‘Stick to football!’ It’s the first thing critics – or even some entitled fans – leverage at footballers who dare to do anything other than play the beautiful game. They’re not committed enough. They’re vain (despite other projects usually being for charitable causes). It’s a distraction. Perhaps Marcus Rashford wouldn’t have missed that Euro 2020 penalty if he hadn’t been fussing over the small issue of child poverty in the UK for the last year.
This hasn’t stopped Chelsea and England footballer Raheem Sterling from throwing his weight behind a new venture – a creative production agency called Playmaker – with director Carly Cussen, who has previously worked with the likes of Ed Sheeran and Missy Elliott. Then again, he has probably had the words ‘stick to football’ ringing around his head for years now, after co-founding fashion label Sixteen Ninety-Two, and setting up his own charity, 1692, The Raheem Sterling Foundation (the date used in both names references the year an earthquake tore through Port Royal in Jamaica).
Sixteen Ninety-Two wasn’t entirely unprecedented; a number of footballers have close links to fashion brands after all. To set up something like Playmaker is more of a curveball. Aside from Lawrence Dellaglio stepping in as a founding partner of BBH Sport, the sports star-to-agency founder pipeline has been pretty dry. But perhaps the two pursuits aren’t as far removed from one another as they might seem. “I play in a creative position on the pitch and I like to think there is a bit of crossover there,” Sterling tells us.