From MLS to the Soccer Field

MLS alumna May Low (LLB/BSc 2008) is Legal Counsel at Melbourne City FC. She shares her story with MLS.

May Low

What inspired you to study law at MLS?

Curiosity, mainly. Coming from a scientific family, I didn’t know much about the practice of law. But I’ve always had a strong sense of justice and was interested in the philosophies that underpinned the legal mechanics.

What was a highlight of your time at MLS?

Joining, and eventually editing, the Melbourne Journal of International Law, where I met some of the most interesting and interested people during my time at MLS. I think the Journal’s global focus attracted adventurous types – people who have gone on to become diplomats and international scholars, to work for Greenpeace, Reprieve, and in remote Aboriginal communities or on constitutional litigation issues in South Africa. I’m sure that it was the Journal that planted the seed for my stint at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm .

Where are you now in the world and what have you been working on in the past week?

I’m back in Melbourne now, but will spend some time in Manchester later this month. It’s one of the benefits of being part of a global group. The City Football Group are the first organisation to establish a network of football clubs across the world with a shared philosophy – Melbourne City FC, Manchester City FC and New York City FC. It is a time of evolution and it’s exciting to be part of the process!

At the moment I’m drafting contracts for international projects aimed at developing football in Asia. I’ve also been reviewing sponsorship agreements, supporting our City in the Community foundation to deliver a community program for non-English speaking kids, and assessing the impact of recent regulatory changes on employees of the Club.

You have worked as a criminal lawyer, a corporate lawyer, and now in-house counsel in a football club. How have you navigated these different sectors of the legal profession?

I’ve just followed my nose, really. Life changes meant that I wasn’t necessarily able to stay in the same sector. Rather than fighting market forces, I’ve embraced opportunities to work in a new area of law and loved it. I’ve been extremely lucky that people have given me opportunities to grow in the roles I’ve had. Each area of practice has taught me something valuable – the heavy caseloads at the Aboriginal Legal Service and Legal Aid NSW were great training for case-preparation, making good decisions under pressure and staying focused on practical outcomes. Corporate in-house practice allowed me to apply these skills in contractual and corporate governance contexts, and become familiar with the procedural and regulatory frameworks that apply to large corporations. All have come in handy in my current role.

What are the highlights and challenges of working in sports law?

The high-profile nature of sporting organisations make them a unique workplace. On-field performance affects the decisions that are made off-field and situations can change from week to week. This requires a high level of adaptability and priority-management, but I thoroughly enjoy the variety of legal work that finds its way onto my desk. From large projects in foreign jurisdictions to questions of contractual detail, it is certainly never boring. Being able to insert the occasional sports tribunal casework into the corporate everyday is definitely a highlight!

It has been fascinating to work in-house at an organisation where the focus is on more than the bottom line. Melbourne City is at heart about football – the team, the fans, what happens on the field and the development of Australian soccer generally. You’re not just working for shareholders, but for the whole community of City fans and supporters.