For someone who doesn’t really play football, Northridge partner Ian Lynam certainly hides it well.
In recent months, the Northridge co-founder has become something of a powerful broker in the game, advising on high-ranking sales talks involving AC Milan, Chelsea and Everton.
They are mandates that distinguish a sports law boutique in a market where several others are trying to do something similar. Launched in 2017 by the partner quartet of Charles Russell Speechlys Lynam, Jonathan Ellis, Jon Walters and James Eighteen, the company has become one of the most respected teams in its sector.
But working with the best football clubs in the world did not divert Linam from his main passion for sports: rugby.
“I was born in Limerick, which is known for two things – its reputation as the capital of crime with knives in Ireland and rugby. Fortunately, I was more interested in rugby! ”He joked.
While playing rugby before adolescence, his desire to pursue sports law was more influenced by the impact of his work as an intern with merger and acquisition partner Nigel Boardman in Slaughter and May.
Boardman, who has advised on many issues for Arsenal football club throughout his career, left a significant mark on Linam when he was a junior lawyer.
“The work under Nigel Boardman had a huge impact. To be brutally honest, working with Nigel, you just realize his brilliance and that you may never be able to reach that level. That made me want to chart my own path. ”
He managed to wet his signal for sports law when a senior associate was on their honeymoon, and as a result, he was able to work on an exciting deal with Arsenal. This experience confirmed to Linam that his future was in sports law, which led him to complete a postgraduate degree at Kings College London. Lynam will then move into sports practice at CRS in 2007, becoming a partner in 2010 and being appointed co-leader of the team in 2014.
Here Linam and his colleagues began to build the foundations that would allow them to separate from CRS and start their own company, concluding first-class deals such as the sale of Everton for 200 million pounds and the transfer of footballer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for 35 million pounds to Liverpool.
“John and I built the CRS practice to be a Level 1 sports practice for the 6-7 years we ran it. Of course, there is always gambling with customers, each of them may decide not to follow, but they all followed. “
Lynam attributes the success to a combination of a strictly focused boutique-style experience as well as a “big law” approach to customer care.
“When the stakes are highest, industry knowledge and experience, together with general legal capacity, rigor and effective execution time, are what the client wants.”
He highlights the recent deal with Chelsea, which Northridge is leading with Simmons & Simmons, as a particularly unique experience.
“The network of regulations (eg FA or FIFA regulations) has an impact on the way a deal can be made. Anyone looking for a football club needs lawyers who are fully aware of the regulations, including their junior lawyers. The transaction with Chelsea was particularly unique, as the schedule, the environment (sanctions) and the tender process required specific expertise. “
Lyman also attributes part of his success to the good old-fashioned word-of-mouth show, comparing it to how one can recommend a decent plasterer to one’s neighbor, in addition to being a kind neighbor to multimillion-dollar players and their clubs.
Although the company is more focused on action for governing groups and clubs, they also boast an impressive roster of players on their roster, including Thierry Henry, Rahim Stirling, Bucaio Sacca, Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford.
In addition to major football clients, the company has covered rugby work, such as advice on restructuring the Super League in 2018, horse racing – they advised the British Horse Racing Authority to rewrite the rules for competitions in May 2021 – and golf.
The company also expanded to work in gambling, hiring partner Melanie Ellis in 2019 and advising heavy gamblers Betway to expand US sponsorship in 2021.
Northridge has grown to 28 lawyers, but Lyman has no plans to expand to a team of 100, citing fears of “diluting the focus.”
According to him, the key to their success comes in part to this focused experience, although the company is currently looking for M&A associates, adding: “The future looks bright and busy and the sport should not disappear anytime soon.”