Dublin footballer Bernard Brogan and his cousin’s sports agency will help players, clubs and the GAA itself, writes Claire Murphy
DUBLIN GAA hero Bernard |Brogan and his cousin James enjoy all of the fame but none of the fortune that comes with being sporting stars.
The cousins have both played at inter-county level with Dublin and know only too well the demands of balancing an amateur sporting career with holding down a job.
Bernard (29) admits to having looked to his counterparts in other disciplines – the Brian O’Driscolls and Robbie Keanes – and being jealous of their pay packets.
But the answer for the GAA is not to turn the sport professional, Bernard insists.
Instead the talismanic forward, along with his cousin James, have other plans.
Bernard, a trained accountant, and his cousin James, a qualified solicitor, have spotted a niche in the market of managing the link-up between the amateur ethos of the GAA with big company sponsorship.
They see that firms with advertising and sponsorship budgets are recognising the reach of the unique game – in “every living-room in the country”.
The cousins believe that through business development and clever decisions, the players and teams can be viable brands in their own right and earn money – without becoming fully professional.
The idea evolved through James’s own involvement with the Dubs.
“When I played with the Dublin team, Pat (Gilroy) got me involved with the commercial aspects of the team, just to look over the contracts informally, and if there was anything they needed assistance on legally, I would row in and give the guys some assistance,” James explained.
“That got us thinking together that we could do this on a more formal arrangement.”
Bernard, an All-Ireland winner, and James joined in partnership with David Clancy, a tax consultant, to create Legacy Sports and Entertainment Consultants and aim to become advisers to up-and-coming GAA stars as well as guiding corporate investment in the industry.
“We have the professional background as well as having a sporting background,” Bernard said. “Sports people would feel a lot more comfortable in dealing with someone who knows how much effort you put into something, the commitment that it takes.”
But understanding the unique standing of the GAA as an amateur sport, and all that entails, is vital, according to Bernard.
However he adds: “In rugby, what they have done with the likes of ‘brand Leinster’, I know the professional |element makes it easier, but the work they have done behind the scenes is incredible. It is an area that we are keen on – the potential of GAA to increase its brand – and the hope that we will help develop it down the line.”
Legacy Consultants is less than six months old, but already the business is looking at expanding into other sports. But the cousins insist they are not so much a ‘Jerry Maguire’-type sports agent company but one that helps players, teams, the GAA and companies get the best deals possible for all sides.
The Brogans describe the “three |pillars” of the company – the talent representation; sponsorship consultancy, such as ROS Nutrition; and concept creation. One of the major campaigns they are developing is a new summer camp for teenagers aged between 13 and 15, which will be rolled out this |summer.
“The GAA is seen by brands as a very powerful tool because it is a community-based organisation,” Bernard said.
“If a guy does get a call about a brand, that we can be at the end of a phone and be there to manage that commercial side. So it’s not really the case of ‘show me the money’.”
The Brogans estimate the sports sponsorship market here as being worth €120m, making it important for players to get the proper advice. There is cash there to be spent, jobs to be created and the sport itself to be developed, James said.
“It is that amateur ethos, that grassroots involvement, the fact that you could be cheering on a GAA star on a Sunday and he could be teaching your kids in school on a Monday.
“In a sense, that is why it is such a commercially attractive proposition – the essence of the GAA.
“I think that is something that the GAA is aware of.
“I don’t think they will ever move away from that. And I don’t think they should,” James said.
The Dubs are facing a clear blue horizon ahead with hopes for another championship title and so the duo believe the timing of their business model could be ideal.
The Brogan cousins come from a rich sporting dynasty. They grew up in the capital, living and breathing Gaelic football – and both of their fathers played for Dublin in the 70s.
“We are a fairly traditional GAA family and we spent a lot of our time going to Parnell Park,” Bernard said.
“James’s dad and my dad played for the Dubs, it was where we both wanted to be. There were some celebrations we had after the All Ireland with the family.”
The boys in blue are riding the crest of a wave after victory over Tyrone last weekend to secure their first Allianz League title since 1993.
And they are now cautious favourites to wrestle the All Ireland title back from Donegal.
Bernard knows the pressure is on.
“The plan this year is to win the All Ireland again, but it is about building up the young lads and that seems to be going well,” he said.
“It is a bit sad. I was always the young gun. I started late – I didn’t start playing until I was 23, I had a couple of bad injuries before that.
“But even though I started late, I felt like I was one of the young guns. But now I’m starting to feel old.
“The energy that the young lads bring |to training is unreal,” he added.
“Jim (Gavin) has done a great job with them.”