KPOS Sports Management is a sports agency set up by four solicitors. Co-founder Stephen Kirwan talks to ThinkBusiness about his vision.
What is your USP?
KPOS Sports Management is a one-stop shop for financial, commercial and legal solutions for individual athletes and sports clubs. We provide financial advice to young athletes who want to play professional sports and we also work with clubs in those areas on an advisory basis.
“There are some really good negotiators out there who deal with contracts, but there are very few people who can deal with sorting out visas, financial advice and source commercial deals all under one roof.”
Did you see a gap in your market?
There are four directors on the board and we are all fully qualified solicitors and we feel spotted a gap in the legal market in terms of offering advice on sports law. We’re all really passionate about sport, particularly Irish sport, and when we did the market research we believed there was a void that needed to be filled. There are some really good negotiators out there who deal solely with contracts, but there are very few people who can deal with that along with sorting out visas, financial advice and source commercial deals all under the one roof. By offering all these services together, we can keep our overheads down and not have to outsource different things. So we found that our competitors in the market offer a much narrower product.
“But it’s not just athletes we work with – take the GAA; lots of clubs around the country will require legal advice, tax advice or financial advice.”
Is it difficult to find athletes in Ireland?
The Irish sports market is somewhat stagnant at the moment. When you break it down, there are hundreds of kids moving over to the UK every year to play sports. So we see the UK as one of our primary markets, along with the rest of the continent and the US. But it’s not just athletes we work with – take the GAA; lots of clubs around the country will require legal advice, tax advice or financial advice so that’s where we can come in and help. In terms of the Airtricity League, we don’t want to be representing every player in the league, but we’ll aim to specifically target certain players and market them in the hope to secure them more money.
“We found that our competitors in the market offer a much narrower product.”
Do you approach the athletes or do they come to you?
We have a network of talent spotters who work with us who are associated with a number of professional sports clubs and they will identify people who we will approach. Our talent spotters have proven records and have had success in getting athletes into professional clubs in the past and then we’ll come in and deal with many of the background details such as the contract negotiations and legal issues. We’ve become more known recently as we’ve helped a few football players break into the UK, so in the past we often had to make contact with players or parents (depending on their age), they now come to us and we assess them. We work quite closely with a number of Premier League and Championship clubs in England and they will sometimes recommend players who we can work with.
Sponsorships is also really important for athletes, do you guys work on that side?
We have two guys in our team working in this area and as a startup, it has been difficult and it’s going to take time to crack this area. But we are working closely with our marketing director and social media manager to ensure that our clients are getting maximum exposure. This has definitely been the most challenging aspect for us. To put it simply, it’s hard to convince a company to part with their cash for a 15-year-old unknown prospect but as we grow, hopefully, this will develop.
“Our talent spotters have proven records and have had success in getting athletes into professional clubs in the past.”
Is the market highly competitive?
It is a huge market and the most difficult part about it is that there is a complete lack of trust surrounding everything, particularly in the football sphere. We’ve found that Irish parents are very concerned about the children going down this avenue and rightly so I suppose because they know that about 80% of kids don’t make the grade at professional level, but we believe with our advice we can make sure that they are looked after properly – from the football aspect to their education and that really is our USP. With so many kids not making it, they often come home with nothing to show, but by ensuring they continue their education and are taken care of properly, it shows we aren’t there to make a quick buck.
“To put it simply, it’s hard to convince a company to part with their cash for a 15-year-old unknown prospect.”
How do you plan on growing KPOS?
We have a 12-month plan in place and our view as a company is that we want to go with quality over quantity. A number of our competitors try to represent every single talent they can find, but our view is that we don’t want to have a massive crop of athletes. Our talent spotters have been brilliant and have built up excellent relationships with a number of football clubs in England and over the next year, we want to connect with a more clubs and to secure professional contracts for a number of our athletes over the next few months. If this happens, we’ll then hope to replicate this across others sports such as athletics and MMA.
In terms of the business side, we’re hoping to launch a new product in the insurance field and we hope this will generate a lot of interest with Irish clubs. We feel we have spotted a gap in this market that isn’t covered by your generic policies that clubs are obliged to follow. We know we have the skillset to come in and dominate this market so we have a busy year ahead. After that, I’d love to make it a full-time operation because right now we all have jobs outside of KPOS but hopefully we can transition this into a full-time job in the near future.