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2022/23 Module Two: Athlete investment in sport

Posted on 30 January 2023

In this second module, Lydia Kellett is joined by Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder at ONEIGHTY Productions, Jo Tongue MBE, CEO of Tongue Tied Management and Adam Osper, Managing Partner at Evelyn Partners.

The panellists will consider the challenges and considerations around athlete investments in sports. In particular, they will discuss and explore (i) the different investment models and structures that can be used, (ii) the key considerations from both the brand and athletes' perspective and (iii) the types of investments that our speakers have been involved in.

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Everyone joining us here at Africa House in London and those of you who are joining us online as well.  My name is Lydia Kellett and I’m a Managing Associate in the Corporate team at Mishcon de Reya and also, a member of the Sports Group too.  I’m really delighted to be hosting this panel session with these guys today, talking about the really interesting area of athlete investment and sport.  Now, before we get under way, some of you may well not have attended a Sports Law Academy session before and if you haven’t, welcome, hope you enjoy your first session and for those of you who don’t know a bit about it, here’s a bit of introduction.  Now, the SLA is a free to access academic distance learning programme designed for junior lawyers, students and non-legal professionals for those already working in the industry, as well as those looking to gain a unique, different, practical insight into contemporary sports law issues.  And our goal is to facilitate debate, examine key issues in the world of sport and share knowledge as well in order to improve industry standards, promote diversity and nurture talent as well.  Please do get involved with the SLA as much as possible, whether that’s during this event or afterwards too.  Please drop us an email, please post on our SLA LinkedIn page or please just put up your hand and raise a question, it’s always great to hear from you and we love your feedback and we especially love your feedback because it helps us really create the programme for next year as well. 
So, moving on to today’s event about athlete investment in sport.  I am really excited to explore this interesting area with this amazing panel of speakers.  We have Marvin Sordell, Jo Tongue and Adam Osper.  So, enough from me, Marvin, do you want to introduce yourself. 
Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

Yeah, I can do.  My name is Marvin.  I’m a former professional football player.  I played for ten years across many different clubs – I’m not going to name them because we won’t have time for anything else – I played for England at Under 20 and Under 21 level and Team GB at London 2012 as well.  Now I’m many things.  I’m a film maker and I’m an entrepreneur as well.

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Amazing.  Thank you, Marvin.  Jo. 

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

So I’m Jo.  I run a sports agency, mainly based in football, and a production company.  My background was, I started as a football reporter, so I started on the other side in broadcast and then moved across to become an agent.  I work a lot in women’s sport so, that’s sort of a growing area as I’m sure you all know and on the production side, we generally make football documentaries or programmes, although I was just telling Marvin, we did recently diversify and do a Quincy Jones doc for radio, for BBC radio, which nearly killed me but was, you know, my passion is music but football’s the mainstay of the business. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Amazing.  And Adam. 

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

I’m Adam Osper, I’m the Managing Partner at Evelyn Partners.  I am a financial planner.  I run our sports and entertainment division, which I’ve been running for nine years, I’ve been working in the industry for twenty-two, I’ve been working in sports and entertainment space for fifteen and I’ve a client bank of around fifty sports and entertainment clients, predominantly football, some music, boxing, cycling, cricket and I basically help them look after their money so that when they finish football, they’re not broke, ideally.

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Amazing.  Thanks Adam.  If you’d like to just pop onto the slides just one moment.  Great.  So, here we all are. 

So, athletes doing deals with businesses and brands is nothing new but the modern athlete is becoming increasingly savvy to the range of commercial opportunities that may be available to them, not only during their sporting career but in retirement as well.  And at the same time, we’re seeing brands embracing new ways to collaborate with sports stars.  Now, enter the athlete investor and athlete investment.  Now, in a traditional endorsement deal, a brand will pay a sports star a fee for a range of intellectual property rights, including their likeness and their voice, as well as a couple of other services, for example, the opportunity to shoot content and agreed number of performances, plus social media posts as well.  But gone are the days when this sort of traditional endorsement deal is the only way to structure a brand and talent.  We’re now seeing an increasing number of different sorts of structures, different sorts of ways for a brand and a talent to collaborate and on the rise are sorts of investments that include cash and equity in companies.  Now, why are athletes looking at a different sort of endorsement deal?  Well, when structured correctly, they can be a real big win-win for all parties so, from the athlete’s perspective, a career can be short sometimes and injuries can shorten it even further and capitalising on revenue and cash income can reap major benefits, not only as I say during the course of their career but during their retirement as well and likewise for founders of brands, they’re becoming more aware of athlete investors, amazing social media presence, also contact book and also their ability to provide strategic advisory input later on.  Now, athlete investment is much more developed over in the US than it is over here but it’s becoming increasingly popular over here in the UK and Europe.  Now, some examples of investments by US athletes include LeBron James’ investments in Beats and in Fenway Sports Group which owns Liverpool and the Red Sox.  We have Serena Williams’ investment in Coinbase in addition to her own VC firm, Serena Ventures.  We have Michael Jordan’s stake in Charlotte Hornets.  Now it goes that apparently, he owned about fifty, sorry $90 million earning, sorry income from playing basketball, whereas his global wealth today is estimated to be about $1.8 billion.  In other words, he earned only 5% of his global income from actually playing basketball on court and actually, major part of his global wealth is from his other investments. 

Now, as I say, it’s becoming increasingly popular over here in the UK and some examples of UK athlete’s investments include AJ’s collaboration with Dizon and his investment in Dizon as well.  And Andy Murray’s investment in Castore and collaboration with Castore as well and in fact the sports team here at Mishcon advised on that collaboration. 

So, delving onto the topic of athlete incomes and investment structures.  Now, an athlete’s income streams can be divided into two main pots.  We have the on pitch income which is broadly salary and playing bonuses.  We then have the off pitch income which is broadly divided into a couple of groups, we have sponsorships and endorsements, so the boys at Man City 7.19 unclear.  We have individual deals, random bus 7.23unclear and media opportunities.  We also have investments and these can usually be divided into traditional investments such as investments in real estate or art or cars and alternative investments.  Now, it’s these alternative investments that we’re looking at today.  What do we mean by alternative investments?  Now, there are investments in companies and they go beyond a commercial agreement, a traditional endorsement agreement, and into an equity stake.  That means the athlete becomes a shareholder in a company.  Now what do they actually look like?  In practice, how does an athlete become an investor, a shareholder in a company?  Now there are a couple of ways to do this.  The first one and most obvious example is the athlete invest cash and they get shares in return.  Now in terms of how much cash they invest and how many shares they get in return, that really depends on how much the company is worth and the athlete’s team may be able to negotiate a discount, for example, on the share price, depending on their profile, for example.  So, an example of all of this could be, say if there’s, the stake was £500K, now the athlete might investment £500K of cash in exchange for £500K of shares.  On the other hand, say if they had an IP rights agreement worth £100K a year, they may well enter into that, put £400K of cash in and get £500K of shares in return.  They’ve made up their £500K worth of shares by way of £400K in cash and a £100K in shares.  An alternative might be that they do put £500K of cash in, for example, and there be a separate brand ambassador agreement, for example another sort of commercial agreement, and the beauty of that sort of structure is that by way of the shareholding, the athlete will reap dividends, all being well, on the shares, in addition to income under their brand ambassador agreement.  A different sort of structure may well be that instead of putting cash into a company, the athlete might endorse the brand instead so, in exchange for the endorsement they may get shares in return and again, how much goes in and how much comes out, is a question of valuation.  Now, this may well be the particular case if for example the brand or the company doesn’t have a big marketing budget, they may well say “athlete, we can’t pay you for the endorsement but we will give you shares in return,” so the athlete may get shares or discounted shares in exchange for the endorsement.  Now, this does blur the line between investment and sponsorship, so you will see all these structures have a bit of, they are a bit of a mix between investment, traditional endorsement, cash, equity and all things, they take many different shapes but a third example that I want to talk about today is a brand ambassador role.  Now, as we’ve said, a brand ambassador role is usually an agreement between athlete and a brand and the services the athlete will provide will include their IP, their name, their voice, their likeness across marketing channels, across social media platforms and it may well include a royalty stake as well and it may well include a cash subscription as well.  A fourth type of agreement, in addition to the brand ambassador agreement may be a strategic advisory position and that’s what we’ve seen with AJ and Dizon.  So, services go into the company in exchange for cash and there may well be a side agreement alongside it where you have income and royalties and commission as well.  So, as I say, these deals take many different shapes, they take many different forms and it really depends on bargaining power or the parties and all the dynamics at play in transactions of this kind and there are many different legal considerations that play into the sort of transaction that the advisor team and the athletes and brand can negotiate. 

So, enough from me.  I want to ask these guys about their experience in the industry so far.  So, if I can start with you, Jo, maybe.  What’s, what sort of investment deals have you been in with your athletes and the clients that you represent?

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

I think it’s really interesting because I rep both male and female athletes.  It’s so different on both sides, like you have to imagine male footballers – if we’re you know let’s talk about the male athletes but they’re generally footballers in my case – they have a completely different source, you know income level than the females have traditionally had so, females that I represent, you know I’ve got the England captain, I’ve got Emma Hayes who’s the Chelsea Manager, you know they’re people who are top of, four Lionesses, you know these people are at the top of their game but no one was earning money till, we weren’t professional till 2014, so there was no level of income really till 2014, everyone was semi-pro, everyone had other jobs, it’s only in the last six years, eight years, that we’ve started sort of to see income on that side so, on the male side, I’d say yes, straight investments, you know everyone was in property, businesses, straight deals but on the women’s side it’s really interesting at the moment because the deals that we’re doing particular at the moment are the share options that you spoke about or what I particularly like to do is the strategic advisor ones because women’s sport is, it’s changed so much, so quickly, that loads of brands, companies, are going “Women’s sport, quick, need to get on it" but they don’t quite now how they need to get on it, whereas the athletes that we work with, they’ve been in it for so long, they know what women’s sport needs, I just, I’m not saying the brands aren’t credible because they’re experts in their own field but I think there’s so much they can learn from the actual athletes who have the lived experience, who let’s face it were not in football for the money, were in football for the love and they just want to grow the game, so we’ve sort of more recently, especially the last two years, it’s really kicked on, a lot of the deals we’re doing, we literally put them in a… yes, we’ll do some ambassador stuff and we’ll do some appearance stuff but more important to us, is that this partnership is authentic and it’s only going to be authentic if we think you’re doing the right thing for women’s sport, you know, if my client is going to attach their name to your brand, you’ve got to be doing women’s sport how we want women’s sport to be done properly and part of that is by insisting that we have a strategic advisory role or so, rather than, you know, to break it down, you do a deal and it’s four appearances across the year, I’d say rather than four appearances, can we have two strategic days with your company where you’re still getting the appearance from my client but it’s just internal and they’re advising you rather than just being the face and speaking, you know, something that you’ve dictated to us that we probably don’t agree with if, I mean, you’ll know from experience, the amount of times you turn up to something that you, as a agent, an athlete, that you have no control over but you agree a deal with them, a brand, you’ll get a brief, you’ll turn up on the day and they go “right, here’s your script, you’re doing this, this and this,” ultimately, you’ve signed the contract, you’re, you’re not in control, whereas we’re trying to sort of pre-empt that six months prior to brand appearance or ad or commercial or whatever we’re doing, we’ve advised you on what would be best so, yeah, that’s my experience and it is really quite different between the male and female athletes that we work with. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

And did you see that the kind of brands who are interested in your female clients sort of rocket after the Euros? 

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

It’s crazy.  It’s so, but it’s really nice because there’s some brands that were involved so, I’ve got a client who, there’s a bank who were started by a female, she’s a female entrepreneur, my client has a separate business, she has a business alongside being a footballer and she’d always banked with this bank, I think because it had been started by a female and she just liked it and, anyway, they, we had a deal with them prior to the Euros, obviously go and win the Euros, and obviously all the financial companies then come in but she’s really insistent that she sticks with said company because they backed her and women’s football prior to the glory but yeah, I mean there’s so many randoms that, and people, like brands don’t think so, we’ve, I’ll get emails from, I don’t want to name names but companies that, I mean you wouldn’t put an England athlete next to said brand for love nor money, especially money, and I think they pick up that it’s a really good deal, it’s a real, they’ve got real, they’ve got a lot, you know they’ve got a lot of budget they can put behind this and I’m like, I don’t care about the budget, my client cannot be seen pictured next to said brand in a supermarket, like, and they go, “can we have some feedback” and I really don’t want to be the person that writes in an email, “My client cannot sit next to this brand in a super…” like it wouldn’t, but they don’t think like why are you, and I really don’t want to name names but you’ve got think how the brand, why do you want an England female footballer to endorse your brand?  I understand it on surface level but think about it, is she the right person to market for your purchasing power?  Like, are we, are you linking this up or are you just going, “women’s sport’s in, females have the, you know have the spending power in the house, let’s just do that.  It doesn’t work and yeah, you could look, you could do it for the money and you could, everybody could have got very cash rich in the last year but what about the longevity, what happens in five years and also, it then limits how many brands do you want to work with?  You’ve got to be authentic about it but yeah, I mean it’s, it’s changed exponentially in the last year. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

But I think, I think that really highlights the importance of having a good team around you, a good team of advisors that are not only interested in making a cut out of what you’re going to get but genuinely understand what you’re looking for as an athlete.  Marvin, do you have any sort of insights into this in terms of the team around you and…?

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

Yeah, I mean it’s, there are not many people like Jo, I’ll be honest, in the industry so, you know, Jo’s a credit to all of her athletes and clients because from what I know and from my experience, there are many different people in it for different reasons and you know, I think I was fortunate, very much, that I had my mum by my side always advising me and always supporting the decisions I made.  Also, to be honest, I am very stubborn and I look into a lot of things myself, I read things, I understand things and try to learn about as much as possible because in the end of the day, it’s my life and so I want it to be, you know, from a very young age, I’ve always wanted to be in control of that so, yeah, I mean having a team is very important but also being able to manage and understand what you’re doing yourself is equally as important. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

What about you, Adam?  When you’re, when an athlete or a client comes to you and says, “I’m looking for this,” what sort of things are you looking at?  How do you, how do you approach the opportunities with them?

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

So, so, it’s interesting just listening to everyone talk so, what I do is probably slightly different.  So, the branding stuff, we don’t get involved in and I suppose o a day to day basis my role is to sit with the athlete and try to make sure that we build a structured plan so that when they finish playing whatever sport they may be in, they’re financially secure and that will depend on what level of that they’re playing at.  If you’re a top end Premier League footballer or if you’re playing in the Championship, those things mean slightly different things.  I think when you’re playing slightly higher up, in football especially, you have more opportunities and those types of things come around for me where you have a footballer who is maybe beginning to think about what he wants to do post-career.  One of the hardest things that I find, and it’s a little bit like what Jo’s saying where brands just come to fling stuff at you is, people come and fling investment opportunities to you because you work with footballers and because it sounds fancy and actually, because there’s a misconception that because footballers, sorry Marvin, you know wear strange clothes and drive flash cars and watches and so on, that they like taking risks with their money but actually it’s the complete opposite, they actually don’t like taking much risk at all with their money so, when people come to you with investment opportunities, being able to actually try to work out what’s rubbish and actually what is good opportunity and actually what is the reason for the opportunity.  So, is it because I want to make some money?  Is it tax related or tax led related where you’re going to get some relief from the way in or actually, what I try to do is actually say well what are you, what do you want to do post-career?  What’s interesting to you?  So, I’m working with a couple of clients now where one of them is just thinking about what’s going to happen after football and he’s interested in some sort of tech-related investment, so we’ve been meeting different tech-related firms and part of that is an education process for him to start learning about businesses, the types of things you were talking about, how you structure things and a lot of my time around non-conventional investment is batting stuff away and analysing things but one of the things I should mention, sorry I’m probably rambling on but one of the things which is quite interesting is what Marvin said, it’s really interesting is, he wanted to show an interest in things and actually, too often sports people don’t, they will sort of bury their heads and just get on with it but actually, it’s important to have a really good team around you but I try to always influence or make sure the people I work with, you know, understand what they’re doing, what they’ve got, where their money is and all of those types of things because their mum won’t be around at some point in the future or their partner might or whatever it be or their agents and so on, so at some point they’re going to have to take control for themselves. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

It is interesting though because I get, I guess there’s a bit of a tension between needing to be authentic, as you say Jo, and making sure you trust the people around you but also, probably wanting to maximise your earnings on the back of say a big competition and I can imagine there is a bit of a pressure on them to wanting to take opportunities as and when they come and not wanting to miss the boat for element of FOMO, for example. 

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

Of course, we have to be sensible about that and say look, now is your time but you’ve got to think about longevity.  Like, I said to you, what’s the point in committing yourself to ten brands this year and then you’re over exposing yourself, everyone’s a bit bored of you, none of it’s quite authentic, you don’t enjoy it, more to the, you know, primarily and you get a bit lost, like, Marvin’s great because like he said, he’s stubborn so he kind of probably knew himself and I’m really lucky, I think my clients know themselves really well so they know what they want, they know what they don’t want and I’m just here to say “This looks good, this doesn’t look good.  Strategically, let’s do this” but they’re very strong-minded, great characters.  I think if you max out, yeah, you can max out and still make money but still be around in five or ten years and invest that money properly while you do it, you don’t have to max out and be exhausted.  You know, the other thing we’ve got to consider is they’re still playing so we are, you know, ultimately that bit comes first so everything on this side is subsidiary to that, so you have to mindful of the minute you’re doing all this endorsement, investment, business stuff, the minute they’re not performing on the pitch, you’re getting the blame.  So, you’ve got to be really mindful of that.

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

So how do you guys, as advisors, I’d love to hear your take on this as well, Marvin, but how do you guys, as advisors then, scout out the opportunities for your athlete clients?  Are you guys leading the charge on the due diligence side of things and then put only in front of your clients things that you think, knowing them, they’ll be interested in or is it more collaborative?  How is it working, in practice? 

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

I mean, you know, from my side, as an initial starting point we won’t go specifically with anything and, you know, we like to put lay a foundation and that’s you know the more conventional looking after your money and making sure you’re going to be secure because ultimately any type of investment that we’re speaking about here has a greater risk, it’s more condensed because you’re investing in one place so you can lose everything and, you know, Jo made the really good point that actually, as soon as you get into that spiral of worrying about off-field stuff, it will affect your performance on it so, the first thing is actually, you know get the basics in place and then actually understand if they want to do stuff and then try to work out what interests them, is it property, is it tech, is it alternatives, is it brands, clothing, those types of things and then sort of go down that route, you know, and then at that point I would bring in you know you guys and a tax advisor, to then sort of look through the company and do the due diligence in more detail then. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

That’s interesting.  Jo, what about you?

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

So, yeah, from our point of view, we, all clients have a strategy so, you know I can sit here and say well we look after four Lionesses but they’re so unique in their own way, they all have their own what they want to do, what they’re interested in, so you know I’ve got a list on the strategy of the brands that x-player wants to work with so I know, so we’ll either be approaching that brand or that company and saying “we’re really interested in doing a bit of this, would you like a chat?”  Yeah, great, so we’ll have that meeting or obviously stuff is coming in all the time so, we meet, you know I’ll listen to everything, I’ll read everything, you know I’ve got a great team of eight in the business so, it’s not, you know it’s not just all me, everyone’s looking at everything, this looks good.  We have a policy that we do run everything past the client because my worst nightmare is that it’s your mum’s brother’s son who works at said brand and I’ve turned it down and it’s not even got in front of my client and they see them at you know Sunday dinner and your agent didn’t even do this so, I will always, everything is seen by the client but it’s very much, “right here’s the list” I mean we had one of the players in yesterday, it was probably like for our meeting because it’s three pages of requests and you’re going “right, here’s the front page, these are the ones that we think look interesting and look good, we’ve already had the initial meeting, this is the fee, this is what you’re doing, this is what the commitment is” and then the last page is “here’s the other stuff that’s come in.  If there’s a brand on there or there’s a person on there that you want to do and you want me to go back to, I can but I advise not.”  So, yeah.  And then, like we’ll say then that bit will happen and then it’s fun, you know, I’d ask a lawyer to help us with the next bit if we need.

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

What about you, Marvin because obviously you approached your kind of next stage after your career from the other side of things so, you said that you approach your mum to help you but how did you go about identifying sort of your opportunities?

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

Interestingly, to be honest, I just tried a lot of different things so, probably from the age of about 21, I was always interested in what else I could do beyond football because you know I used to get home at one o’clock and sit there and go well, I can’t just sit here every day watching TV or playing video games, it doesn’t really do anything for me, it’s not going to help me grow as a person and at some point, I’m going to have to finish playing football so, at that time I was learning to play the piano, I was learning to speak Spanish, I was learning to fly, I was writing poetry, I then began exploring film-making and I wanted to try all of these different things to understand what do I like, what don’t I like because that’s the only real way you’re going to be able to start building something, if you actually understand the ins and outs of different spaces and luckily, I kind of fell into film-making and I also have a marketing agency, so which is interesting because I sit kind of in between probably what both of you do and also on the brand side of things and you know your point on authenticity is such an interesting one because a lot of the conversations I have, when it comes to anything that brands want to do, athletes or players in any capacity, I always go back and say no, they’re not going to want to do that because I know because I’ve sat in that position so I know what is going to be of interest, what is going to make sense, how you’re going to piece things together, everything has to feel organic and authentic and we’re living in a time now where people can see through it very, very easily.  We live in such a saturated market when it comes to advertising, marketing, branding, anything of that sort so, if things aren’t real have to, you know they do massively stand out, the things that are not real.  They massively stand out so, it’s interesting that I can sit in that position now and then when it comes to investing, the biggest thing I did is invest in myself, you know, because if you do know what you like then you can start building a career in that space and you can start then getting commercial opportunities and you can exchange commercial opportunities for equity in times and it doesn’t necessarily have to just be like, I’m an athlete, a Premier League football player, I’m going to put x-amount of money into that business and allow that to grow, it’s how do I actively make that business grow as well because if I have a name and I have a brand on my own and I can push that brand and I can push that investment up, then that’s beneficial for me and it’s beneficial for the brand so I think it’s interesting sitting in kind of in the middle space to be honest because at times I’m still in the bracket of talent-athlete and in marketing and in as a, you know, content creator as a film-maker and so being able to see how these conversations happen and understand what makes the most sense and every single deal is completely bespoke, they’re so hybrid that it just makes, it just, it depends on what makes best sense in that situation and, you know, sometimes it is a case of I actually don’t really like the brand that much but you’re going to give me a lot of money so, you know, that’s going to be what makes sense or if I really believe in the brand and the cause behind it and the story behind it then it makes sense to be involved with them as part of this journey, as opposed to just taking money.  So, it’s a fun position to be in, to be honest. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

No, it’s an amazing position to be in from your perspective because of course you have both sides of the scene, don’t you.  It’s, that’s really cool. 

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

I understand that point.  It makes you far more when a brand comes and you genuinely believe in the cause or you believe in that they’re trying to do something a bit different or it’s just quite interesting.  It makes it much easier for both sides because it’s not just then about the fee so, you’re saying like yeah, if a company comes and it’s lots of money, you’ve got to look at it, you’d be stupid not to but actually, if the, so in my case the client but Marvin, for himself, or when he’s advising people, if they are genuinely, this is really interesting and they’re doing something interesting in the space, it’s much easier from the brand’s point of view to offer something, they might not have the money but actually, look we’re growing and we want you grow with us and that is actually quite interesting for all, I find that stuff far more interesting than “we’ve got this much money and we just need this amount of appearances and six social posts and done” because then I feel like, well you’re just using the athlete as, I get it, it’s fine, it works, yeah, it’s very, so transactional and there’s no, what’s the point? 

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

The way round, you know, if you pick up two of the things that Jo and Marvin have just said, you know, if, if you don’t, if you’re going to look for investment opportunities, you need to decide what you’re investing in.  If you’re looking to just make some money, fine.  You need to find something if you’re looking for a longer type of investment, you have passion in because if you don’t, you’ll get bored of it because most spots people are young people and their lives will move on, so it’ll be something you’ll do and then it will get shut down or people will know that you’re just taking money from a brand or the other way round, you know, the media if that brand isn’t a good brand, you’ve seen it with crypto recently where people have just tried to take some money quickly, you know, and they’ve been linked to an NFT or whatever it might be and then their image is tarnished, so it’s not, you know there are more things to think about rather than just money and an investment opportunity, it’s actually, you know, what is the longevity, the reputational risk for the athlete and actually, the long term interest in that investment. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Yeah, no, absolutely and I think, so in terms of the kind of the legal side, you know, you can due diligence a company to the hills but if you don’t have that cultural alignment with the brand, with the company, that can be where you fall out because the reputational aspect of the company doing something that tarnishes the athlete or the athlete doing something off pitch that tarnishes the brand can be where these investments fall down. 

Jo, when you said about kind of strategic advisory sort of athletes wanting to get involved in the company, what does that look like on a day to day?  Does it look like, for example, taking a board seat or is it more a kind of commercial agreement, sort of a couple of days a month?  What, how do these things work out in practice?

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

We’ve not done a board seat but I am actually talking to someone about a board thing, so that’s interesting that you bring that up because that’s obviously the ultimate is, look, we want this deal but if you, we ultimately want to drive your business from the top so, that’s, we’re actually doing one of those at the moment.  Yeah, generally, it’s a couple of days we’ll come into the office and you are basically being paid as a consultant, as a business consultant would be, which I think it’s a new way that companies are thinking of athletes because traditionally you go, footballer, stereotype of footballer but now, people are understanding lived experience, people are bright and they bring something, you know, diverse thinking makes everything better so, get different people in the room who are bringing something different to the party and lots more brands are being open to that.  So, yeah, it’s internal, it’s you know it’s not spoken about, this is not something they can use, they cannot say our strategic consultant is this person, it’s just very much we’re doing this because the client wants, my client wants to help you and you want to listen to, you know, you don’t have an ex-athlete in your company which is another growing area, lots of companies are realising that they should employ ex-athletes because they have so much to offer but if you don’t have that sort of person in the room but you’re trying to sell in their sport or sell to their audience or their fans, it would be very sensible to have them in the room. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

I think that goes to your point Marvin, which is you can offer such an interesting difference, so then some of the advice is not for one second throwing shade over you two but you have a different insight into this because of your background and your career.  So, um…

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

Yeah.  I mean I’ve sat in many rooms in many, and had many conversations around board tables and you know, with often, you know, grand businesses, governing bodies get together and they have conversations about what’s going to happen, what are these athletes going to do, what are they going to say, how are we going to make a difference?  Their face is going to be on it, all of the impact is going to be on them and I sit and often say, you know, it’s easy for us to sit here as, you know, puppet masters essentially and just say oh, they’re going to do that.  How many of them have you spoken to?  How many of them are you thinking about in terms of the output?  How much do understand of their world that you’re going to understand how to speak to them and allow them to speak to the people that you want to speak to because it’s essentially, just using them as vessels and so, you have to understand who they’re going to be speaking to and understand the language that, so that it can just be seamless but often that is lost. 

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

But also there’s so many things that Marvin, to you, will just be “well of course it’s like that” or it’s so much, there’s so much knowledge that someone like Marvin will have from twenty years as a player, thirty years as a player, that you won’t even know the value of that experience and then when you speak about it, “god I didn’t even, I didn’t realise that, I didn’t know that” and we see it a lot in women’s football in that they, there’s so much that people don’t understand about like, they, there’s the two sides, half the people think they’re all earning millions of pounds and they’ve got millions of pounds to invest in every business going and would your player like to invest, like they’re still not at that earning level yet.  But the other half don’t quite realise that they’re professional athletes and they have a schedule so, we’ll get requests in, right “could we have them on March the 9th at 1.00pm” and I’ll be like, no because they’ll be in training.  “Well what about the next day?”  No, because they’ll be in training.  “Well how many days a week do they train?”  Well, every day apart from one day off and that might be recovery or they, you know, it’s, it’s both sides, whereas to Marvin, that’s just, well of course I’m in training five days, six days a week.  There’s so much value from bringing that person in, it doesn’t have to be transactional as in I’ll pay you to be this external facing, actually I’d much rather you were a consultant, I’d much rather you can help my business so much more strategically than you possibly can externally. 

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions
Saves money that way as well.

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

Yeah, yeah.  Obviously, it’s interesting for you, it’s fun.  Like and talking about, you know, what is your, what is your career?  How are you going to earn a living when you retire?  Actually, I can, I know stuff that lots of people in the sports business wouldn’t have a clue about because they’ve never done what you’ve done.

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

And what do you, are you finding brands sort of looking to enter into strategic partnerships with athletes?  Is that becoming more of a trend are you finding?

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

I don’t know, we haven’t, yeah, we’ve not, I don’t think anyone’s ever come, I’m trying to think, possibly one or two but it’s generally we’ve offered it as a, I don’t really want my client doing personal appearances 24/7 when they’re a current athlete or a current manager.

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

So when a brand approaches you, what is there a sort of a typical offer that they’re offering to an athlete?  Is it, is it these traditional endorsement style deals?

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

Yeah, social posts.

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Social posts, is it?

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

Yeah.  Some Instagram posts, lots of Instagram posts, like, oh boring.  Yeah, Instagram posts and still actually, media interviews, they still love the power of a media interview but I’m like, well shall we just talk about the message you’re trying to get across and why first?

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

And what are brands giving in return for these posts?  Are they giving cash?  Are they giving shares?  Are they giving something else?  Cash.

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

Cash.  Yeah.  Generally.  Quite, yeah.  Socials still very basic. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

And do you think, is that across genders, across sports, across everything or is there a?

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

I think so.  I think we’re still at the very early stage of like proper brands doing actual brand work, where they’ve, you know, building a real purpose and identity from the ground up.  We saw a lot obviously over the last few years with so many different social issues but you can see they’re just, they’re like just papering over cracks, you know, and I think the real, when we really start to see it, it’s still going to be years down the line where like you have like a real proper like endorsement deals of traditional will be like very much more hybrid deals where, you know, they are going into say this is what I believe and this is what I’m passionate about, this is how it could be weaved into the brand, into the company and that’s how you’re going to come back into this community and to you know everything’s about profit of course but this is how you can profit from it as well and so, from that point, strategic opportunities will naturally come up at some point but you know, it takes people like Jo to push that because they’re always going to think in what has worked before, we’re just going to keep doing the same thing, it doesn’t work one time, it’s probably going to work the next time because it’s worked in the past, whereas the world is moving in a very different direction and I guess the brands who are wise enough to clock onto it the quickest, will profit the most. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

What about you, Adam?  What’s, does a brand sort of approach you with a stock sort of offer for your clients or what are you seeing?

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

I don’t really get brands coming to me, that’s not really my role, they will go through Jo in that type of thing.  Mine is just, will be generally businesses and investment opportunities rather than you know a brand coming and saying you know we want to link up with this footballer but I think, you know, just touching on these points, what is interesting is the reality is, you know, the endorsement deals seems very simplistic or you have a company, they want to make more money and they think by Marvin smiling and saying something, it’s going to make them more money and that’s all they’re trying to do so, rather, I mean, I suppose the one interesting one around the branding and the partnership that you think is like probably Prime drink, you know, I mean

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

I didn’t know they sold at the Emirates and I was very excited, I mean I’m a Spurs fan so, but Arsenal were playing Chelsea Women.

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

No, no, no.  But it’s really interesting because my son’s eleven and he thinks KSI is famous because of Prime.  He thinks that’s what’s made him famous and I had to sort of actually talk him through the fact that, you know, the You Tube and he’s just, you know, that’s probably where, you know, that’s probably the biggest, most recent thing, where you would think that actually…

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

It’s just leveraging what you have, isn’t it.  And the greatest example is Michael Jordan and like every athlete should look at Michael Jordan as the best example of leveraging their name and their likelihood to profit because at the end of the day, someone comes to me and goes here’s a million dollars or here’s a million pounds, my, I shouldn’t, my first shouldn’t be oh wow, that’s so much money, it should be hold on, if you have a million pounds to give me, how much have you got and also, what is that going to turn into?  Because you’re not going to give it to me for no reason. 

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

But I don’t think people realised until now and the last few years actually, that Jordan deal with Nike and actually what it represented and what it was.

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

Completely changed like sports marketing, branding and athlete endorsements, like forever, like in a massive way. 

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

But it’s still going now, you know, like my son’s obsessed, again, with Jordan’s…

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

It’s had a big comeback, hasn’t it?

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

So, when you’re looking at investment opportunities then, what do they look like from your client’s perspectives? 

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

External companies.  So, you know I’ve seen anything and everything and I’ve seen people come trying to sell car park spaces in Glasgow airport as an investment opportunity for long-term rev… I have, honestly because it’s a footballer and they think it’s a really good investment opportunity.  Barrels of oil.  We saw one that was really interesting which went wrong, where, again, it was a footballer through a footballer and it was this new sort of tech that you could, that you could do security through hotels, voice recognition, you could order room service, you could use it for Ringo, you could use it at home, you could use it to call the police and it was really, really smart and the guy who got introduced to the footballer was ex-police and his partner was linked to Google in some way so you’re like, okay, there’s a bit of credibility here and then we sort of had this conversation and it sounded really interesting when they pitched and then the footballer was very interested in understanding more about business so, we sat together with him, with the tax advisor, with a lawyer and we sent a very basic due diligence document to this company and they basically came back and said “NA” or “not answering this” to 85% of the really simplistic questions, which were “Can they become a board member?” “Can they reinvest more?” “What are the opportunities for buyouts?” and so on and it was like NA, NA, “Do you own” you know “the patenting and the naming rights?” “No, we don’t.  We basically just borrow it off Alexa” and it was, so it was basically a facade and then the company were then texting the client, asking if they could meet for coffee and went you know right okay, this is, this is done.  So, there’s loads of things and there’s loads of kissing frogs and again, for me, I touched on it before and you get loads of stuff chucked your way but it’s about sitting down with the footballer, it’s not about right, do you just want to make some money because you can make some money and you can punt on stuff but actually, what do you want to do, what interests you, what’s the long-term, you know, is it investing in the film industry, does that thing interest you, is it investing in TV, is it tech and then we’d try to go out and try and find things that might fit that space for people we know. 

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

And I obviously, so I have an Adam in my life who does that side of stuff but we’ve had like, our clients have got quite interesting ones like a black skincare cream, there’s a really interesting woman who set up like fast halal foods so, in supermarkets, you know like ready meals and she’d basically started it at home, so one of our clients invested in that so like it’s, you know, it’s nothing to do with, and that’s not, it’s not external facing at all, it’s literally investment because you go, that’s a really great idea and it’s really needed in the market so, there’s loads of it, I mean you must get so many interesting things. 

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

I’ve got, I’ve got a footballer investing in a vegan restaurant in Brighton because it’s really popular down, you know that type of, well vegan’s popular everywhere now but it was taking off down there so, you know, for me, they’ve got to have an interest in whatever they’re investing in rather than it, right, if you do this, you could make money from it. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Definitely.  It does sound very much like there’s no one size that fits all for any athlete, any agent, any advisor.  Really, it’s about the opportunity, at that time, based on all the circumstances.

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

That’s why it’s the best job in the world because no day is the same. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

But I guess from an advisor’s perspective, that makes your job a bit more difficult because you have to have such, you know, in-depth knowledge of what your client is interested in, what they’re looking for, kind of culturally as well as kind of financially as well, in order to weed out the…

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

No you do but if you’re like, I know it sounds really cringey but I’m like my clients are my family, like, I love them like I’m their mum and so, you do know them but also a lot of it is just common sense, you know, I’m not saying everyone can do this but it’s not brain science, it’s read the proposal, is it interesting, does it fit said client and it’s not a one size fits all at all, it’s not, but the interesting one is where they go we would just like a female athlete to be the face of this and we go, you haven’t really thought about this have you because what’s unique to that athlete.  But yeah, I think it is just, keeps it interesting, common sense, read it slowly, you know, you’re all lawyers, you all know, you know you’ll be far better at this than I am.  Yeah, take each thing individually.

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

So, on the subject of advice then, Marvin, what would you, what piece of advice or pieces of advice would you give to your younger self when looking at kind of next steps and opportunities?

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

To be honest, I wish I’d listened less to people.

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Really?

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

Yeah.  Definitely.  Because I stopped doing a lot of those things I said.  I stopped looking at a lot of the things I was interested in because I listened to a lot of people in the football industry who basically just said concentrate on football and if I didn’t just concentrate on football, I would have done a lot more interesting things and I would have been further down the line in my career path trajectory now. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Really?

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

So yeah, that’s definitely one, to be honest but I think to anybody really, I guess, to people who are working with any athletes to push them to explore because I think that’s so important because, as I said, investing in myself is the biggest investment I could have ever made because I knew then where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do and so I would definitely advise anyone to advise their athletes to explore because then you know which direction you want to go in, you know what you’re interested in, you know where you can really focus your energy because that’s really the main thing because at the end of the day, everybody can have bucket loads of money but if you have no purpose or anything behind it, what’s the point. 

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

And the point about the main purpose behind it is important because it’s a really short career in football.  It goes through really quickly, you know, your whole life from a very early age is routine and set out and then it stops and the clubs spit you out and then you’ve got to get on with life and you’re not used to that routine so it’s what you’ve got, you know what’s your passion or what are you interested in, so it’s really important to do that. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

What about you, Jo, if you had one piece of advice for your athlete clients when they’re sort of embarking on their sort of opportunities, what would you say?

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

What’s your thing?  Like, what’s your, I always say to clients when they come like if they want to sign with us and I go like what’s your, what’s your purpose?  Like, you’re a footballer, that’s amazing and you’re an athlete, that’s amazing but what’s the point of you?  So, what’s the point in having a platform if you’re not using it and that’s not just, I don’t just mean politically or you know charity work or I mean, what’s your purpose in life, like who are you?  So, it’s kind of know that and if you don’t know that, that’s fine, we can help you explore that but I think it’s really important to know your passion or your, I call it your purpose.  It sounds awful, what’s the point of you, that sounds terrible but it’s, what’s the you know, you’ve got this amazing talent, this amazing platform and this amazing opportunity to be something, you know be something, so how are we going to use it?

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

What about you, Adam?

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

I mean, the one thing when I work with all sports people or clients, especially in the sports space, is just to say you’ve got a very short career, you’ve got an incredible life, you’ve got an incredible opportunity, you can do all the things you want to do but always have one eye on the future because it’s going to be over very, very quickly and if you’re sensible, you’ll have the best life and do all the things that you want to do post-career. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

What I’m hearing this all kind of boil down to is, a sense of self and authenticity, is really the driver and you can be blinded by cash, I mean we all are sometimes but if you don’t believe in it, there isn’t cultural alignment between you and the opportunity then that really stifles things. 

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

I think that’s where longevity comes from, you know, every, money can come and go very, very quickly, changes hands very fast so, I think that’s where you can build longevity and football doesn’t offer that so, something else has to. 

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

But it can evolve, you know, it’s not like what you say at 21, your purpose is, is your purpose when you’re 35.  It’s an evolving thing, you know, we always say our strategy is our evolving strategy, it’s not like I wrote it ten years ago and we’re still sticking to that because you said you wanted to do this, like, Marvin’s career exactly, you know like what you did even five years ago, we were talking about it earlier is, well actually now I’ve realised there’s this massive, you know on the production side or you’ve got the marketing side but you’ve got production side and actually, you go through sort of waves don’t you of this is here now but actually well the production’s really interesting now and I can make more impact there, so it is, it’s the whole, evolving process.

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

And in terms of sort of where you see the space kind of going in the next few years, is there any, do you have any kind of insight for trends, have you got any kind of predictions for where you see sort athlete investment landing?

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

I think we’re going to get to a stage of athletes pushing more for equity, hybrid deals, things that benefit them more, things that are less transactional where they just get given cash, yeah I think the American model is with athletes is something that we’re obviously trying to catch up to but you know there are great examples over there, like you presented on the slides earlier where so many athletes were wise enough to think about the longevity of a deal as opposed to just, you know, a number on a piece of paper and some appearances.  And also, cultural alignment is going to be a huge factor, I think, over, I think it already is but I think it’s only going to continue to grow in that space where people will only work with things and people that they are aligned with because it just won’t make sense otherwise. 

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

We were talking about this early actually, I’d say like content ownership and sort of ownership, so athlete ownership of everything but you know I’ll, as I sort of said earlier, in previous times, you’d just rock up and everyone else was deciding editorially what you were doing and visually what you were doing so, sort of bringing all of that in-house and having all your ownership so, you’re, you know, you’re the brand rather than just being an athlete, you sort of have ownership and then more purposeful on both sides so, athletes are understanding that you can’t just align yourself with something for the sake of it and I think actually, much as I gave some brands a hard time earlier, generally everybody is moving with the, who is the right person for this and how do we make that work best for both of us.  So, I think athlete control. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Yeah.  That’s interesting and I guess it goes back to your previous point which is about recognising as well that athletes have got a full time job in addition to trying to curate their image for future endorsement later on.  It’s quite a difficult one, right?

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

Kind of full time. 

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

Where that is really interesting you know with the time thing, especially I’d say you know so I worked with some boxers recently and actually, you know when they’re in and around training camp, that’s actually when the brands and so on want them and it’s the, you know that’s actually the time when they actually don’t or shouldn’t be going any, near any brand because their risk in their job is significantly greater than a footballer, you know, because you get knocked out and hurt quite badly but actually I’ve seen that with a couple of quite high profile boxers where you know as you get closer to a fight, they have more and more brands wanting to drag them in, you know, to things, which actually you touched upon before, like what they’re doing and understanding what they do on a day to day basis. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Predictions for the space, Adam?

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

So, I agree with what everyone is saying and I think part of the reason that these things will become more available or more in demand from the athletes is because there’s more money in the game, in both women’s and men’s football so actually the athletes I think can demand it because they don’t need it, whereas like five, ten years ago when there was still a lot of money but less money, you’d take maybe more than you could get whereas now actually, you can say well I don’t, I don’t need to work with that brand so actually what am I getting, so I think that’s where you’ll see those, the cultural thing, I definitely agree with and one thing we haven’t touched upon which I don’t really want to talk about but I think you’ll see more involvement for sure into like NFTs and that’s where people’s own brands will, I think, evolve, sort of into that space. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

That’s interesting.

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

On top of that as well, social media is a massive factor.  One of the reasons why probably athletes go, I don’t necessarily need a brand because I can endorse myself because I’ve got my own platform to do so.  So, like…

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

That’s the ownership thing.  They’ve got a voice that they weren’t given before. 

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

Yeah.  I think that’s a massive thing, yeah. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Which platform, which kind of social media platform do you think is the most important?

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

It depends what’s going, what, how does the wind blow, you know, it changes, I mean I know TikTok is obviously massive, I don’t use TikTok, I don’t know if anyone in the industry uses TikTok, like actively using it, I know no one’s going to put their hands up but there’s people in this room that are using it.  We’ll leave it at that but like that’s obviously a massive one.  Most brands are still looking to like Instagram because visual platform as opposed to Twitter, which is more information based, TikTok of course is slightly longer form, there’s obviously YouTube Shorts, there’s a million different streaming platforms, there’s you know Snapchat’s obviously now coming back which I didn’t even realise.

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Is it?

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

Yeah, Snapchat’s coming back again, more the TikTok generation so, that’s another interesting one. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

What are you saying about me?

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

I mean it’s not, it’s not for me for sure, I don’t know anything about TikTok, someone asks me about TikTok, I’m like pff, ask someone else. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

So, any questions from the audience for any one of these panellists?

Audience member
Thank you.  It was very interesting.  This is kind of a question directed to everyone up there, you kind of mentioned it at the end where you touched upon it that you think that, well you hope, that we’re kind of pushing towards the similar scene that there is in the US with regards to the endorsements, what do you think it is that is the reason that there’s such a big difference because, is it just that there’s more people in America and therefore there’s more money to around?  Is it the whole kind of view on sports, more the fact that in America, high school kids are being actively scouted and so they’re getting these massive lifetime endorsement contracts from the day they become pro and recently now even in college, what do you think is the like main reason for the difference and what do you think we need to do here to kind of reach that level?  And finally, will we reach that level exactly or will it be kind of proportional like, proportional level in comparison to the size of the business?

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

I mean I find that really interesting because that’s something that as a player, former player, I look at a lot and I mean probably the biggest difference is that in America they have football which is, you know, if we look at football in comparison to one of their sports they have across five or six different sports and a much bigger market so, of course they’re going to be ahead of us.  They also had Michael Jordan who you know set the framework for everything else to come.  I think one thing in football that probably sets us behind is that player power isn’t a thing in this country, whereas in America all of the power is within the players.  If something isn’t right, the players come together and say yeah, we’re not playing, doesn’t matter what you say, we’re not playing.  Whereas in this country it’s very easy for, you know for players to just kind of be pushed aside or used as like put a pit against each other for any protesting, you know protest in a way to be stopped.  One big thing is that the PFA, at the moment, is a very weak organisation.  I will very openly say that I sit on the Players Board and I will say that in our meetings that as an organisation we are very weak at the moment and that’s because of everything that’s happened previous, all of the power sits within the Premier League and each individual club so, until players have that level of power collectively, not through the clubs but through the union because that’s what the PFA is, it's a union, then we’re never going to get there to be honest, you know so, it’s hard to say what will happen, I mean the union is changing and heading in a more positive direction which is good because we weren’t just stagnant before, we were heading in the wrong direction for like I don’t know what, four decades, so it’s a you know there’s a lot of changes to be made but I think social media plays a massive part in accelerating that because so many players, I think Marcus Rashford is obviously a massive example, Raheem Sterling, are people who have taken ownership of their own voice and that is the first step, you know you take ownership of your voice and your story, then you dictate what you do, you dictate what happens but there isn’t quite enough of that yet. 

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

I’d say kind of couple of points that football wasn’t trendy in this country, like football wasn’t attractive commercially.  We had a massive hooligan issue, it was a you know low to middle class sport and it wasn’t on television, whereas if you look at like the NFL or basketball or even baseball, it was huge in America so, brands got in there from day dot, whereas brands didn’t come into football till, when did we start liking football, 1990, Italia ’90, I don’t know, ’96 even, that’s when brands went ooh these people could sort of be heroes and you know we were still having hooligan problems.  So, I think we’ve just been behind on that level and then in terms of women’s sport, really different because the Americans were professional and brilliant, you know they were successful and women’s football here, we weren’t successful because we didn’t have any sort of professionalism so, I think we’re just a little bit behind on all fronts but football is one of those sports that wasn’t attractive, it wasn’t, certainly wasn’t really a family sport was it, thirty years ago.  So, you know, I think it’s two-fold.

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

I think so, you know, the other point about hooliganism and you know at that time as well, a lot of footballers were just out, you know, boozing a lot weren’t they, so they weren’t, you know they’re not the athletes that they are now, so did you actually want to be endorsed with, you know, like an alcoholic footballer as an example.  I think the other thing I think in America, the big stars in NFL and BA get paid significantly more than football.  It’s a much greater market and I think also, I think in here we’re more cynical about branding, branding as well.  Whereas in America it’s like you put Michael Jordan’s face up at something, they love it, whereas I think the British people are a bit more, this market’s a bit more cynical with stuff like that. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Do you reckon, do you reckon that’s right from a, yeah?

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

Yeah, I mean you see it from a very much a media perspective in terms of the narrative. 

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

My favourite one is Jamie Redknapp and Skechers.  Even my like my son at like ten years old like, “he doesn’t wear those.” 

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

Yeah, I mean that’s because things have happened so quickly and everyone just like ah, football’s interesting now and like women’s football now, it’s like let’s just jump in and throw loads of money at it and let’s just get faces and then people go, yeah but I don’t know, it’s like you know, you watch a show and you go would they really use that?  You know, would they actually, like I don’t think they would, whereas like because of social media as well now, we’re getting more used to understanding who these people are and so we can actually identify, ah, I know that person wouldn’t use that.

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

Exactly, how do you know Jamie doesn’t wear Skechers?  Because you see his nice shoes on Sky, so really we do, we do understand it whereas twenty years ago, we would probably have believed it. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Anybody else?  That gentleman at the back, I think. 

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

Not Tom. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

I haven’t got my glasses so. 

Audience Member

I’ve got some questions from the Q&A, I thought I’d ask those, if that’s okay.  So, one of the ones that came in was do you think there’ll be more instances of footballers or retired players becoming investors in football clubs, as we’ve seen the case with Fabregas with Como and the Class of ’92 and Salford City.  And the second question for Adam, was I saw that Evelyn Partners partnered with 258 Management, he seems to have really taken the lead in terms of his investments, is this option only available to boxers at the highest point of their careers?

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

So, do I answer question two first? 

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

Do that one first before we forget it.

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

The point about the boxing, so if I just touch on that because it’s a bit of a plug for what we’re doing but so we do a lot of work in football, we do a lot around education especially in, for young football and young sportspeople, academies and again, we try to educate the athletes that we work with about post-career and money and so on and we started doing some work in boxing and, you know, financial education doesn’t exist so, we created a programme specifically for boxers and we created it with, we created it and we spoke to numerous companies and 258 Management wanted to partner with us, 258 Management if you don’t know is the management company that Anthony Joshua owns and actually the programme that we rolled out was sort of less so for him but more for the athletes that he looks after and that was because they care about their athletes, they want to be different because in boxing, it’s a bit of a weird world, you have, you know your promoters like Matchroom and Queensbury and actually, their job is to basically get TV deals and promote a fight and not look after the athletes.  You have lawyers involved, cost you a great job, but then generally there’s a vacuum of, a boxer will go into a gym and his trainer will end up being his manager, who advises him on maybe what to do with his money, which is a really weird concept, where in football you have an agent who maybe get involved and then they would introduce, so what 258 have done is they have created a management agency that sits quite nicely to sort of help offer that service.  So, a lot of what we’re doing is not, you know, for high level boxers, it’s for everybody because it’s the same concept I spoke about before, you’ve got a very short career, you may earn very good money, you may not but actually, what can you do along the way to make sure you look after your money?  I’ve no idea what the first question was.

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

I’ve got the first one, it’s alright.  The first question was, are we going to see more footballers investing in football clubs, which yes, absolutely and yes, absolutely, it would be brilliant if we could.  We, so I’m, apart from my day job, I’m a director of Women in Football, which is an organisation for any male or female working in football but it’s effectively to champion and train and educate and elevate females in the industry and part of the reason for that is there are very, very, very few women at board level, certainly very few women who own football clubs and there is, going back to the point where I was saying earlier about you know having a Marvin in your office to educate you or give you strategic advice, this is exactly what we need at football clubs but it was such a closed shop for so many years that I think footballers just didn’t even see the pathway.  I mean, we did something, so Jason Roberts has been a client for years and years, did a lot of work in this area, while he was still playing and on the BFA board and we did a get on board, effectively, and we do it at Women in Football, it’s you know how to get on a board, we do board training and lots of sort of C-suite level training but it was to get you board ready effectively, so Jason did the one for male footballers effectively, Women in Football we do it for any female working in the industry, because it’s so valuable and I mean, how many people make money running a football club?  Not sure about that bit, I’m not sure you’d be advising people for that, you know there is, there is a value to it and also there’s a value to the club in having ex pros in the ranks. 

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

We just spoke about that with Marvin, about the value of having him involved, it’s, you know it’s actually, if you think it logically, it’s absolutely ridiculous that you don’t have that senior level across clubs, Premier League, the FA and so on, people like Marvin who played the game and know the game, because they’ve been there and they’ve done it.  It doesn’t happen in any other business. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Anybody else?

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

There’s a guy at the back who’s had his hand up a few times.  Sorry. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Sorry, I haven’t got my glasses on.

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

It shouldn’t be me deciding it. 

Audience Member
Very interesting, I think something that inspired the question was what Marvin and Jo said, I mean, as a former chairman of a football club and former elite athlete and somebody who sits on boards and supports their companies they are advising sort of the sort of whole plethora of the sporting properties, I was, a couple of years ago got involved in getting Mo Farah to do his first TED Talk and very much in line with what Jo’s saying, how important it is to actually get across your experience and your knowledge, which is not something that the sort of business world in particular appreciates as much as it should.  It actually then led to him being involved with a tech conference and eventually to a seven figure sort of product endorsement deal with the same company who actually recognised and wanted lots more from him than that.  Today, interestingly, I was on a call to the guys in Saudi Arabia, Nassr, that signed Ronaldo and Ronaldo’s NFT agency and we talked a strategy which fifteen million extra followers actually just happen to be the case over the last month of Ronaldo moving there so, having been interviewed after the collapse of FDS platform and having sort of advised the clubs leagues federations about the importance doing the due diligence, how do you guys make sure when you are approached by all sorts of people in the blockchain space, where I often talk about that you know crypto is not blockchain, blockchain is not an NFT, it’s the technology that’s very important.  How do you make these decisions because inevitably, there’s a lot of money actually truly of pounds, dollars and euros that are going to be poured into the blockchain space, I think it’s very important for the sporting properties and the agents that represent the sportsmen to know what they’re doing, who to trust, and I think there is, at the moment, a very blanket approach, any NFT proposal is turned down because everyone is basically linked to what’s happening in the crypto market and I think that’s a misconception, a misunderstanding and a lack of education across the board.  So I just would love to hear, obviously Marvin mentioned that towards the end.  Jo, you’re all about sort of getting it right for your agents and I’d love to hear the answer from either of you. 

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

To be honest, I don’t know enough about the crypto, NFT space market, whatever you want to call it so, I personally don’t touch it.  I don’t get involved in anything, if I can’t explain something to somebody else very simply, then I won’t get involved in it because it doesn’t make sense for me, personally, so that’s probably the end of my answer. 

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

Do you know what, it’s a really interesting point because it has been coming up more and more and I’m really risk averse but I would say I default to people who know more than me, so when it has happened and we’ve had a few NFTs in or various investment opportunities like that, I literally pick up the phone to, and that is the whole point of having trusted people or those I respect in the industry and it is literally, call a few friends, have you done one of these deals, what do you think of this, tell me what I don’t know and then I’ll do the lawyers but it’s first and foremost, I always just default to, you know there is no point trying to pretend you know everything in this industry and there are people who’ve been doing NFTs for three to five years who’ll know far more than me.  I wouldn’t, my worst case is that I turn something down for my client that could have been a massive opportunity, so I would rather get every bit of information I can but that is not always going to be in my forms in my office, so yeah, I’ll be honest, I call and phone a friend and hope that they know more than me because you know it is, it’s like you say, it’s, you know I’m naturally cynical of it, it’s not an area I know much about and I’m happy to admit that but there are people that are doing it.  I, my point is, I’ve not seen anyone do it that well or where I’ve gone ooh that looked a really good deal, I wish I’d done that so,  until I sort of see that, I’ll probably remain a little bit cynical but it’s one of those where it’s my duty to phone around and see what people know.  But it’s a growing place, so it’s something we should all be educating ourselves on, I’d say that. 

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

It’s probably not the answer you wanted.

Audience Member

I would say that it’s important that you are honest, you are honest with that and as Jo, you said, it’s a growing area and there are opportunities I think, everyone’s got to be very, very careful and do the due diligence. 

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

I think it’s hard because you don’t have a benchmark, so it’s not like I can say well when I did this similar deal a year ago, it looked like this, you know, experience is you know the best thing we have to rely on so, if I don’t have the experience, let me look at someone who you know looks after Ronaldo or looks after you know, the Wayne Rooney one or whichever, it’s kind of call your nice friends. 

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

I think you need to look at it and go I think I need to come back on the NFT space because we’ve got a specialist team who are working in this area and looking at it and our view on it at the minute is, you know, from an investment point of view, it’s not regulated, you know, that whole space, so, so we’re a, you know, let’s wait and that’s going to happen in about two years when they will have changed in the Governor in the Bank of England because the Governor of the Bank of England currently is the ex-head of the FCA, so once that changes there’ll be a different view in the UK and you know our view is you’re going to see, you’re going to see stuff around similar to the tech boom of the late ‘90s where loads of companies were about and they all went bust and then you had like Yahoo, Google and a couple of others that came out of it and that’s what will develop in the Meta space.  We’ve seen a lot of athletes for the exact reasons that these people have said, not having a strategy where everyone’s come and said invest in NFT, create your own NFT, and you get paid some money for doing it and that’s not the way to look at it, it is to be more strategic but I thin the UK is very underdeveloped in that world at the minute and not, there’s not enough education and regulation and understanding of what lies behind you know these companies and so on and until there’s more control, regulation and understanding of who these businesses are, I think it’s very much a sit and wait and it will develop out for sure and I think that’s where I mentioned before you can create NFTs as part of a long term investment strategy for someone where they can control their own brand in the future, I think we will get, go into that world. 

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Time for one more question.  Sorry.  Go on, Adam, as you’re the chief question picker.

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

Me?  Oh man.  You had your hand, sorry, sorry, he had his hand before you before so.

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Sorry.

Audience Member

You know, I do a similar role to what Adam does today but I was also at the London Olympics but oddly enough, I actually have roomed with Mo Farah at the World Championships but that aside, a really, really simple question.  What does the panel think about educating or guiding athletes to make better decisions with the advisors they have around them?

Marvin Sordell, MD & Co-Founder
ONEIGHTY Productions

That is incredibly important.  You know, I sit here as a former athlete and I think I speak like this myself about different topics because of the fact that I personally wanted to look into different things and I took a lot of interest in that and I think we should push more people, as I said right at the beginning, take every athlete needs to take control of their own lives and their own careers and you know, career, athletic career and beyond so, I think it’s very important to educate them.  A lot of times, you know we’re talking about people that come from low socioeconomic backgrounds, myself included, so that level of education in terms of you know finance, you know tax, career, business, is not, just not there naturally so, of course you need to give people the tools needed to succeed in life beyond you know the career they’re going to be stepping into, you know the career of a professional athlete, football in particular, is very high rewarding, can be very high rewarding, it can put you onto a pedestal and so, there are so many you know positives and negatives to that and so understanding how to then use that not just like, you know, I’ve reached the top of the mountain and that’s it, it’s like no, this is a springboard to take me through to the rest of my life, that’s really essentially the position that we want to be able to be in, you know something that I’ve spoken about a lot with a lot of different governing bodies within football that essentially the whole education system that we have in place for scholars should be ripped up, it can be ripped up because it’s Government funded, Premier League doesn’t need Government to fund their education system, it can be so much better in terms of understanding financial literacy, life skills, business, you know very fundamental basics that you may pick up from going to college, going to uni or just being around different people, whereas in football, I never went to college, I never went to uni and unless I went and spent time and going and having conversations with different people, the only people I would have spoke to for you know fifteen years, are football players and if everyone of those people ever only spoke to football players, we’re only going to speak about one thing and so, I think it’s, I think it’s like vitally important and again, like I you know, I place massive emphasis on that for agents, for players, for anybody involved in football or sport in any way because it can, it can really be make or break you know, in terms of career and I speak a lot about mental health and you know, if you take someone all the way up there with their career and then all of a sudden, their career finishes and you go well, see you, good luck, you know, if they’ve been here for a long time and you just allow them to just drop, that is very dangerous, you know and I think we also have a responsibility because everyone in this room profits from the fact that people are good at what they do in terms of being athletes, you know whether it’s you know commercial deals or player transfers or athlete investment, we all profit from the fact that they’re good at what they do and so I think we have a responsibility to then allow them to, you know, be good at other things and have a much more longevity in their life. 

Adam Osper, Managing Partner
Evelyn

Yeah, I couldn’t agree more, I mean I think I mentioned to you before, one of the questions, you know one of the main things that I do with everybody I work with is, is we as a business, we focus on education, so we don’t just sit and work with the athletes, take them on as clients and look after their money, we go into the academies, we talk to young kids up and coming, to educate them on real, simplistic, basic financial matters, tax and so on and there’s this misconception with footballers, especially that they’re not smart but that’s because they have not been educated in the same way that you know some of us in this room have, they’ve never learnt about the tax system and so on, so why should they ever know about it, so educating and getting them to understand it is really important and getting them to take control of these things, you know across all sports is fundamental because in the future, you know they won’t have their parents, you know they may or may not get married, whatever it might be, so it’s, you know, it’s really, you know it’s a key part of what you do is making sure and you know working as part of a team, you know around them so that they make good decisions and yeah, the people I work with, I spend as much or as little time as they want sort of training them, I’ve done part of this education programme with 258, we’ve done specific sessions on the tax system, how the stock market works and all these different things, inflation, you know so they begin to understand about, you know, the real world outside boxing, gym or the football field. 

Jo Tongue MBE, CEO
Tongue Tied Management

Yeah, I mean the same as they guys have said, we’re, we’re super passionate about it as a business and also me as an individual, so much so we made a documentary about it with BT so, I look after three players whose careers have all been ended super early so, Fabrice Muamba, who obviously heart stopped on the pitch, Dean Ashton, who was injured while on England camp and Joe Thompson who had cancer twice.  So, all three of them, basically, careers ended by the time they were 23 and they all go into clubs and do work with academies now, which probably wouldn’t have happened ten years ago.  It’s a passion of ours, it’s a passion of theirs and we did a documentary with them and Eddie Howe and sort of various other footballers whose careers had ended early.  Just for, you know, the documentary was obviously to raise awareness but the behind the scenes stuff we do is, we go into academies and then it’s different on the women’s side because ultimately, the players that came had to be semi-pro, all had jobs, so ultimately had they had a skill that then when their careers ended they could go back to their skills, the players that have come into the game recently and are pros, all of my players are doing a Degree and that’s generally, you know that’s not every woman in football is doing a Degree because the clubs insist on it, it’s just the clients I work with happen to sort of realise that they have to have more than football because we don’t know and we certainly didn’t know when it pro in 2014/2015 that wages would be even where they are today, so there was no idea of you can retire and you’re going to have a pension pot.  So, yeah, I think women, female athletes are very different because they realise they might need a different skill, so it’s almost easier to educate them because it’s ingrained in them and I think on the male athlete side, it’s just something I’m really lucky because my clients have either experienced it or are passionate about it but it’s crucial, I mean it’s.

Lydia Kellett, Managing Associate
Mishcon de Reya

Well, listen, I could talk to you and listen to you forever but I’m afraid that is time to wrap up.  My watch is telling me to stand up so I’d best do that.  So, our next SLA event we’ll be hosting is really topical and we have a really all-star panel, we have Nick De Marco KC, who is a leading sports law barrister at Blackstone Chambers and we also have Kieran Maguire who’s author and podcaster of The Price of Football and lecturer at the University of Liverpool and we have John Potterill-Tilney who is a Director of Club Financial reporting at the EFL and they’ll be with us to discuss and explore recent developments in financial fair play.  So, please come along to that, it will be a really interesting session and would love to see you there.  So, that’s it for now, thank you so much for coming and thanks especially to our amazing speakers Marvin, Jo and Adam, it’s been a real pleasure to have you today.  Now, please join us downstairs for drinks and some food and we’d love to catch up with you then.  Thank you so much. 

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