‘Done Deal: An Insider’s Guide to Football Contracts, Multi-Million Pound Transfers and Premier League Big Business’ by Daniel Geey (2019)

Done Deal is an interesting, comprehensive and well written overview of the business and legal side of the beautiful game.  Its author Daniel Geey is a lawyer and a regular online commentator on the legal side of the football business.  It covers contract deals, television rights negotiations, club takeovers, and all the legal and commercial sides of football.

It’s clear that Geey is very knowledgeable and experienced in his field.  The book also shows he is an excellent communicator as he presents what can be dry or technical information in a very clear and engaging manner.

For the nerdier among us who regularly read about the business side of sport or who regularly read blogs like the excellent Swiss Ramble, a lot of the material in the book will be quite familiar.

Overall, Geey does a very good job of communicating a lot of information.  However, it’s easy to imagine that a lot of readers will ultimately find the in-depth nature of some of the subject matter boring or uninteresting.   It’s not a book to read through in a few sittings but rather one worth dipping into chapter by chapter.   What is clear is you won’t find a better book on the finer details of the commercial and legal aspects of professional football.  An interesting and informative book.

done deal


‘Kicks: The Great American Story of Sneakers’ by Nicholas Smith (2018)

While I’m no ‘sneakerhead’ and have appalling fashion sense, runners are the one item of clothing that I  can actually enjoy shopping for.  I’m also the kind of guy who wears black Asics walking to work and doesn’t bother putting on suit shoes unless a meeting is very important so my views on anything shoes or fashion related should probably be ignored. Kicks

I had to ask myself if Kicks qualified as a sports book but given the heavy focus on the history of sport and sports companies, it definitely does.  Kicks traces the story of how sneakers (the American term for runners, trainers, sports shoes or tackies) were first developed and grew from being a sports specific shoe to the ever-present default footwear choice of billions.

In telling the story, Smith traces the origins of numerous sports and even more sport shoe companies.  In particular he captures the rivalries that drove advances in technology and marketing as the sneaker business crossed over from sports wear to mainstream everyday wear.  From Converse v Keds, Addidas v Puma to Nike v Reebok, the battle to be number led to some much innovation and change in an ever growing market.   Each company would at some hit a gold mine – whether the Converse All-Star, the Reebok athletic shoe or Nike Air Jordan – before losing the lead as a competitor signed the next big name or launched the next must have shoe.

The book weaves together a lot of stories I already knew or was vaguely aware of.  I was surprised by how much of the source material I had read including Kenny Moore’s book on Bill Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, Phil Knight’s autobiography Shoe Dog (about Nike) and Pitch Invasion by Barbara Smit on the founding of Adidas and Puma.


It also touches on the role non-sport elements popular culture, in particular Run DMC’s promoting of Adidas which landed them a $1 million endorsement deal, had on the marketing of sneakers. Finally, it talks about sneakerhead culture and the fan culture that the internet has enabled resulting in shoes selling for thousands online and sneaker theft becoming a worrying source of crime in US inner-cities. While it seems crazy to think of someone buying shoes they will likely never wear, I’m writing this looking at my library of 100’s of books I’m yet to read while I buy way more new books every year than I read.  I guess we all have a passion and for some people that passion is sneakers.

Overall it is a very interesting dive into the world of American sports shoes that becomes more interesting as you keep reading.  While the book could easily have become a boring repetition of facts, Smith’s writing style keeps it light and entertaining.


‘Soccernomics – 2018 World Cup edition’ by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski (2018)

I read the first version of this book, then called Why England Lose, when it was first published and really enjoyed it.  The latest edition is even better. The authors avoided simply re-publishing the same old book, instead re-examining their conclusions and ensuring this edition is fresh and up to date.


The book is essentially Freakonomics applied to football, with some Moneyball thrown in.  The authors use statistics to disprove the prevailing wisdom on how football functions and how to be successful in the game. It covers a wide gambit of football related issues – ranging from how to play the transfer market well, what national teams overperform and how loyal fans really are.

The authors attempt to look globally in scope but the book focuses on European football largely because that is where the best data sources are found.  It is a long read and covers a huge amount of detail.  It is best enjoyed in chapter sized chunks to leave time to think about it rather than flying through and finding yourself overwhelmed in the detail.   Some chapters are better than others – discussions on which national team over performs got tiring, and felt like a repeat of the discussion on why England lose.  By contrast, the chapter on penalty shootouts and game theory was brilliant and insightful.

In particular, the book left me wanting to find a good book on the rise of Olympique Lyonnais and how they used clever transfers to dominate French football before the oil baron PSG took over.   The “wisdom of crowds” theory put forward in the book doesn’t really seem convincing to me as transfer committees at other clubs have been anything but successful. Any recommendations would be greatly welcome.

I enjoyed the book but in some ways I would hesitate to recommend it for everyone.  I’m not sure how much a non-nerdy fan would enjoy it.  It’s probably safe to say that if you think a “statistical look at football” sounds like fun, you’ll enjoy this book a lot.  Given its huge sales numbers there must be more of us football nerds out their than I thought!

‘The Deal: Inside the World of a Super-Agent’ by Jon Smith & James Olley (2016)

“Is it wrong? By the law of the written word, yes. But questioning the morality of conducting deals in a certain way involving third parties or agents is a completely outmoded and backward way of thinking.”

Jon Smith is a self-described ‘Super Agent’ – a key figure in, and beneficiary of, the commercialisation of English, and global, football.  The Deal is part biography of Smith, part history of football’s commercialisation and part defence of the role of football agents.  It’s doubtful though whether it lives up to its sales pitch of being a “scintillating exposé” of how the football industry really functions.

the deal

The first few chapters operate almost as stand alone stories that could work better as magazine articles – an ill-fated trip to the Ukraine in an attempt to sell Sheffield Wednesday, a look behind-the-scenes on deadline day, a discussion of how agents generally operate and a justification of football agents and their “morality”.  These chapters contain interesting insights into how the business of football works, which is the real appeal of the book (and the reason I picked it up).  However, I get a very strong sense that the book only scratches the surface of what really goes on inside football.

These early chapters also include detailed, and repetitive attempts to justify the need for, and role of, agents.  Some of Smith’s views – particularly around structuring things in a tax efficient manner until Revenue shut them down or the need to make payoffs to players family and friends because it’s the “culture” – leave a bad taste in the mouth.  Obviously it would be totally naive to not expect this stuff to go on and it is admirable that Smith at least addresses the issue.  Lets just say I found his defence of plenty of the activities wholly unconvincing.

Like most businessmen, Smith is generally opposed to any piece of regulation he talks about, yet bemoans the fact that FIFA decided to step away and leave the industry largely unregulated (because it increased the competition presumably) – there is a definite sense of having his cake/5% and eating it too.


The rest of the book is mainly a biography of a very successful career in business – made glamorous by the connection to sport and entertainment.  Smith’s own life story is engaging – he struggled with his speech as a child and suffered personal tragedy while still in his 20s.  The stories of how he made his name with the England team and creative marketing are fascinating as are his ventures into other sports.  However, having come for an exposé on the business of sport, I was ultimately left a bit bored and unengaged in the rise and potential fall of a mutlimillionaire with a prizate zoo and homes around the world.

The best parts of the book contain  interesting insights into the business side of the game. As well as the first few chapters, these insights are sprinkled across the book. Smith discusses some well-known personalities and includes a lot of anecdotes about individual players and transfers.

Ultimately, the books biggest flaw is that it’s too much about the Super-Agent himself and not enough about the game.  Pretty quickly, Smith’s ego begins to grate – and its gets annoying reading about how successful and great Smith is.  There is a way of recounting how well you have done without quite saying it so baldly.  It’s understandable that any such book will exalt the author’s successes but often it feels like the line between telling and boasting is crossed.  Then again, if I had been Maradona’s agent and achieved nothing else in life I’d probably have no shortage of ego!

Overall The Deal suffers from trying to be too much in one.  It does contain an interesting behind the scenes look at the business side of professional football.  Smith has had a very interesting career and football fans will find much of the book enjoyable.   It has its flaws, but is a decent, if overlong, read.