Face­book and Twit­ter are fu­ture, pre­dicts agent

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Bai­ley

THE EFL must con­sider aban­don­ing the safe money of Sky and em­brace the power of so­cial me­dia, ac­cord­ing to one of the men who ush­ered in the Premier League era.

Up un­til 2010, Jon Smith was the head of sports man­age­ment agency First Artist and still has a di­rect line to some of the most pow­er­ful play­ers in the foot­ball in­dus­try.

He worked with Sky to com­mer­cialise the Bri­tish game but, with new tech­nol­ogy of­fer­ing ex­cit­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties for the fu­ture, Smith be­lieves now is the time for the Foot­ball League to start di­ver­si­fy­ing.

The eye­wa­ter­ing amounts that Sky and BT have ploughed into the Premier League – to­talling more than £5bn over the next three years – is leav­ing the EFL fur­ther in the dis­tance.

But Smith’s mes­sage to EFL chief Shaun Har­vey is to in­ves­ti­gate the global pull of sites, such as Twit­ter and Face­book, in time for when the cur­rent broad­cast­ing ar­range­ment with Sky ends in 2019.

“There’s a way of mak­ing Brad­ford sexy in South Amer­ica,” Smith quipped. “If I was head­ing the Foot­ball League, I would be en­gag­ing with the big so­cial me­dia com­pa­nies and those who have in­vested in it – Ama­zon, Google, Face­book, Snapchat – so that when the next round of rights are sold there are op­tions.

“It opens the door fully and they don’t have to sell their rights to the only bid­der in Sky.

“If they are not be go­ing to be chal­leng­ing the Premier League right at the top, it makes for an in­ter­est­ing an­a­lyt­i­cal dis­cus­sion.

“It would be a step into the un­known, and a gam­ble, but the next gen­er­a­tion are not watch­ing on TV. They’re on so­cial me­dia and have phones and tablets. It’s got awe­some po­ten­tial glob­ally.


“There is al­ways some­thing else next. There will be a big rev­o­lu­tion with the tech com­pa­nies, and foot­ball will grow in a com­pletely new di­men­sion.”

Smith, whose pre­vi­ous list of clients in­clude the Eng­land foot­ball team and Diego Maradona, “unashamedly” helped bring about a com­mer­cial rev­o­lu­tion that he feels has made the game a far bet­ter spec­ta­cle in this coun­try.

But, with the cash­flow from the top to the bot­tom more of a drib­ble than a del­uge, he also rec­om­mends that chair­men be­come savvier in their trans­fer deal­ings.

“It’s a hand­ful of the big­ger clubs that the money is go­ing to. That’s the prob­lem,” he said. “You get big para­chute pay­ments, but what about the rest of the Cham­pi­onship?

“Foot­ball League clubs have to take a look at the way they sell their play­ers, be­cause big­ger clubs go shop­ping abroad as the deals are more mal­leable there.

“Clubs in [places like] Spain are more open to stag­gered pay­ments, amor­ti­sa­tion, in­clud­ing image rights.

“Whereas, in Eng­land, it can be the at­ti­tude of ‘give me £1.5m now and £1.5m at the end of next sea­son’.” If the gen­eral be­lief is that agents floss their teeth with £50 notes, Smith in­sists it can take years of hard work to forge a suc­cess­ful ca­reer – and even then only a tiny pro­por­tion rake in mega amounts. “You get a tip about a lad who is very good. He is 16. You go to see the par­ents and say ‘this is what I’ve done for oth­ers’,” Smith ex­plains in one ex­am­ple. “But they’ve got ten other agents or in­ter­me­di­aries in­ter­ested, and ask for, say, £50,000 to rep­re­sent their son. They want their piece of flesh, too.”

But, though foot­ball’s age of in­no­cence may be long gone, there is still room for fairy­tale in the game, as Smith has helped nu­mer­ous semi-pro­fes­sion­als achieve their dreams.

“I’ve done loads of deals down the leagues, not just the big ones,” he added.

“I’m a foot­ball fan. I love it just as much as I have al­ways done, and I’ve al­ways wanted to change and in­no­vate.

“It’s quite amaz­ing, the vari­a­tion. One day, you could be do­ing a big deal, and then, in the lower di­vi­sions, you are ar­gu­ing over lun­cheon vouch­ers, fig­u­ra­tively speak­ing.

“Play­ers can still go un­no­ticed at lower-league clubs, it can hap­pen. I picked up a kid at Weald­stone. My brother watched him and thought he was good.

“We had a re­la­tion­ship with Ken Bates (for­mer Leeds chair­man) at the time and he was very good with academy play­ers, and they all loved him when he went on trial.


“Within 18 months he was in the first team and then scored against Manch­ester United. It was Jer­maine Beck­ford. “It can hap­pen. It’s not that much of a rar­ity, but you have to man­age ex­pec­ta­tions. The Cham­pi­onship is prob­a­bly his level as it did not work out for him at Ever­ton.” The Deal: In­side the World of a Su­per-Agent by Jon Smith, with James Ol­ley (Con­sta­ble), is out now.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

UN­COV­ERED GEM: Agent Jon Smith, in­set, found Jer­maine Beck­ford, seen here play­ing for Leeds against Manch­ester United

BIG NAME: Smith has rep­re­sented Diego Maradona in the past and, in­set right, his new book

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