Soccer Lover’s Book Review of Stephen Griffin’s New Book
Released on November 1, 2020, and reminiscent of a tell-all book, Stephen Griffin’s “Front Row Seat: Greed and Corruption in a Youth Sports Company” is a page-turner, even if you don’t know how closely connected the story is with real life. Does anyone remember GPS? FC Bayern had an agreement with GPS for their youth soccer affiliate program in America. The parent company of GPS was Legacy Global Sports, and Griffin was the CEO.
TOP RATED – 5 Stars Great Book.
Youth soccer in America is a complex and fractured multi-billion dollar business. Stephen Griffin was the CEO of the parent company of Global Premier Soccer (GPS), one of the largest youth soccer organizations in the USA to ever declare bankruptcy, and a former partner of FC Bayern.
A tale from the underbelly of youth soccer, Front Row Seat: Greed and Corruption in a Youth Sports Company, written by Griffin, details an extravaganza of opportunity that ended in sheer dishonesty. “An in-depth study of business ethics and personal resiliency,” the book brings the reader behind the scenes into the world of soccer boardrooms and secret, backdoor negotiations.
After having to take on the CEO role of Legacy Global Sports, a private equity-backed, global youth sports company that acquired the majority investment in GPS in 2016, Griffin reveals (although the book includes a fiction disclaimer and names have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the ongoing Department of Justice investigation) a tale of deceit that spans years.
“Wrapped in a web of lies, cover-ups, and dealing with individuals driven by ego and greed …”Stephen Griffin, author of Front Row Seat: Greed and Corruption in a Youth Sports Company
An accountant by trade, Griffin is not a soccer coach and had no conceived bias on the beautiful game when he became immersed in our world. A self-described private equity guy who made an investment in Legacy in late 2017, Griffin believes in the youth sports business, and in particular, the travel and event segment of the market — which prior to COVID-19 was thought of as recession-proof.
“America’s youth sports industry has changed dramatically over the past two decades. Youth sports had become big business. Today youth soccer players are embroiled in an ‘arms race’ to play on the best travel (or competitive) soccer team — often with the help of personal trainers and private sessions with expensive coaches,” said Griffin. “Obviously, this race, coupled with a large, fragmented market subject to minimal regulation, opens the door to a spectacle of greed and corruption that can lurk below the pleasantries of superficial soccer conversations under the guise of player development.”
Never in my life did I think I would be dealing with an international criminal investigation led by the U.S. Department of Justice.”Stephen Griffin, author of Front Row Seat: Greed and Corruption in a Youth Sports Company
Keeping in mind that, according to my interview with Griffin, the soccer division in his book generated just under fifty percent of its parent company’s earnings — and, that at first, the founder of the soccer division “seemed an authentic soccer guy” … but after Griffin’s basic inquiry into the soccer division’s financial statements led to uncovering of fiscal irregularities, things quickly turned sour. If the book parallels reality, it all began to truly unwind on October 9, 2019, when the Department of Justice (DOJ) raided the GPS’ headquarters, and although Joe Bradley (the founder of GPS) refutes any allegations of wrongdoing, Griffin found him uncooperative in helping to answer the subpoenas.
After just 30 days, and sifting through literally millions of emails with keyword searches, Griffin uncovered enough data to meet with the Department of Justice and satisfy their subpoenas.
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“As a capitalist and an investor, I want to do good while building strong businesses and generating returns. I believe that if you elevate the quality of the customer experience and simultaneously bake in values like sportsmanship and volunteerism, a company in the sports event and travel business can actually do good,” said Griffin.
Inspired in part to write “Front Row Seat: Greed and Corruption in a Youth Sports Company” because of his diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease, Griffin hopes that people learn from his experiences and avoid history repeating itself.
Of course, every facet of youth soccer is better without a long-running spectacle of greed and corruption and Griffin is still a fan of the industry when done right.
What advice does Griffin have for soccer parents?
“Look at how an organization treats its coaches,” said Griffin. “Do they provide ongoing coaching education? Is there an opportunity for players to volunteer with Special Olympics? Are ways of being a good citizen encouraged?”
“If you are a board member or a volunteer parent on a committee or an investor, this book should alert you to red flags,” said Griffin. “Is there a culture that ignores the rules? An imbalance between delivering great value and profits? A top-heavy leader with his or her thumb on everything or an environment where accounting irregularities can take place?”
Griffin is donating a portion of the proceeds from his book to the Positive Coaching Alliance to help coaches lead and develop America’s future leaders. Additional proceeds will be donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease research.