Sports

How Rapids general manager Pádraig Smith became steward for sustainable soccer on Front Range: “It really is a dream come true”


The evidence suggested to Noel Mooney that his housemate, Pádraig Smith, was searching for a new destination.

It soon became obvious where he wanted to end up.

The most transparent clues could be found in Smith’s streaming setup inside the Irish compatriots’ apartment in Nyon, Switzerland: In the bathroom, a tablet aired MLB games, while the living room TV displayed NFL Sundays and the kitchen was home to a third device devoted to Major League Soccer.

“I don’t know how to explain this,” said Mooney, then a coworker of Smith’s with European soccer governing body UEFA in the early 2010s. “He almost was stateside in his mind.”

The seeds to move were planted during a series of visits to the U.S. during Smith’s formative years. Once the right opportunity arrived, he set aside his financial analyst gig at UEFA and made the leap across the Atlantic to take over as sporting director of the Colorado Rapids.

Now the club’s executive vice president and general manager, Smith has found a home on the Front Range. And to understand what made him a steward of soccer sustainability and shrewd roster builder, one only needs to look at the experiences that led him to Commerce City.

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The eldest of six, Smith grew up in Mornington, County Meath, a coastal village of 11,000 nestled in between the Irish Sea and River Boyne estuary. As in so many Irish households, sports was a focal point from an early age.

Gaelic Athletic Association games — hurling and Gaelic football — rule the roost in County Meath. The game’s roots date all the way back to the 1880s, and the communal bonds are so strong (54 clubs for 220,000 residents) that it can be difficult to look past anything but the GAA. The Smith family all played, but Pádraig kept getting pulled back to soccer.

His interest in the sport coincided with a golden era for Irish soccer. The national team reached three major finals between the 1980s and early ’90s, and the country’s best players were making waves with England’s most iconic clubs. He also found an unrivaled sense of belonging while supporting his local team Drogheda United.

There was just one problem: Many of the teams he followed close to home were struggling to stay afloat.

“We’re all products of our environment and we’re all products of our experiences,” Smith told The Post earlier this season. “My introduction to sport came about because clubs were going bankrupt at the time. … That’s truly why I got into sport.

“… I don’t think you can have a strong club and I don’t think you can have a strong league if they are not financially viable for the long term. I believe the very foundations should be built on youth development and community. Those are two things that are critically important.”

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In the late 2000s, UEFA was in the midst of drafting a blueprint of new regulations to prevent teams from over-spending, known as Financial Fair Play. The organization knew just the person to add to the …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports

      

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