Page last updated at 10:59 GMT, Monday, 30 November 2009

Hoddle looks to kick soccer school on to next level

By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News, Johannesburg

Glen Hoddle in South Africa
Glen Hoddle played for and managed both Tottenham Hotspur and England

Eighteen months ago former England football star Glenn Hoddle was touring the City of London looking for funding to open a football school with a difference.

Now his Spanish-based Glenn Hoddle Academy is successfully up and running, and he is in Johannesburg to share his experience at the Soccerex football finance seminar.

We meet in an African-themed restaurant on the edge of bustling Mandela Square in the upmarket district of Sandton.

And over the pounding African drumbeats in the background he explains how his idea - to give rejected players a second stab at a football career - has become a reality.

In the past year he has helped seven players thrown onto the scrapheap to go back into the professional game.

Financial return

Slightly tired after his overnight flight from London, Hoddle revives when he recalls overcoming the financial hurdles to open his academy.

"We were able to raise the equity we needed, and were able to open in the summer of 2008, but it was a challenging time - to be caught up in the middle of a downturn and be looking to raise money," he reflects.

"If it had been three months later, who knows if we would have made it over the financial line.

"However, I like to think that people would always look to invest in something like my football academy because they wanted to, irrespective of economic climate at the time."

His plan was to raise £4m in return for 35% of the equity, and he says that was achieved from a combination of high-wealth individuals, people with nest eggs, and investment firms, including one that invests in football projects.

They have great stadiums... but their players need to be immersed in a rigorous European football environment
Glenn Hoddle

"We got there, and there will be a financial return to those investors," says Hoddle, who has played for and managed both Tottenham Hotspur and England.

"But it is not going to be a one or two year project. As with the case of many new businesses it may take a few years before there is a return."

Sponsorship problems

However, you attempt to have an uninterrupted conversation in football-mad South Africa with a football great like Hoddle at your peril.

Our conversation is stopped as a number of fans politely ask him for autographs.

After he has signed a number of England shirts, he turns to what had been envisaged as revenue streams for his academy - including coaching services, different fees to clubs for taking his players, and sponsorship.

"One part of the jigsaw that we are a little bit disappointed with is in terms of sponsorship of the academy," he says.

"We have not achieved what we had envisaged, and that, we think, has been down to the credit crunch as most sports sponsorship has been affected.

"But we are talking to interested companies on an ongoing basis."

The academy is currently sponsored by Scandinavian kitmaker Hummel, and ball manufacturer Mitre.

South Africa World Cup logo
South Africa hosts the football World Cup in 2010

One more successful source of income has been the undertaking of outsourced coaching work from two national football federations.

And negotiations are underway to carry out work for a third federation, based in the Middle East.

"They have great stadiums and academy infrastructure in the region, but their players need to be immersed in a rigorous European football environment," says Hoddle, who is accompanied in coaching duties by the likes of former top-flight professionals Graham Rix, Nigel Spackman and John Gorman.

"That's what we could provide. It would strengthen their game and could get their players into European leagues."

Such is the former England national coach's passion for the game that when he starts to talk about the playing side in detail he moves glasses around the restaurant table to illustrate his points.

Major club deals?

So far seven players have benefited from his expertise and returned to professional football.

The academy has gained some financial fees from sending these players to clubs, but the major fee earner would be if these ex-Hoddle players were then sold on again to major clubs in big money deals.

Perhaps his biggest success in getting a player back into the professional game has been with Ikechi Anya, who now plays for Seville in Spain after having been rejected by Wycombe.

"It is fantastic that we have been able to help him, and others, and take them onto a higher level," says Hoddle, who won 53 caps for England.

"With the English football winter transfer window about to open, we hope we can help some other lads find clubs."

In ten years' time I hope that we will have become something of a footballing institution
Glenn Hoddle

The academy near Jerez in southern Spain receives about 30 emails a week from agents, federations, clubs, and even US universities making queries about players.

In addition there is a backlog of 1,200 players the academy has to consider as taking on.

Hoddle concedes that about 99% of these hopeful applicants will not make it in the professional game, although for the 27 players at his academy the expectations are higher.

Meanwhile, five of those academy players are off on trials to professional football clubs in Vietnam.

"They could then be sold on to Japan or Korea, and earn a very good living. It shows that our operation is truly global."

Having "proved that the idea works" Hoddle says he may consider broadening the academy's business ventures but says the current basis will "remain the bedrock".

"In ten years' time I hope that we will have become something of a footballing institution," he says, smiling.

Meanwhile, the African drummer is showing no signs of letting up, and when asked what sort of World Cup will be hosted in South Africa next year, Hoddle is in no doubt.

Pointing to two small children joyously dancing near our table, he points and says: "It will be loud and colourful and joyful - the spirit of Africa will come through."

Print Sponsor

Anya seals dream Sevilla transfer
07 Jul 09 |  Europe
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17 Feb 08 |  Business
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