Rio Ferdinand has officially opened the new office of one of the UK’s top football agencies at Innovation Factory in West Belfast.
New Era Global Sports Management, which represents the interests of Rio Ferdinand, Mick McCarthy, Harry Redknapp and Robbie Savage, is the first big name football agency to open an office in Northern Ireland.
It is also New Era’s first satellite office outside its London HQ, where it is headed up by former professional players, Jamie Moralee and Pete Smith.
The Belfast office is run by former professional footballer, Lee Mudd, who says the agency was drawn by the vast untapped potential talent throughout the island of Ireland.
“There are a lot of talented young players here and having an office in Belfast will provide them with the opportunity to make it on a bigger stage. We currently have 15 players on our books from Ireland and Northern Ireland and I would expect this to grow considerably in a short time as there is so much potential here,” he said.
New Era Global Sports believes in a holistic approach, supporting players throughout their careers and into retirement.
Lee added: “We recognise that it is an enormous challenge for a young person to leave this country and go to live in England. It is important to provide them with a support network. It can be a tough, ruthless environment and they need a caring team behind them to look after them not just now but throughout their careers.”
He points to the example of New Era Ambassador, Rio Ferdinand who has seen many highs and lows during his career and is now a successful businessman, media pundit and mentor to many young professionals.
“Rio has been with New Era since the start and is the perfect example of how the company has helped him on his journey and shown him that there is a life after playing football. We want young players here to have access to all that experience.”
Lee himself was set to sign a deal with French side Lyon when his father suddenly passed away. He was out of the game for six months and never really returned to the top level. He said there was no-one to give him support and advice. It is this that gives him the motivation to help young players.
He wanted to start the business at Innovation Factory as it gives him the flexibility to grow the business: “We are in a growth phase and this gives us the chance to build our business and increase capacity as needed. We also liked the networking opportunities with other businesses that have ambitious plans; it offers us the chance to feed off this energy and new ideas”
Shane Smith, Innovation Factory’s Community Engagement Officer, said: “We are very excited to welcome such a prestigious sports agency to Northern Ireland. New Era Sports has recognised the facilities and support we have to offer and we look forward to helping them expand their activities in Northern Ireland.”
Innovation Factory is owned by Belfast City Council and operated on their behalf by Oxford Innovation. The £9.1m business hub was funded by Belfast City Council and Invest NI with support from the European Regional Development Fund.
Customers include a range of start-ups and growing businesses in a variety of sectors including digital services, creative industries, business services, financial services and research and development.
For more information on the Innovation Factory visit: www.innovationfactoryni.com