There is a new VC firm in town. We are talking about The Players Fund, an athlete-led firm that wants to empower the athlete community as investors. The fund’s strategy brings together a collective of renowned athlete investors alongside seasoned VCs, leveraging their combined expertise, global access to opportunities and value-creation ability, to support exceptional entrepreneurs and accelerate the future of athlete investing. The Players Fund will launch a €47 million fund to invest in digital-first, consumer-facing sectors.
Established by a team of world-class sportspeople and industry leaders, including cricket stars Ben Stokes, KL Rahul, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, and footballers Chris Smalling, Serge Gnabry and Héctor Bellerín together with over a dozen more athletes, The Players Fund aims to bridge the gap between the off-field lives of sportspeople and startups. With ownership in the firm and providing capital as their commitment, founding athletes have skin in the game and operational input.
Fergus and Ruari Bell, Managing Partners at The Players Fund, said: “We’re entering a new phase of athlete involvement in enterprise. As athletes seek to better leverage the power of their profile and go beyond endorsement into ownership, the athlete community has been crying out for a trusted destination to invest together into best-in-class startups. By uniting leading athlete investors and athlete collectives from the UK, EU and India under one roof, we now have that outlet in The Players Fund.”
The launch of The Players Fund marks a consolidation of prominent athlete investor groups to create the foremost athlete venture platform. The firm will bring together influential athlete-founded collectives including 4CAST (an athlete entrepreneurial collective led by Ben Stokes, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Tyrone Mings, Anthony Watson and more); ForGood, (footballer Chris Smalling’s athlete VC network); B-Engaged, (led by Héctor Bellerín and Serge Gnabry); and Robbie Earle’s US based group featuring prominent NBA athletes. By merging under one umbrella, this “joining of families” creates an athlete investor network at scale across the UK and Europe to educate, empower and back the next generation of athlete investors and founders.
Ben Stokes, England cricket captain, Founder of 4CAST and Partner at The Players Fund, commented: “Since starting 4CAST we have seen the huge benefits of athletes and public figures coming together in business and we strongly believe athletes investing together cannot be underestimated. By combining our resources, networks and experience, we can achieve so much more collectively than as individuals. With The Players Fund we provide a structured way for athletes to confidently step into early stage investing and to do so alongside teammates and fellow athletes.”
The Players Fund’s unique approach to venture capital marks a significant departure from traditional investment models with the implementation of an athlete committee to support the operational and technical teams. In that way, the fund seeks to go one step beyond existing collectives investing on a case by case basis or platforms that enable investments from athletes on an ad hoc basis.