Ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, JSEL’s Marvellous Iheukwumere interviewed Emilio García Silvero, the Chief Legal and Compliance Officer at FIFA. Emilio shared his career journey and advice for students.
Name, Position, and Location
Emilio García Silvero, Chief Legal and Compliance Officer at FIFA, Zurich, Switzerland.
I’m a lawyer specializing in international sports law, with a clear inclination towards international arbitration disputes (under the jurisdiction of the Court of Arbitration for Sport) in the context of football (soccer) matters.
I earned my J.D. at the University of Extremadura (2000, Caceres, Spain), and I obtained my Ph.D. in Law a few years later at King Juan Carlos University (2008, Madrid, Spain). I have also completed a Master in Sports Law (2003, Spain) and a Master in Sports Governance (2010, Paris, France).
During the 2003/2004 academic year, I had the great honor to be admitted to Harvard Law School as a Visiting Scholar, attending the Sports Law course of Prof. Paul C. Weiler. It was an incredible personal and professional experience, which gave me the opportunity to develop certain international aspects of my Doctoral Thesis, which I defended afterwards in Madrid, Spain. I still have fantastic memories from my wintertime in Cambridge.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
Working for an international company like FIFA is a continuous Master’s degree. On a regular basis, you are involved in many different legal problems all around the world affecting a number of issues. For instance, one day you may be enrolled in pure corporate matters subject to Swiss law, the next day you will be discussing antitrust matters in the context of FIFA’s activities in the US with your New York based external counsel, and then during the evening you’ll be in touch with FIFA’s lawyers in Australia, who are working on the corporate structure for the Women’s World Cup that will take place there in 2023. Time never stops for us, and it is definitely a challenge to continuously be working over such a large number of different time zones that FIFA’s activities cover.
How did you begin working in this industry?
After having returned from my time at HLS with Prof. Paul C. Weiler, I received an offer from the Spanish Football (soccer) Federation. They were looking for a Head of Legal specialized in sports law, with the main goal of setting up a brand new in-house legal department. I started my career there, being in charge of all legal matters of this national football (soccer) federation. During that time, the Spanish National team became European champion twice (2008, 2012) and won its first World Cup (2010). The very intense sporting success throughout this period also had a direct impact on the responsibilities of the recently-created Legal department.
What has been one highlight from your career?
Following my time at the Spanish football (soccer) federation, I received an offer from UEFA, the European confederation in charge, among other competitions, of the popular and successful UEFA Champions League. I accepted the offer and, in 2012, I moved from Madrid to Switzerland, starting my international career in football. This was most definitely a turning point for me. Working in the international context on a daily basis has given me more chances to better understand the industry at the global level. I spent six amazing years working for UEFA, in which we developed a number of legal projects that remain relevant to this day.
What piece of advice would you give to a current law student?
During my stay at HLS in the 2003/2004 academic year, I spent most of my time at the library, from the morning to the evening, only taking a break to attend Prof. Weiler’s Sports Law Course two/three days per week. During this period and throughout my professional career, I have also been extremely motivated in my daily activity in itself, of which I have always been very passionate. Hence, hard work and motivation are two essential factors in life, but even more so for a lawyer. If one is able to combine both, I’m fully sure that person will succeed. Without a doubt.
What is a recent case or trend in your industry that interested law students should do some research about?
Obviously, there are a variety of topics in international sports law nowadays which can be considered relevant or trending, but if I were to suggest research topics to young law students, I would focus on two areas: first, the combination of human rights and sport (with specific reference to anti-doping or athletes’ participation in sports), and second, corporate governance in the context of sports institutions. In both areas, I believe there is room for big research and legal technical analysis.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Frankly, my family takes the large part of my free time right now. My wife, my nine-year-old son and six-year-old daughter are at the center of my weekends and holidays. But life is fantastic when you have the possibility to do things with those you love.
Here in Switzerland, skiing is a big tradition. We spend a lot of time in the mountains during winter weekends. Soccer (football) is also part of my free time, since my kids love to play this sport. Finally, once in a while, I also manage to find some time for reading and cooking.
Marvellous Iheukwumere is a third-year law student at Harvard Law School and the Online Content Chair for Sports for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law.