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Building a new ecosystem for football agents


by: Leo Aquina | 21 April 2022

‘For many agents finding a new club for a player comes first, and the player’s development comes second’, says Ireneo Snel. ‘We want to turn it around.’ Together with his Finnish business partner Antti Roiha the young Dutchman runs Wonderland Sports, building what he calls ‘an ecosystem’. Snel and Roiha met while taking a Master’s degree in Football Business at the Johan Cruyff Institute in Barcelona. In addition to his work for Wonderland Sports, Snel is also committed to the personal branding of female football players.

IreneoSnel-1Ireneo Snel was studying Sport Management & Business at the Amsterdam University for Applied Sciences when he came to Barcelona for a traineeship. As a graduate of the Johan Cruyff Institute and with his background in sports marketing he saw a gap in the market in women’s football. ‘Although female players become increasingly better known, it is almost impossible for most of them to make a living off the sport, with the exception of some top players’, Snel points out.  Snel is convinced that personal branding could change that. He names Lieke Martens as an example. ‘With her own brand and her own sponsors she almost makes as much as with her contract. Personal branding not only creates opportunities during your active career in sports, but after that career as well.’

Core Values
Snel coaches female football players in personal branding: ‘We always start with the core values. Who is this player? What is her personality? I then try to change that into a social media strategy, so the brand can grow from there.’ One of his clients is AC Milan’s goalkeeper. ‘She is a strong advocate of equal rights and that’s what she would like to translate to her role as a player.’ 

‘In men’s football personal image rights have been separate from contracts with the clubs a long time ago’

Personal branding could conflict with a club’s interests in terms of sponsor revenue. How much of a problem could that be? Snel: ‘That depends on what the player’s contract looks like. You would do well to separate your image rights from your contract. Some clubs, for instance, include a clause in their contracts that players can only wear shoes of the club’s sponsor, but that is changing. I also coach players in drafting those contracts. In men’s football personal image rights have been separate from contracts with the clubs for a long time.’ The fact that women’s football is becoming increasingly attractive, commercially, offers female players more wiggle room,’ according to Snel. ‘Although the gap in income is still huge, it is rapidly changing, which gives women a stronger position towards the clubs.’

Wonderland Sports
IreneoSnel-2Before turning to women’s football, Snel was already working as an agent. Immediately after graduating from the Johan Cruyff Institute his fellow student Roiha asked him to come and work with him at his agency Wonderland Sports. ‘Antti comes from Finland and had moved back. He was eager to work with me and also because we are in different locations, we complement each other well.’ It is Roiha’s and Snel’s ambition to take a different approach to the profession. Snel: ‘Most successful agents are not interested in becoming involved in the long-term development of players, and what they will do after their careers, for those players earn more than enough during their careers. We focus on players who do not make so much and are forced to think about their futures.’

Can Snel and Rohia earn a living this way? ‘Our revenue model is not very strong yet’, Snel admits. ‘But we hope that young players joining us will continue to develop so that in the longer term we can make good deals for them.’

But how then is Wonderland Sports’ revenue model different from that of most other agents?  Snel: ‘To us a player’s growth as a human being comes first. We try to monitor that in different ways, so we can counsel players better and make them better, too. For instance, we try to help them track their sleep, and there are many other things we could measure. We want to gather all those data on one platform, for specialists to study.’

‘We believe that ultimately, sharing information on the development of players will create a fairer market for players and clubs’

Snel considers the platform part of an ecosystem around the players, which could include clubs: ‘We would like to cooperate with clubs, which will also benefit from those data and the development of players.’ Exchanging those data could be difficult, given the laws on privacy; moreover, clubs and players may not necessarily have interests in common.  Snel: ‘The player is always in the lead. Meaning that she decides which data are and which data are not shared. We believe that ultimately, sharing information on the development of players will create a fairer market for players and clubs.’

For more information: Ireneo Snel op LinkedIn


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