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'Our stars want to be heard' - Why Lukaku, De Bruyne and other footballers have signed with Roc Nation

17:00 GMT+4 25/02/2022
Romelu Lukaku Kevin De Bruyne Belgium 2018
In an exclusive interview with GOAL, Michael Yormark says that many of football's biggest names want a greater say in how the game is run

The perception of football agents and their organisations often proves to be accurate.

It can rightly be judged as a lucrative, cut-throat and secretive world but Roc Nation Sports International is intent on challenging the stereotype.

Roc Nation Sports International, the sports management division of Roc Nation, was co-founded by rap legend Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) and Juan Perez in 2019.

After enjoying success in the United States, picking up American football, basketball and hockey stars, moving into European football was the logical next step for the ambitious agency.

Having promptly taken on high-profile clients such as Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Tyrone Mings and Axel Witsel, Roc Nation Sports then set up an office in London.

Charismatic company president Michael Yormark believes that players and athletes from various fields are being drawn to Roc Nation Sports because they are united in their drive to make a real difference.

"Our stars want to be heard and influence the game," Yormark tells GOAL. "They want to leave a legacy for the next generation.

"I was with Rom (Lukaku) recently as I had an opportunity for him to meet Siya Kolisi, the South Africa national rugby team captain.

"Although they play two different sports, they are both already legends in their respective games.

"To hear them talk about each other's sports, and the growth that needs to take place within those sports, was absolutely fascinating and amazing.

"To me, there is a big difference between sports in America like NFL, NBA and NHL (hockey) and sports like football and rugby in Europe.

"The players here in Europe, in my humble opinion, don't have a true voice. That's a goal of ours at Roc Nation: to help players use their platform to influence the game.

"As you see us grow and our roster grow, not just by size, but influence, we are going to push our players to be involved in key decision-making at their clubs and at league level."

This initiative comes during arguably the most turbulent time in the history of football governance.

Last year, a group of 12 elite clubs tried to form a breakaway European Super League (ESL), while FIFA is presently pushing the idea of a bi-annual World Cup despite resistance from the majority of fans, players, managers and club.

There is growing concern that player welfare is little more than a minor issue in the eyes of the game's ruling bodies.

Certainly, players are being asked to play more and more games, increasing the risk of burnout and serious injuries.

Roc Nation Sports believes that an agency's role should not be restricted to ensuring their clients are paid well. They also want to protect players.

However, Yormark freely admits that Roc Nation Sports are only interested in working with certain types of characters.

"We want to be an aspirational agency, so that when kids dream of playing for Manchester United, Manchester City, PSG or Real Madrid, they also dream about being represented by Roc Nation Sports," he explains.

"It is not about signing everybody. It is about signing the right athletes who connect with who we are, who connect with our culture, who want to be part of something special and unique."

As well as Yormark, Roc Nation Sports boasts a talented team of experts who are charged with ensuring that clients feel supported in every aspect of their lives.

Indeed, Alan Redmond, Head of Football to, Nathan Campbell, Global Director of Football Recruitment, and Sam Bailey, Director of Social & Digital, are also playing key roles in Roc Nation Sports' bids to realise its dream of changing football for the better.