Ame Romero, professional First Division futsal player, founded her representation agency Next Level 360 Sports Management as a result of her final project on the Master in Sport Management Online at Johan Cruyff Institute
Deficiencies are often the root of great opportunities and the roadmap for those who come after them so that they do not lack anything. Ame Romero combines her last active years as a professional futsal player in the First Division with her activity as founder and CEO of Next Level 360 Sports Management, a company she founded as a result of her Master in Sport Management Online at Johan Cruyff Institute.
Her representation agency offers all the services and advice that she would have liked to have had herself during her sports career. “I have transferred all my experience to my company. The athletes must be focused on their professional career and we take care of the rest,” says Amelia. It was during the Covid pandemic that the player from Cadiz found the space for reflection and the time to face her next professional stage. “On the master’s program, they helped me a lot to organize ideas and work on what is today my company. And it’s something I also instill in my players: it’s very important to plan your future career while you’re still active, to study and start thinking about your professional career after sport,” Amelia says.
“It’s very important to plan your future career while you’re still active, to study and start thinking about your professional career after sport”
In this interview with our partner Impulsyn, Amelia talks about her transition to the world of management, while still active as a player of Futsi Atlético Navalcarnero, and her experience with us.
How did you come to Johan Cruyff Institute?
From something bad, as in this case a pandemic, positive things always emerge. It was a good time to reflect on my life, what I wanted for the future, and I wanted to enter the world of management, through doing the Master in Sport Management Online at Johan Cruyff Institute. Spending so much time at home, I started to train myself a little bit through webinars and it really caught my attention. I was already doing some management at a private level, organizing summer camps in Cadiz, my home town, but I wanted to get some training because I am passionate about sport and this industry. Sport has given me a lot, it has formed me as a person, it has given me a lifestyle, and I think the only way I can be grateful for everything I have experienced is by promoting my sport, futsal. It is very important to be trained and I could not put myself in the hands of better professionals. I am very happy with the decision I made.
“Working in my final project was a great experience because I was working on a project that would later become Next Level 360; they helped me a lot to lay the foundations that a company should have”
How was your experience on the master’s program?
As soon as I saw the academic program, I was already looking forward to certain subjects. From the first interview I connected a lot with Lukas Dorda, the e-learning manager. He has helped me a lot, I share a lot of ideas with him and he has always supported me. He was also my tutor for my final project, which was a great experience because I was working on a project that would later become my company. I had the idea, but they helped me a lot to lay the foundations that a company should have.
You are referring to the Next Level 360 Sports Management representation agency, of which you are founder and CEO. Tell us about what the company does.
We work with football and futsal players. In the end, the main thing is football, but for me it was also important to work in futsal, where I come from. To give that advice that I didn’t have at the time. Maybe I didn’t guide my sports career very well when it came to negotiating contracts with the club. Ultimately, if you don’t know how to have that dialogue, you may think you can have better opportunities and end up making the wrong decision. I want to contribute in promoting futsal, in particular, because it is a smaller sport. I believe that with my experience as a player and now from my company I can help many players to be in the best hands.
On the master’s program, you meet fellow students with whom you create a network of contacts. How important do you consider this networking to be?
It is important. It is a very international master’s program and within my sector I am currently in contact with a player from the Colombian league, Jair Feinoso, and another from the Chilean league, Bidari García. With him I had the pleasure of working together on a strategic management project for a sports center during my master’s degree and we collaborated very well together. I also get along very well with Pau, who manages a motor racing circuit in Barcelona. He organizes a lot of events and every time he intervened in class, I took notes and was very attentive because organizing sporting events is another of my passions. I still keep in touch through LinkedIn, but I would like to attend one of his events.
Could you highlight one visit or event that you particularly enjoyed?
In the end, due to my sporting commitments, I could not attend any international events or go on the trips that they organize because I was competing. It is a thorn in my side because I would have loved to have been able to go to Amsterdam, a beautiful city where they visited various facilities and such a prestigious club like Ajax, and to get to know part of the life of a legend like Johan Cruyff. That for sure, but I do remember the many webinars we did that opened my eyes and enabled me to set up my company. Very important areas in which I was lacking, such as, for example, sport sponsorship and the importance of activation. I use it on a daily basis in my club, I always talk to them about the importance of activating sponsorships. In my events and when I work with my players, I always take care of the activation issue because the brand that bets on you must have that visibility.
For a two-time European champion like you, what challenges do you still have to meet in sport?
My club, Futsi Atlético Navalcarnero, has always been a winning club. Now we’ve been sharing the titles with our biggest rival for a while. But the competitiveness is still there, I want to keep winning titles and at the same time work for the future. I see that I have left behind so many things on the way to fulfill my dream of reaching the Spanish national team that, although my dream now is my company, I want to leave my legacy also as a futsal player. Next year the first FIFA-backed women’s futsal World Cup is being organized. I left the national team this year for business reasons, but I would like to experience it as a futsal player. My goal and challenge today are to keep talking about women’s futsal, to keep having opportunities and to keep breaking down barriers.
What areas of management do you offer to your clients?
We work on representation, marketing and events. In terms of representation, I always try to advise players from my experience, because I am still active and have been for many years. As for the recruitment of players in women’s futsal, I’m still more in the background and my colleagues at the agency handle it directly because I don’t think it’s ethical to work in this field being still active. Obviously, I’m aware of everything and I give them some advice, but as I’m still playing, I don’t want to talk to the clubs. But I’m keeping an eye on all the details for the day I leave the First Division for good. We offer them help in everything from the negotiation of contracts with the clubs, to the development of those contracts, we collect data and information for the clubs, multimedia resources, for future transfers of those players.
“Players must be focused on their sporting and professional career and we take care of the rest, a 360 service”
Little by little we are also reaching great agreements with companies to offer excellent conditions to the players we represent, a 360 service, with nutritional advice, development of their own personal brand, brand communication, academic training with special conditions at Johan Cruyff Institute, agreements with clothing and equipment brands, etc. The players must be focused on their sporting and professional career, that is the most important thing. We take care of the rest: from legal and tax advice, administrative procedures, everything the players need for their full development.
In other words, what you yourself would have liked to have.
Correct. We advise our players and instill in them that they should plan for their future after sport, which is very important. We offer them alternatives and they can participate in our events, enhancing their image. Next Level 360 is everything I would have wanted to have. It all started with summer camps that I didn’t have access to when I was a child. I would have done everything I could have to go to a futsal summer camp in my town, but I didn’t have the chance. And I created it when I could for all the citizens of Cadiz. And with Next Level it’s exactly the same, I didn’t have that person close to me, that person of trust, who told me ‘you take care of playing, and I’ll fight with all the presidents that I need to’. I have transferred all my experience to my company and I have filled the void that I have had during my sports career so that those players who come after me do not feel unprotected as I have felt.
“I have transferred all my experience to my company and I have filled the void that I have had during my sports career so that those players who come after me do not feel unprotected as I have felt”
What is the transition from professional player to manager like?
It is complicated. I needed a couple of years and help from people I trust to have clear ideas. To make my dream of founding my company come true, I had to leave the national team, because it was difficult to manage both things. It is better to leave at a good time, with a European title won. I thought it was the best time to say goodbye, to close a stage that has been very nice. I left home when I was 16 years old to fulfill my dream of making the Spanish national team. Now, I am leaving the national team to fulfill my second dream—to have my own company and for it to be a nationally recognized and prestigious representation agency that is valued for the way we do things. I could not do it alone, I have a very experienced and academically trained team that makes things very easy for me and we have the necessary tools to continue growing.
“I left home when I was 16 years old to fulfill my dream of making the Spanish national team; now, I am leaving the national team to fulfill my second dream: to position Next Level 360 Sports Management as a nationally recognized and prestigious representation agency”
What would you say now to the Amelia of 10 years ago?
That with hard work, perseverance, passion and effort all dreams can come true. Nobody has given me anything for free, and everything I have achieved at a sporting level I always extrapolate it to my personal life. I have managed to reach the Spanish national team and win titles. That continues to be my philosophy now: work, commitment, persistence and keep knocking on doors to achieve my next dream, which is none other than to position Next Level 360 Sports Management where it belongs.