To say football is a way of life for most Brits would be a gross understatement. Football, known as soccer in the United States, is one of the most popular sports in the world, with over 3.5 billion fans around the globe. Known for thrilling gameplay and fast-paced action, football evokes passion and camaraderie.
The game is easy enough to understand, both as a player and a spectator. You have 11 players in each team. The match lasts 90 minutes, split into two 45-minute halves. Teams aim to score by getting the ball past the opposite team’s goalkeeper and into their goal.
Richard Lee, a former Watford and Brentford goalkeeper from 2000 to 2015 pivoted from being the last line of defense on the field to a challenging, fast-paced, rewarding career as a sports agent. Talent on the field is not enough to build a sterling career; star athletes need super agents like Lee behind them to act as promoters, negotiators, and advisors.
During his football career, Lee accumulated over 200 games in the Premier League and EFL. This gave him expertise in the world of football, from the game to the business ecosystem. The 15 years Lee played professionally were not easy. In his memoir, Graduation: Life Lessons of a Professional Footballer, available on Amazon, he reveals his experiences, struggles, and journey as a professional football player.
Upon retiring, he didn’t want to leave football behind for good. So, along with his former teammate, Scott Barron, Lee launched Refuel Performance Management (RPM) – a football agency by footballers, for footballers. Today, RPM provides a variety of services for clients, including contract lawyers, press and PR experts, a goalkeeping analyst, and a concierge service.
“RPM was borne out of a shared first-hand frustration with the way various football agents had let them down in the past.”
RPM was borne out of a shared first-hand frustration with the way various football agents had let them down in the past. The retired professional footballer, who played as a goalkeeper, turned super-agent now acts as a scout, marketer, negotiator, counselor, and friend for his clients. In football, the goalkeeper is a specialist position, and Lee has carved out a niche for himself representing and placing talented players at clubs in need. Lee spotted the gap in the football agent market from his experience as a player. Goalkeeping is niche and according to Lee, “It is just a completely different world.”
“I just wanted it to be done a bit more professionally when it came to goalkeepers because it’s not like other departments,” says Lee. As a result, the foundational core values of RPM are unity, agility, and credibility. These values and the implementation of Kaizen, a Japanese term meaning change for the better or continuous improvement, have become the underpinning of trust that footballers can rely on in an agency. Their unrivaled client retention rate speaks for itself.
As a football agent, Lee uses the power of various media outlets to reach key stakeholders. He also co-hosts The Goalkeepers’ Union podcast and releases weekly episodes featuring high-profile names in the sports industry. Richard regularly speaks at corporate and non-corporate events and is featured on the popular Fozcast, where he was dubbed “the goalkeeping super-agent” and appeared on BBC’s Dragons’ Den. The Athletic published an article focused not on his 15-year football career but on his current sustained success as an agent.
Professional athletes are resilient – physically and mentally. Even more so when one player is generally isolated from the rest of his team on the field. This is the position of goalkeepers as they act as a line of defense during a game. The unique challenges and loneliness of this position can be tough for goalkeepers.
Lee himself is transparent about his experiences which led him to study Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and later become a Master Practitioner. The basis of NLP is to notice and understand how one’s thoughts impact one’s behavior. As a result, Lee made a conscious decision to regulate and redirect his thoughts to a positive state, which was instrumental in his success on and off the field.
The more potential clients get to know Lee, the more they are likely inspired by his honesty and transparency, which creates a strong bond of trust in the agent-player relationship.
To learn more about Refuel Performance Management, connect with Richard on Instagram or @RefuelPM on X, formerly known as Twitter.
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