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Rather than just boosting promising young athletes, Sport Fund envisions a whole new outlook on the industry: athletes as entrepreneurs, professional sports as a legitimate occupation and athletic careers as a profitable investment. 

"Our ultimate goal is to improve professional athlete's social standing," explains KPMG's Head of Sport Jyrki Louhi

He is talking about Sport Fund, an innovative funding scheme designed to slingshot promising individuals into a career in professional sports. Initiated by KPMG in partnership with a slew of former top-tier Finnish athletes, Sport Fund is the first of its kind anywhere in the world.

The field of professional sports is becoming increasingly complex and demanding. Success without significant funding is exceedingly difficult, while funding is hard to come by for young athletes at the start of their career. 

Sport Fund will pool money to invest in promising athletes and provide them with resources, tools and guidance to advance their career, as well as access to KPMG's international network of experts and partners. A joint-stock limited company will be set up for each athlete, with the Sport Fund as a minority shareholder. Eventually the fund is expected to turn in a profit.

"We believe Finnish top athletes can be a profitable investment," Louhi says brimming with excitement.  

The capital will be put to use according to the individual athlete's needs

They might show great potential but lack some tools to make it to the top, whether it is a practice camp in the Alps or a worldclass coaching staff. The fund aims to remedy this.

But that is just the immediate goal, underpinned by a deeper aim: to develop and improve the professional identity and occupational status of athletes. The idea is to pair them with the most advanced scientific knowledge, data analytics and psychological insights available, Louhi explains. 

Our ultimate goal is to improve professional athlete's social standing.

Jyrki Louhi
Head of Sport
KPMG

Kicking off in 2020, Sport Fund will be managed by a management company, where Louhi is stepping in as COO. The board includes world championship swimmer Hanna-Mari Seppälä, Olympic medalist Tanja Poutiainen and three-time Olympic gold winner Samppa Lajunen, world championship bronze medalist figure skater Laura Lepistö and Olympic gold-winning sailor Thomas Johanson.

The first few athletes have been selected, and more will be added to the roster, Louhi says. Each will receive the base capital over four years according to a budget, in exchange for 40 percent of shares in their company. KPMG helps the athlete-entrepreneurs plan and manage their various revenue streams, such as sponsorship deals, grants and prize winnings.

Altogether the ten-year fund aims to pool 1.6 million euros to invest in 16 promising individual athletes – no teams or esports – at least three of which are expected to make an international breakthrough.

Even if that breakthrough never happens, Louhi wants to help athletes prepare for their life after their competitive career is over. He has made the transition himself, having previously played professional ice hockey player in Finland and Sweden, before turning to career in economics.

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