players aren’t always that savvy when it comes to their contracts. You do get occasions where they have signed something that they didn’t want to, but if I can offer advice it’s always nice to help progress their careers.

After I retire from football, representing female players is something that might appeal to me.

Why law?

I’ve always had a natural leaning towards representing people’s interests. I remember in school I used to get very irate about things if I thought they were unfair and I always used to stick up for other people.

It was just an innate thing; I’m quite principled when it comes to how people are treated.

When I was younger I was obsessed with the book To Kill a Mockingbird  and the central character Atticus Finch; I loved law films and I was very interested in politics.

My dad was a politician back in Nigeria. I just took that interest on to university and when I qualified with a first-class degree, I knew that I could practise it for real.

Lawyers are becoming more common in football. A lot of agents will hire them to deal with the technical details of a contract so, quite often, lawyers will double up as agents too. Having the legal and commercial law background is definitely an advantage when it comes to negotiation.

For me, that is the best part: getting the best deal for your client. People assume a sports lawyer will just dot the Is and cross the Ts, but there’s a lot more involved. All parties are usually happy when a contract is signed but in a year’s time when the relationship with a club breaks down or the athlete wants to change clubs or agents, you need to have the foresight to specify how it will be dealt with.

I’ve negotiated my own contract in the past; I was involved when England players were looking for better central contracts a few years ago.

That was a good example of when having a knowledge of the playing side and the legal side can be beneficial, and I hope that will be the case in the future. As a lawyer, I will be able to understand my clients’ needs because, as a professional footballer, I have been there.

Lineker’s praise for my goal

I’ve been flattered by the reaction to my goal for England during the 1-1 draw against the Netherlands in our successful Cyprus Cup campaign earlier this month.

It was already on the internet but it wasn’t until I appeared on Match of the Day 2 Extra and they showed it in the programme that people really picked up on it. One of them was Gary Lineker, who said some very nice things about it on Twitter. It’s nice when high-profile people acknowledge your work.

In fact, we had a bit of banter after he told me he only scored tap-ins, but I managed to find him scoring a worldy.

Was it my best goal ever? I scored a similar one in the 2009 European Championship quarter-finals against Finland where I dribbled from the half-way line, so maybe that edges it because of the occasion.

Scoring goals like that inspires me to do the same thing again, and hopefully I can for Chelsea and England this season.

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One Comments

  1. Reply Post By oyinlade keny

    well, good for Eniola, we celebrate Asisat Oshola far beta dan her cos she is not a proud nigeria girl, though i support chelsea fc, but for the ladies, up reds, up liverpool.

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