Reece Land: How Arsene Wenger inspired him to start his leading business in women's football
The growth of women’s football in the last few years has sparked excitement amongst the sports industry, and young entrepreneur Reece Land had the vision to invest in the game years ago.
Reece’s story is the perfect mixture of chance, combined with hard work and determination. Arguably all the traits you need to succeed in the business sector.
The 24-year-old from Leeds is the founder of one of Europe’s leading sports management company for female footballers, Next Gen Sport Solutions.
The business is only three and a half years old but has already made a significant impression in women’s football.
Reece said: “The plan was not to go into women’s football. The plan was to represent my own football career through setting up my own sports management company.” Reece played for Rotherham United, and was playing in Malta when he suffered what proved to be a grievous knee injury.
“I tore my meniscus and was out for 16 months. There was virtually no support for me from the club, and at the time I didn’t have the understanding to have my own support system in place. The reason I was out so long was due to NHS waiting times, which coincidentally was, and still is, a massive issue within women’s football so I can resonate with what female footballers go through and advise them correctly to ensure they’re protected.”
His dreams of a professional career had been put on hold, but little did Reece know that it would lead him to a conversation with Arsene Wenger that changed his whole path.
Reece said: “During my rehab process, one of my friends played for Chelsea under-18’s at the time, so I went down to the Arsenal training ground to watch one of his games.”
“They had put all the media and the friends and family in this room away from the rest of the fans. Arsene Wenger then walks in, just making a cup of tea, so I go up to him and ask him if I can have a photo.”
“I ended up spending about five minutes talking with him. I can’t actually remember what Wenger said in those five minutes, the only thing I remember him saying was that women’s football is going to be the next big thing.”
“I then phoned my agent (who I brought to Next Gen with me when I started the company) and said tear up every business plan we’ve put together in the last 3 months. We’re going into women’s football and I’m not going back to playing.”
From that day onwards, Reece and the team at Next Gen have grown his business to unforeseeable levels.
“That was 3 and half years ago, at that time there was about five or six agents in women’s football and now there’s about 500, that just shows how much the game has grown.” Next Gen represent over 80 clients including players, managers, assistant managers and other key club staff.
“If I wasn’t at the Arsenal training ground, in that room, at that specific time, and I hadn’t had the confidence to go up to Arsene Wenger, I’d probably be playing in non-league football trying to make a name for myself.”
“I’d much rather be negotiating with top football clubs like Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid than doing that.”
Next Gen represent mainly female footballers who play in the Women’s Super League (FAWSL) and the women’s Championship, but also manage players and staff from across the globe including clients in Spain, Italy, Germany, France and other countries throughout Europe.
Reece said: “What excites me about women’s football is that at the beginning we had pretty much a blank canvas, we could go in and there was no blueprint.”
“We want to increase engagement, increase media exposure and elevate the players to another level.”
The January transfer window has been a busy one for the Next Gen Sports team, as business has been “surprisingly good” despite covid-19 circumstances.
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