Fan Power Set to Revolutionize Talent Hunting, Says Agent who Handled Maradona
Fans have a chance of investing in an agency discovering young football talent in what is a "revolutionary" moment for the sport, Diego Maradona's former agent Jon Smith told AFP.
Smith -- who is widely regarded as the first super-agent in football dealing with the likes of Maradona and Ruud Gullit -- has launched 'The Fans Agency' along with a quartet of football fans he met on a promotional tour of his book at Oxford University.
The aim is to give the fans the opportunity to become shareholders in the business, buy shares in players' agency fees and by giving shareholders the power to decide where grassroots investment will be spent.
Co-founder Smith, who initially forged a successful career in the music business producing albums for late American 'Queen of Disco' Donna Summer and Rhythm and Blues singing legend Billy Ocean, says this is the ideal way for him to stay in the game, even though his days scrabbling round looking for talent are at an end.
"It is revolutionary," Smith told AFP. "Like me I like to be different, pioneering.
"In my mid 60s it is nice to be pioneering and to have young fertile minds who can lead from the front. I am done with coal facing and chasing young players."
Smith secured Maradona as a client by luck after two canceled meetings when he happened to be at Ossie Ardiles' house.
Ardiles, a 1978 World Cup winner with Argentina, was on the phone to his compatriot Maradona, who was looking for an agent, and the rest is history.
While that was a happy coincidence for Smith, he says fans can play a part in a more scientific approach to talent hunting as his new agency aims to break fresh ground.
"This is a piece of turf that fans have yet to tread, being an agent," said Smith.
"They have owned shares in clubs, marketing companies and merchandising and they have osmosed through the industry.
"I love the idea of instead of them sitting there and saying that player is earning £200,000 they can say he is earning £250,000 and we are getting some of that in our pockets.
"It started out as a bit of fun but now it is serious."
- 'Key is lower league scouts' -
Smith, whose eloquence has been gained in adversity having had a severe stammer in his youth, says he will provide supporters who join the agency with people experienced in doing deals.
"They will source the talent and manage it and I will put a little team of my ex-partners who can do the job round them as you can't just walk in to a room and do the deals," he said.
"They are complicated so I have good lawyers and accountants to help them. Sourcing though is the heartbeat."
Smith, who says the fans will have a 25% share in the agency, believes the lower leagues is where they should start.
"Lower league clubs players haven't agents yet," said Smith.
"Since I have been on this little road show this (his phone) has been picking up messages 'oh my son is looking for an agent'.. that is a starting point it is not where we are.
"The key is lower league scouts as they have already sorted the wheat from the chaff."
As for the intention to re-invest money made in the business into grassroots football, Smith hopes it is rather more than just buying land for football pitches.
"That was their (the fans and co-founders) idea to give something back," he said.
"Personally I would like to put it towards players that get injured when they are very young and can't play.
"I would like to put some money into education as clubs are very poor at giving proper education to players even in the hours of free time they have after training and instead of them going home to play computer games."