A DONEGAL man is one of the best sports agents in the world, managing some of athletics’ biggest stars including eight-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt.
Ricky Simms (47) from Milford is the CEO and owner of PACE Sports Management. The eldest of a family of 10, he lives in Monaco with his wife Marion Steininger and their seven-year-old daughter, Mia.
It’s a role that sees Ricky travel the world to ensure his clients receive the best possible business deals, both on and off the track.
It’s a far cry from his days at Portlean National School and, later, Raphoe’s Royal and Prior Comprehensive School as a boarder. He then went to Ulster University in Jordanstown to pursue a degree in Sport and Leisure Studies.
“I have always loved sports and would have played football and hockey for school. I was one of those people who would have been good at most sports but excelled at none,” he explained.
Guided by one of his teachers, Michael McGranaghan, and Finn Valley AC founder Patsy McGonagle, he focused on athletics as a teenager, winning medals at the national level.
After completing school, Ricky taught at Raphoe for two years before taking up a post at the National Training Center in Limerick.
It was there that he met Irish athlete Sonia O’Sullivan. His agent was Kim McDonald, who lived in London, and he was one of the best sports agents in the world. Ricky went to work for him in early 2000.
The following November Kim sadly passed away and Ricky, along with Marion and business partner Duncan Gaskell, took over the business, naming it PACE Sports Management.
Ricky has received many accolades over the past twenty years, including being named one of Sports Business International’s top 20 most influential sports agents in the world, although he acknowledges that much of the recognition is down to talent. single from Bolt.
“Those first years were very hard. We had a huge group of athletes and it took us a little while to gain respect within the industry,” he recalls.
Ricky has known Usain Bolt since he was fifteen. The Jamaican has become the fastest man ever, a multiple Olympic and world champion and one of the most instantly recognizable people on the planet.
While the charismatic racer broke numerous records on the track, Simms shone in the background, providing countless business and sporting opportunities for his client.
Indeed, although Bolt is no longer competitive, it remains the company’s most marketable customer.
“Athletes earn money through sportswear partnerships as well as competing on the circuit. We negotiate their participation fees while they also win cash prizes on the circuit,” he explained.
“Ninety percent of our job is to get them into competitions and increase their visibility and when they reach a certain level we are able to find four or five sponsors.
“Usain Bolt is one of the most famous sportsmen in the world today. He’s up there with Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James and Roger Federer and we’re competing with them for business. When a company seeks to promote its product, Usian is in the same bracket. It is about knowing its value,” he added.
Ricky and Usain travel the world together. It’s a business relationship, but it’s also a great friendship.
“He’s like family but, make no mistake, it’s my job to make money for him and that remains my goal.
“He is one of forty clients we have on our books. We take care of the logistics to make things as smooth as possible so they can focus all their energy on what they have to do,” he said.
“Usain is still our biggest customer. He works with so many companies and we’re working on a few new projects together right now. He’s been very successful and he’s a huge ambassador for all the companies he’s connected with,” he added.
Other clients include four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah, Olympic and world champion Dina Asher-Smith and Kenyan track queen Vivian Cheruiyot.
High performance international athletes remain the core business of PACE Sports Management, but Ricky and his team are always on the lookout for new ventures.
“Football would be an obvious way to go, but we can afford to be selective and sit and wait for the right opportunity. We are also involved in other sports and many different projects outside of sports.
“Going forward, we will continue to focus on our core business, but we will also look at other opportunities such as talent management, events and start-ups in which we have invested,” he said. declared.
Ricky returns to Donegal two to three times a year.
“My daughter loves it there. We have a big family and she loves to play with all her cousins as well as the farm animals,” he said.
He is keeping a close eye on the Donegal GAA team as well as the fortunes of Finn Harps and believes there could be ‘potential’ in overseas companies getting involved in the League of Ireland.
A keen Liverpool supporter, he was a guest of Anfield legend Kenny Dalglish and his wife Marina in last week’s 6-0 win over Leeds United.
“I’m lucky to have met some very famous people through work, but being with Kenny and his wife in the director’s box at Anfield last week is all the best. It was surreal.
“I love meeting and getting to know people. Some of the most famous people are the nicest people in the world and some are gauges. I guess it’s the same in all walks of life,” he laughed.
“I can be a nice guy and I like the craic with my clients but I still have to do my job. If you’re not making your client money, they’ll let you know quickly. You have to keep gritting your teeth and working hard.
“When I took my Leaving Cert, the career teachers didn’t know you could make a living doing what I do. While it’s hard work, it’s also great to do something you’re really passionate about. Earning money is a bonus,” he said.
The World Championships in Oregon, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the European Athletics Championships in Munich are the three major events on the athletics calendar along with the major city marathons in 2022.
Rickey also works closely with Jon Ridgeon, CEO of World Athletics, and Seb Coe, President of World Athletics in Monaco.
“We look at what the sport can offer in the future. It’s an exciting time,” he said.
A keen footballer, he is also involved in Soccer Aid, an annual charity event which has raised over £38million for UNICEF UK.
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Posted: 9:00 am March 12, 2022