Press Release: We’re pioneering blockchain tech in the fight against fakes

  • Market leader Icons worked with digital agency Zone to launch blockchain application
  • Revolutionary tech will enhance consumer trust by tracking the provenance of signed items
  • App will also be used in the fight against fakes and frauds
  • Leo Messi signed shirts among the first items to be ‘b-locked’

London, 18 September 2018 The world’s largest football memorabilia company has become the first application of a pioneering blockchain solution that underpins the value of signed items with the aim of securing consumer trust.

Icons, the world’s leading originator and supplier of signed football memorabilia, has joined with digital experts Zone to create Icons b-locked, an online ledger that tracks the provenance of signed items.

The first items to be used in the Icons b-locked application will be shirts autographed by Lionel Messi during a private signing session with the FC Barcelona superstar in mid-September.

Icons b-locked uses blockchain – the distributed ledger technology that sits behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin – to create a permanent record of signed items, including details of when and where each item was signed.

Consumers use a unique code assigned to their product to view specific details of the item and its associated signing.

The technology comes at a time when the sports memorabilia market, estimated to be worth $2-4billion, is under threat from the rise of fraudsters manipulating online auction websites, as well as the emergence of automated robots capable of replicating signatures for fake products.

Icons CEO, Dan Jamieson, says: “At Icons, we’ve always gone to extraordinary lengths to provide evidence of the authenticity of our goods – not only for our customers but also for the integrity of the market.

“Every day we’re asked if our products are really signed by the players themselves. Consumers need more reassurance than ever. That’s why we’ve worked with Zone to create this world-first product. We want this to be the gold standard which ultimately helps the market grow.”

Edward Freedman, Icons founder, added: “I truly believe that Icons b-locked will put to rest the question of authenticity. It will revolutionise our industry and hopefully it will take us to a level that everyone will be aspiring to.”

Icons has been working with the world’s biggest sports stars since 1999 and has entered into exclusive contracts with the likes of Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona and Eden Hazard.

The company has long-term relationships with Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr and Eric Cantona, among many others. It has had the exclusive official UEFA Champions League memorabilia license for the past six seasons and the worldwide deal was recently renewed for the 2018-21 cycle. Icons also has official memorabilia licences for the FIFA World Cup and FA England.

Jon Davie, Chief Client Officer at Zone, commented: “For all the hype about blockchain, practical applications so far have been few and far between.

“Working with Icons, we had an opportunity to create a blockchain application that ordinary customers can experience, understand and benefit from. The opportunities are endless. Not just in the sports memorabilia market, but in art, antiques, collectables – any market where establishing authenticity and tracking provenance is important.”

For more information please contact Icons CEO Dan Jamieson ([email protected] or +44 20 7267 3934).

Stay up-to-date with Icons b-locked by joining us on Telegram. Click here to join our channel.


About Zone

One of the UK’s leading technology and customer experience agencies, Zone is part of global professional services giant Cognizant, who acquired the agency in October last year.

Recently hailed by the London Stock Exchange as one of the UK’s most inspiring companies, the agency’s 250+ strategy, content and technology experts helps ambitious brands such as Adidas, BMW, Aviva, Barratt Homes, Electrolux, Lloyds Banking Group, Maersk and Unileverwin in a world where digital is mission critical.



Take a tour of our brand new warehouse and operations centre!

Honesty and transparency are at the heart of everything Icons does. It’s in every decision we make and every item we sell.

On our twenty-year quest for truth, which has led us now to the exciting world of cutting-edge blockchain technology, our aim has always been to be as open as possible.Which is exactly why we want to take you inside the ropes at our brand new operations centre. Take the tour with our CEO, Dan Jamieson, and learn more about why we do what we do.



From Our CEO: Introducing… Icons b-locked

Last night, I sat down with my wife and talked her through my day over dinner. I had just spent it briefing our team about a brand new project of ours called Icons b-locked.

Icons b-locked is a new service that will forever change the way signed memorabilia is authenticated. It uses state-of-the-art blockchain technology to make the creation, validation and selling of signed items 100% verifiable in a quick, simple and easy way.

I had wanted to explain this to our team in depth, giving them an idea of the vision and the technology behind the project. I wanted to make the talk accessible and understandable while explaining how this brand new blockchain solution is going to help us fight the good fight against the frauds who sell faked ‘memorabilia’ to an unsuspecting public. Now, I was repeating that talk for my wife.

But as I did so, I found myself getting annoyed as I spoke of so-called ‘competitors’ ripping off our images, stealing our copy and even using robots to fake signatures. After a few minutes, my wife said: “This is all very negative. I thought you do what you do because you believe in heroes?”

My wife has worked in communications in the charity sector for years and she says that in the past a popular fundraising technique was to showcase problems and issues that tug at the heart strings. But donations started to dry up as compassion fatigue set in with a desensitised public. And it’s because of this fatigue that charities and NGOs now focus on hopes, dreams and aspirations. Icons should follow suit, my wife suggested.

Take the latest Barnardo’s campaign, for example. It doesn’t show miserable kids being taken into care. Its focus is not to plead with the viewer to bring an end to an awful situation. Quite the opposite. It shows a young ballet dancer practicing over and over again in a dingy flat with the strap-line ‘Believe in me’. It says: this could be a great thing.

Hearing this, I realised I needed to refocus my message for Icons b-locked. At Icons, we do what we do because we believe in heroes. We love what we do. We get to meet the world’s best-known sportspeople. Through our products, we get to deliver joy and happiness to people around the world who are just like us. People who just want to get closer to their favourite icons.

We chose ‘Be authentic’ as our project strap-line because, not only do we feel it reflects our products and how we do business, but also because it reflects us as people. We turn up on time, we pay our bills and we do what we say we will. Believe me, that is far more unusual in the sports industry than you may think.

Which brings us to blockchain. Our use of blockchain technology is the latest application of our core belief that authenticity should be at the heart of everything we do. It’s why we decided to build the tech behind Icons b-locked to make this project a reality. We have faith in this new and exciting tool for truth and we leapt into its relative unknown because we believe in its possibilities. We believe in transparency; we believe in truth. And Icons b-locked is the next big step on our journey towards proving that beyond doubt.

“That sounds much better,” my wife said. “I buy into that.”


For more information on the Icons b-locked project, visit b-locked.icons.com and join us on Telegram.



WIN a framed shirt of your choice signed by a Premier League icon!

Calling all James Tarkowski fans! The Icons.com Fantasy Premier League public league is up and running and open for business!

That’s right, this season we have our very own FPL public league and we want you – yes, you – to join our ranks and battle it out for glory. “What’s at stake?” I hear you ask. Well, that’s the beauty of it…

If you top our league this season you’ll bag yourself a framed shirt signed by one of our Premier League icons. Be that an Eden Hazard signed Chelsea shirt, a Dele signed Spurs shirt or something a little more classic like an Eric Cantona signed Manchester United shirt – it’s your choice. If you win, we’ll invite you to look through our site, pick the Premier League shirt you want and we’ll frame it up and send it to you for absolutely nothing.

Ah, the spoils of victory…

But that’s not all! We’re also giving away prizes to the two runners-up in our league. Finish second and you win a signed boot, finish third and you’ll take home a signed photo.

So, if you haven’t already got a team sorted, get on it right away – gameweek one kicks off with Manchester United against Leicester City and the deadline for getting your team confirmed is Friday 7pm GMT.

Join the Icons.com public league with the code 754916-430005


TERMS AND CONDITIONS

  1. By registering to participate in the 2018/19 Fantasy Premier League (the “Game”) you agree to be bound by and to abide by the 2018/19 Fantasy Premier League terms and conditions as outlined under the “T&Cs” tab on the following webpage: https://fantasy.premierleague.com/help/
  2. Entry into the 2018/19 Fantasy Premier League public league named “Icons.com” under the league code 754916-430005 constitutes an acceptance of the following terms and conditions and subsequent entry into this competition.
  3. The Promoter of this competition is Icons Shop Limited (registered in England under company number 06791294 and with its registered office at 65 New Cavendish Street, London, W1G 7LS) (the “Promoter”).
  4. Icons Shop Limited may choose to award prizes in respect of the competition (“Prizes”). Such Prizes will be available at the discretion of Icons Shop Limited and in accordance with criteria set by it. Icons Shop Limited reserves the right to alter and amend the Prizes or the criteria for winning a Prize, where circumstances beyond its reasonable control require it to do so.
  5. Prizes are not transferable and are non-exchangeable. No cash alternative will be offered in any circumstances.
  6. Subject to compliance with these terms and conditions, all entrants are eligible to win the Prizes. However, where an entrant is under the age of 18, they will not be eligible to win any cash element of a Prize (if applicable) and parental or guardian consent must be obtained. Such consent must include confirmation that the parent/guardian consented to the Player’s Entry to the Game and they consent to the Player being awarded a Prize.
  7. Icons Shop Limited intends (but does not undertake) for the following Prizes to be available:
  8. The first Prize (“Winner’s Prize”) will be awarded to the Player who, according to Icons Shop Limited’s determination, is at the end of the 2018/19 season top of the leaderboard of the Fantasy Premier League public league named “Icons.com” and under the code 754916-430005.
  9. The Winners’s Prize will be his or her choice of one shirt signed by a current or former England Premiership or Premier League player from Icons Shop Limited’s stock at the time of the end of the 2018/19 season. The shirt will be framed in an Icons’ Classic Frame.
  10. The second Prize (“Runner-up Prize”) will be awarded to the Player who according to Icons Shop Limited’s determination, is at the end of the 2018/19 season second on the leaderboard of the Fantasy Premier League public league named “Icons.com” and under the code 754916-430005.
  11. The Runner-up Prize will be his or her choice of one boot signed by a current or former England Premiership or Premier League player from Icons Shop Limited’s stock at the time of the end of the 2018/19 season. The boot will be displayed in an Icons’ Acrylic Case box.
  12. The third Prize (“Second Runner-up Prize”) will be awarded to the Player who according to Icons Shop Limited’s determination, is at the end of the 2018/19 season third on the leaderboard of the Fantasy Premier League public league named “Icons.com” and under the code 754916-430005.
  13. The third Prize will be his or her choice of one photo signed by a current or former England Premiership or Premier League player from Icons Shop Limited’s stock at the time of the end of the 2018/19 season. The photo will be displayed in an Icons’ Black Wooden Frame.
  14. The Promoter reserves the right to offer alternative prizes of equal or greater value. In the event of unforeseen circumstances or circumstances outside its reasonable control, the Promoter reserves the right to modify or discontinue this promotion without prior notice, be it temporarily or permanently.
  15. The winner(s) will be notified within ten working days after the end of the competition. They will be asked to choose the prizes they wish to receive in accordance with paragraphs 9, 11 and 13. They will subsequently be asked to provide a postal address to which the prize will be sent. If the winner(s) fails to respond and/or to give a valid address within five days of this notification, or decline their prize, the next placed entry of the remaining valid entries will be declared the new winner(s) (however, this five-day period may be extended at the Promoter’s sole discretion). If the winner(s) decline(s) their prize, or fails to respond within the required period, they forfeit any right to the prize.
  16. The prizes will be sent via post to the addresses supplied within two weeks following provision of the winner(s’) address in accordance with paragraph 15.
  17. The name and county of residence of the winners will be made available on request to anyone sending a stamped self-addressed envelope to the Promoter as the address set out above within 10 weeks of the closing date of the promotion.
  18. The Promoter does not accept responsibility for network, computer or software failures of any kind and has no responsibility for lost, delayed or misdirected entries.
  19. The Promoter reserves the right to exclude any entries the Promoter in its sole discretion considers to be inappropriate, unrelated or offensive and to disqualify any entries if the Promoter, at its sole discretion, believes that there has been an attempt to manipulate or tamper with the operation of the promotion (including, without limitation, by setting up multiple email, Facebook or other social media accounts in order to submit multiple entries).
  20. Except for the purpose of carrying out the competition, the Promoter will not use entrants’ personal data without the express consent of the entrant. See http://www.icons.com/about/help/privacy-policy.html for our full privacy policy.
  21. You agree to be bound by the decisions of the Promoter, which are final in all matters relating to the promotion. No correspondence will be entered into in respect of the Promoter’s decisions.
  22. These terms and conditions shall be governed by and construed exclusively in accordance with the laws of England and the parties agree to submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Courts of England, including the seeking of all injunctive or ancillary relief actions.


We Predict… The 2018-19 Season

You do realise that it’s been nearly one whole month since the FIFA World Cup finished, right? Three-and-a-bit weeks have passed since France dismantled Croatia in Moscow, which in our minds means we’ve been deprived of top class football for far too long. It’s about time the 2018-19 season kicked off and we get back to what really matters. Cast aside the mundane pre-season tours and friendlies for the real, proper, competitive, edge-of-your-seat drama acted out by the best players football has to offer.

After all, that’s what we’re all here for. The big leagues and the big names. And in 2018-19 those big names have a lot to answer for. There’s a mouthwatering title tussle in England while Cristiano Ronaldo sets out on his new adventure in Serie A, Steven Gerrard is the main story in Scotland and, as ever, the likes of FC Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Juventus are bearing down on Real Madrid to steal their European crown.

With just a handful of days until the big kick-off we, the staff of Icons.com, are back again to answer (or at least attempt to answer) the burning questions on everyone’s minds ahead of the season opener at Old Trafford on Friday night. But don’t just take our word for it, send us your predictions for the season ahead on our FacebookTwitter and Instagram pages. You can hardly do much worse.

And, of course, be sure to check out our fantastic range of signed items from Premier League stars past and present – available right now on Icons.com.

Manchester City and Liverpool are strong favourites to contest the Premier League title.

Edward Freedman, Non-Executive Chairman

Premier League winners: MANCHESTER CITY are the strongest team with a great coach. There’s no reason that Liverpool can’t win it but City have strengthened with the addition of Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City. It’ll be close.
2nd – Liverpool 3rd – Manchester United 4th – Tottenham Hotspur
Relegated: Cardiff City, Fulham and Crystal Palace
Golden Boot: SERGIO AGUERO looks fit and on form with lots of support from City’s myriad creative talent.

Serie A winners: Cristiano Ronaldo will change his role by coming deeper and be as good as ever. He has a lot of supporting acts at JUVENTUS, who should take the title easily.
La Liga winners: FC BARCELONA have strengthened while Real Madrid have disappointed during the summer. Madrid have already lost Ronaldo and if Luka Modric goes too that will be a seismic a blow.
Bundesliga winners: BAYERN MUNICH. It’ll be the same old, same old in Germany, which, admittedly is quite boring.

UEFA Champions League winners: The arrival of Arturo Vidal to FC BARCELONA will bring Real Madrid‘s three-year dominance to an end. Barca have an excellent coach who can pull it off.
UEFA Europa League winners: SEVILLA have a decent team and are well experienced in winning this competition. I like them out of the frontrunners.

Signing of the season: The very attacking RIYAD MAHREZ will only grow under Pep Guardiola alongside much higher quality teammates.

My team, FC Barcelona, will… be stronger at the back with a superb goalkeeper in Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Samuel Umtiti growing in stature. They’re now a real team and not just an attacking force.

Mark my words… Zinedine Zidane will be managing Manchester United before Christmas. More of the old school of English managers will be replaced by younger continental coaches.

There’s a new face in Turin. You may already know his name.

Dan Jamieson, CEO

Premier League winners: MANCHESTER CITY haven’t gone backwards so should retain the title under Pep Guardiola. That said, key component Fernandinho must stay fit.
2nd – Liverpool 3rd – Tottenham Hotspur 4th – Arsenal
Relegated: Newcastle United, Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town
Golden Boot: SERGIO AGUERO is the biggest goal threat in the league’s best and most creative team.

Serie A winners: It’s not just the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo that makes JUVENTUS favourites. It’s also the capture of Emre Can and the return of Leonardo Bonucci.
La Liga winners: Lionel Messi and FC BARCELONA win the league title for fun but is another league and cup double really enough?
Bundesliga winners: I’ll go with RB LEIPZIG just for the fun of it.

UEFA Champions League winners: From a tactical standpoint, LIVERPOOL are more suited to winning on the ultimate stage than in domestic competitions.
UEFA Europa League winners: Unai Emery knows how to win this competition and he’ll bring that nous to ARSENAL.

Signing of the season: NABY KEITA is like Roy Keane on steroids mixed with Paul Ince on fast forward.

My team, Liverpool, will… be pipped to the post by a Manchester City team who have more experience. But teams coming to attack allows us to counter with extreme pace so it should be another exciting campaign at Anfield.

Mark my words… Manchester United will implode, leaving Jose Mourinho to pack his bags and leave his hotel just in time for Christmas. England‘s youth players will start to break in to first teams across the country – the future is bright for 2026. Fulham (who have bought very well over the summer, by the way) will stay up with a surprisingly entertaining brand of football.

Jose Mourinho is into his third season at Manchester United…

Ben Soley, Sales and Marketing Manager

Premier League winners: Out of sheer hope as much as expectation, I’ll say LIVERPOOL.
2nd – Manchester City 3rd – Manchester United 4th – Chelsea
Relegated: Huddersfield Town, Fulham and Crystal Palace
Golden Boot: HARRY KANE will finally break his August duct and, despite being exhausted from his FIFA World Cup exploits, the Englishman will win this honour yet again.

Serie A winners: Could you imagine JUVENTUS not winning the title now?
La Liga winners: FC BARCELONA will surely be Spanish champions again.
Bundesliga winners: The obvious choice in Germany is BAYERN MUNICH.

UEFA Champions League winners: Isn’t it FC BARCELONA‘s turn again?
UEFA Europa League winners: With a mere 50 hours left of the transfer window at the time of writing CHELSEA have only to keep their squad together to walk this competition.

Signing of the season: NABY KEITA gives Liverpool a new famous number eight as well as a proper number one.

My team, Liverpool, will… start strong but find themselves in second place after a tricky spell around Christmas time. Still, dare I say it’s our year? In the end they’ll have the league won with two games to spare.

Mark my words… Jose Mourinho will be gone by this time next year while at the same time the world transfer record will be broken once again and Liverpool will have won silverware. I also predict that I will have changed my mind about most of the above within the first two weeks of the season.

Liverpool’s Naby Keita is much-fancied to be a hit in the Premier League.

James Tildesley, Head of New Business

Premier League winners: No surprises here, really. I can’t see anyone beating MANCHESTER CITY. The only thing that I can see upsetting their dominance is an injury to Fernandinho as they don’t have a quality replacement at the time of writing.
2nd – Liverpool 3rd – Arsenal 4th – Tottenham Hotspur
Relegated: Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town and Crystal Palace
Golden Boot: The metronome that is HARRY KANE wins this while Mohamed Salah does well again… but not as well as last season.

Serie A winners: AC Milan will run JUVENTUS close.
La Liga winners: With Real Madrid in transition, FC BARCELONA retain the title.
Bundesliga winners: If anyone gets near BAYERN MUNICH expect the Bavarian side to buy their key players at the end of the season.

UEFA Champions League winners: FC BARCELONA will beat Manchester City in the final.
UEFA Europa League winners: If CHELSEA embrace the playing style of new manager Mauricio Sarri, they’ll be excellent in Europe.

Signing of the season: NABY KEITA is exactly what Liverpool need and he suits their playing style perfectly.

My team, Aston Villa, will… reach the play-offs at best. They need to rebuild after last season and the new owners will help with that. But to galvanise the team enough to put consistent performances across 46 gruelling games and win that league is a step too far.

Mark my words… Burnley will drop like a stone with the addition of European football to their fixture list. They’ll finish 17th. Manchester United will have a horrendous season with Jose Mourinho gone in January. Losing Assistant Manager Rui Faria is massive – it’s going to be a hard watch for United fan this season.

Steven Gerrard is the big story in Scotland as he looks to topple Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic.

Alistair Hunter, Senior Editor

Premier League winners: LIVERPOOL have just about enough to topple Manchester City. Either way this will be an enthralling title race that goes down to the wire. Buckle up, this is going to be a classic.
2nd – Manchester City 3rd – Tottenham Hotspur 4th – Chelsea
Relegated: Cardiff City, Bournemouth and a Rafa-less Newcastle United
Golden Boot: Another season among Europe’s top scorers cements HARRY KANE‘s place among the Premier League greats.

Serie A winners: Carlo Ancelotti pulls off the mother of all upsets in bringing the Scudetto back to NAPOLI.
La Liga winners: Arturo Vidal gives FC BARCELONA much-needed backbone. La Blaugrana won’t be stopped in Spain – unless they find themselves twelve yards from goal, of course.
Bundesliga winners: John Williams’ Imperial March plays as BAYERN MUNICH sweep their rivals aside once again.

UEFA Champions League winners: Those of us who had at least one eye open during the FIFA World Cup will have seen just how fearless and seemingly unstoppable Kylian Mbappe is right now. Under the astute guidance of Thomas Tuchel, this is the year that PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN finally get it right.
UEFA Europa League winners: Rangers storm to success in Baku… only joking. Not even Stevie G can pull off a miracle of that magnitude. I’ll play it safe and go with perennial UEL winners SEVILLA.

Signing of the season: Tottenham’s capture of… wait… what? Oh. Oh my. Okay, in that case, I’ll go with ALISSON. The keeper will prove his distribution is as assured as his brilliant shot-stopping.

My team, Cambridge United, will… finish so aggressively mid-table that they may even break the league in two. My other team, Rangers, will close the gap on Celtic, win at least one Old Firm derby and snag the Bhoys’ Treble Treble by claiming one of the cups. All aboard the Steven Gerrard bandwagon – the Gers are on their way back.

Mark my words… the pressure on Premier League officials to implement VAR will prove all too much after a campaign riddled with refereeing mishaps. Ryan Sessegnon will be snapped up by a top six side in January amid fresh calls for his inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s England squad but the most exciting home-grown prospect will break through down the road at Chelsea. Callum Hudson-Odoi, remember the name.

Lionel Messi’s FC Barcelona are expected to retain the Spanish title.

Brett Sinclair, Warehouse Manager

Premier League winners: MANCHESTER CITY‘s very talented squad will cruise to the title if they stay fit.
2nd – Tottenham Hotspur 3rd – Liverpool 4th – Chelsea
Relegated: Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town and Fulham
Golden Boot: This is tough one with some of the world’s best footballers playing in the league this season but I hope PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG’s pace gets the service it deserves.

Serie A winners: I expect great things from JUVENTUS after the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo. Juve will be closely followed by Napoli.
La Liga winners: FC BARCELONA take the title with Real Madrid not too far behind.
Bundesliga winners: No-one will come close to BAYERN MUNICH as they glide to victory.

UEFA Champions League winners: JUVENTUS will push through. For their sake, I hope the officials are more switched on this season.
UEFA Europa League winners: CHELSEA will focus on winning this.

Signing of the season: FELIPE ANDERSON will do great things for West Ham United.

My team, Leicester City, will… finish fifth this season. There’s not much else they can do. It would be great to see a repeat of their title-winning exploits in 2015-16 but it’s best to be realistic.

Mark my words… Arsenal will not lift a trophy this season or finish in the top five. Sorry to all the Gunners out there.

Paul Pogba is now a world champion – can he shine at Old Trafford?

Daryl Angel, Head of Customer Support

Premier League winners: MANCHESTER UNITED
2nd – Liverpool 3rd – Manchester City 4th – Arsenal
Relegated: Southampton, Cardiff City and Brighton and Hove Albion
Golden Boot: ROMELU LUKAKU shares the honour with HARRY KANE.

Serie A winners: I would love to see one of the Milan sides back on top but I don’t think it’s possible after CR7‘s move to JUVENTUS.
La Liga winners: FC BARCELONA, no doubt about this.
Bundesliga winners: I would love to see BAYERN MUNICH toppled but I don’t think anyone has the squad to do so.

UEFA Champions League winners: MANCHESTER UNITED will face JUVENTUS in the final with Paul Pogba scoring the winner… but for whom I don’t know yet.
UEFA Europa League winners: Having been knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stages, PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN treat the UEFA Europa League as the most important trophy of the season.

Signing of the season: 35-year-old Lee Grant at Manchester United… or Jack Wilshere for West Ham United. JEAN MICHAEL SERI to Fulham could also be one of the coups of the summer.

My team, Manchester United, will… either win the league or crash and burn ten games into the season and sack Jose Mourinho before Christmas. I hope Mourinho’s third season curse is about to change.

Mark my words… everybody will see that £70million for Allison is ridiculous and Liverpool fans will be singing for the return of Loris Karius by Christmas. Rangers will finally challenge Celtic in the SPL. Paul Pogba will either become Manchester United club captain or be gone by this time next year.


So, that’s what we think will go down during this season’s campaign. But what do you think? Send us your predictions by getting in touch via our FacebookTwitter and Instagram pages!

For our full range of Premier League signed products check out icons.com now!



Dispatches from Russia: A FIFA World Cup Diary

“What were you expecting? A grizzly bear playing a balalaika and drinking vodka?”

“No, I was expecting a paunchy man in a tracksuit named Vasya to throw me in his trunk and drive me to Mordovia.”

“Oh, so you know Vasya?”

****

Expectation. It’s a word you hear a lot in the build-up to a FIFA World Cup. Especially if you happen to live in England. Are our expectations too high? When do we expect to go out? Should we expect penalties? Do we expect trouble in the host country?

More often than not, there’s only one way to find the answers to these questions. And that’s exactly why I was so excited to get the chance to experience the FIFA World Cup through my own eyes – to see the answers unfold on the pitch in front of me and to find out what it’s really like in a foreign country that to so many appears cold and unwelcoming.

Sure, you could argue that I’ve not come to the real Russia. Right now, Russia is in its Sunday best. It’s a Russia that’s been told to behave and be polite to outsiders. And yet, in Saint Petersburg, where I started my FIFA World Cup adventure a few days ago, I still found, and continue to find, that my expectations were far removed from anything even resembling the reality of Russia.

A hotbed of football fandom, the FIFA Fanfest in Moscow sits in front of the stunning State University building.

Though I can’t speak for the rest of the country, Saint Petersburg and Moscow have appeared to be almost ultra-friendly and cosmopolitan. There are no brutalist Soviet office blocks. No scary skinhead men spoiling for a scrap. Instead, in Saint Petersburg in particular, I found Venetian canals, vape shops and and hipster burger joints.

Replace the cyrillic signage on the city streets and you could fool me that this was Copenhagen.

Then comes the football. You can’t move for football out here. There’s FIFA World Cup bunting, plant pots decorated like the classic Telstar football. Zabivaka, the official FIFA World Cup mascot, is everywhere. When I arrived in Moscow, Brazil’s match against Costa Rica was streamed live in the carriages on the metro. Everyone here wants to know who you’re supporting and who you think will win the tournament.

Which brings me to Argentina. I was lucky enough to be in the stadium for the Marcos Rojo rescue act. I have been to many stadiums and many matches around the world. I’ve even been to three UEFA Champions League finals. But the noise, the atmosphere, the palpable tension giving way to sheer joy and elation when that goal was scored was something I’d never experienced ever before.

Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg sits at the end of a mile-long island near a children’s theme park and a vast expanse of parkland. On Tuesday, it was overrun by Argentines in search of a miracle.

The Argentines have come here in mind-boggling numbers, all praying for the same miracle. They hope – perhaps against all logic and reason – that Lionel Messi alone can deliver a spectacular upset. Because it’s not Argentina against the world right now. It’s Argentina against themselves.

As a massive Messi fan, I hope he can bring them glory. I hope he can do it for every single Argentine I have met on this extraordinary trip. I hope he is able to do it for Carlos and his friends, who bought me a beer in Copenhagen airport just because I had an Argentina shirt in my bag. I hope he can do it for the old guy I met in Saint Petersburg, who told me he was among the few people he knows who prefers Messi to Diego Maradona. I hope he can do it for the lads in the Moscow FIFA Fan Fest with the Newell’s Old Boys banner.

I hope, just as much as I do for England, that they don’t expect too much.


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We Predict… The 2018 FIFA World Cup

You feel that, right? That’s the feeling we football fans get in the days leading up to the start of a FIFA World Cup. That’s the feeling you get when you know there’s a whole month of tournament football lying in wait. After Russia face Saudi Arabia in the tournament opener at the Luzhniki on Thursday, there are 55 games in the space of 19 days. Once it all gets going there’ll only be one day left of June that won’t have a match on. You feel it, right? It’s called FIFA World Cup fever.

Everyone at Icons.com has it. We’re all heading out to Russia over the course of the tournament and we could’t be more excited. But nor could we be more divided on what’s going to go down when the best of the best go head-to-head.

Making a hash of what’s to come over the next 32 days, our staff and partners have made their predictions for the competition ahead. But don’t take our word as gospel, feel free to get involved on our FacebookTwitter and Instagram pages by giving us your predictions. After all, you can hardly do much worse.

And, of course, be sure to check out our fantastic range of official FIFA World Cup signed memorabilia from icons past and present – available right now on Icons.com.


Edward Freedman, Chairman

Winners: SPAIN have the best individuals and, since their victory in 2010, they are experienced in winning this tournament.

Runner-up: FRANCE’s weakest link is their inexperience but they have a great team that can get them to a second straight tournament final.

Shock exit: ENGLAND are rubbish. I don’t think they’re in the same class as a lot of the teams being talked about at this tournament. The Three Lions will draw against Panama and lose to Tunisia with the former shocking the world to progress to the knockout stages.

Golden Boot: DIEGO COSTA will inspire the eventual winners with a glut of goals.

England will… well, see above.

Random predictions: Iran will do a lot better than people expect while Belgium will disappoint despite progressing through Group G.

Can Diego Costa fire Spain to their second world title – a fourth major tournament triumph in ten years?

Dan Jamieson, CEO

Winners: SPAIN know how to win it, can keep the ball forever, have the world’s best goalkeeper and this time around they have the ugliest of ugly up front. And, of course, Sergio Ramos can take out any striker whenever necessary.

Runner-up: I like the look of FRANCE. They are my office sweepstake pick and I also like the look of about 23 high-calibre players that can’t even get into the squad (think Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema, Anthony Martial etc.). I think it’s a tournament too early for them to become world champions but the mix is right and in Antoine Griezmann they have a potential Golden Boot winner.

Shock exit: BRAZIL are not as good as they think they are, especially at defending. Neymar Jr can’t be 100% fit and the team is built around him. If they are dysfunctional upfront then the first big team that stands up to them can exploit the spaces at the back.

Golden Boot: If France get to the final then GRIEZMANN will play seven games and clean up just as he did at UEFA EURO 2016.

England will… play better football, look relatively organised, narrowly win the first two games, lose to Belgium and then come close to beating Colombia in the ROUND OF 16. They will come home feeling that the future’s brighter than the present.

Random predictions: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s mission to complete their trophy collection will be the journalistic narrative but team ethos, top goalkeeping, multiple goal threats, sound defending and ball-keeping midfielders will triumph over what they can offer. England fans will be looking through the silverware-winning U17 and U20 squads and drawing up their 2026 FIFA World Cup teamsheets come early July.

France forward Antoine Griezmann will be looking to go one better after Les Blues came close at UEFA EURO 2016.

Ben Soley, Sales and Marketing Manager

Winners: You don’t necessarily need the depth GERMANY have to win seven FIFA World Cup matches but the quality they possess is just insane. The fact that Leroy Sane will be watching from home (or more likely from a private island resort) speaks volumes.

Runner-up: FRANCE have the joint second youngest squad at the tournament. They beat Germany at UEFA EURO 2016 but that was on home soil. A second straight loss in a major final will be hard to take but we will be approaching a period of French dominance if they can eventually get it right.

Shock exit: Expectations will be higher for COLOMBIA after a stunning FIFA World Cup campaign four years ago and their group is one of the more competitive. PORTUGAL’s time in Russia will end as soon as they reach the knockouts. Both will be seen as underachievements.

Golden Boot: So many options! Having said that, I fancy someone from Group A with those kind fixtures against Russia and Saudi Arabia providing a good chance for the hat-trick that would take you halfway to the crown. I’ll be brave and go with Uruguay to be the nation with the most goals while MOHAMED SALAH takes the individual prize.

England will… lose in the QUARTER-FINALS. It’s hard not to put on the rose-tinted glasses. We have some outstanding wing-backs, one of the best strikers in the world and some great and in-form attacking support. Tight wins against Panama and Tunisia, coupled with a draw against Belgium, followed by a gritty win against one of Colombia or Poland in the round of 16 takes us to the quarters and Germany. That’s when I throw my glasses away.

Random predictions: Iran will only concede two goals but still go out at the group stages. Harry Kane will score a hat-trick while Harry Maguire will be an unlikely goalscorer. Lionel Messi will speak out against the AFA when Argentina are knocked out.

Germany are much-fancied to defend their title with strength in depth a particular asset.

Alistair Hunter, Senior Editor

Winners: BRAZIL are the perfect combination of gritty between the lines and irresistible going forward.

Runner-up: SPAIN are back to their best but come up just shy of a fourth title in ten years.

Shock exit: It pains me to say it as a massive fan of Lionel Messi but I see ARGENTINA going out at the group stages. Group D is deceptively tricky and there is a clear imbalance to Jorge Sampaoli’s squad. A fast start is needed to keep the immense pressure of their supporters’ expectations from getting to them.

Golden Boot: A relatively straightforward group and a deep run to the latter stages gives NEYMAR JR the best chance.

England will… reach the QUARTER-FINALS. Victory over Tunisia will lift their spirits enough to also cruise past Panama but defeat to Belgium leaves them second in Group G. They scrape by Colombia in the round of 16 causing a surge of excitement back home before Southgate’s men are outclassed (but hardly embarrassed) by the almighty Germans.

Random predictions: Lacking experience, training and guidance, FIFA World Cup officials struggle to properly implement VAR, which leads to several high-profile mistakes and widespread protestations over the use of the technology at future tournaments. Meanwhile Group C tops the goalscoring charts. 

Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR) will be in use at the FIFA World Cup for the very first time. But will it help or hinder?

James Tildesley, Head of New Business

Winners: GERMANY, as I really don’t see a weak area of their game and they have such depth to their squad. Couple that with a manager who knows how to win and I can’t see past them.

Runner-up: I like the look of Spain and Brazil but I think FRANCE will be the ones who eventually lose out to the Germans. Again, this is a team with a phenomenally good squad which appears to have less of the types of personalities that derailed them so spectacularly in 2010.

Shock exit: PORTUGAL have a difficult group and I felt they really flattered to deceive at UEFA EURO 2016. There will be plenty who say they won it on merit and I would tend to agree but I also feel there was an absence of any real opposition.

Golden Boot: I have money on TIMO WERNER so failure is not an option.

England will… get done 2-0 in the ROUND OF 16. I don’t see us doing much better than scraping out of our group but it’s also difficult for me to picture anything other than a spectacular disappointment in which we lose to Tunisia and Belgium and draw with Panama.

Random predictions: Mohamed Salah will overcome his shoulder injury to score six in Group A as he pulls himself into contention for the Golden Boot (I have money on him as well!). 

Egypt’s undoubted talisman, Mohamed Salah, will lead the line in a group of Uruguay, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Brett Sinclair, Warehouse Manager

Winners: BELGIUM have an all-round top quality squad with plenty of experience. They just need to work well together in a way that they have not before. Let’s see what Roberto Martinez can do.

Runner-up: ENGLAND. I must say that I think we are going in to the FIFA World Cup with a young squad that will have a lot to prove. Let’s wait and see what they can do.

Shock exit: There seems to be a lot of hype surrounding SPAIN this year but I think they get frustrated too easily. They may be on the end of a few red cards which could spell trouble in the group stages.

Golden Boot: As long as ANTOINE GRIEZMANN is on the pitch, I would always expect to see big things coming from him. The French squad has tons of talent and they should be able to make it easy for him.

England will… make it to the FINAL, as I stated earlier.

Random predictions: My very random prediction is that we will see a very high number of cards. I also think that VAR will not be used nearly as much as it should.

Is it time for Belgium’s golden generation to come good?



We Predict… The 2018 UEFA Champions League Final

It’s almost here. The countdown to the 2018 UEFA Champions League final is in its final stages and this year the anticipation could not be any higher. Kiev better brace itself, because when Real Madrid and Liverpool clash on Saturday evening, there’s sure to be fireworks.

We know it’ll be an exciting, enthralling and electric final. We know there’s a good chance the match won’t finish goalless. We know there’s history to be made. But what we don’t know – for certain, anyway – is exactly what will happen. But we can always guess. So, without further adieu…


Dan Jamieson, CEO

I’m with esteemed football writer Jonathan Wilson, who has argued that Real Madrid are a giant “sleep-walking into a hammering.”

I’m a born and bred Scouser and a big Liverpool fan, so forgive me for any perceived bias, but I just think Real won’t know what’s hit them. Lots of teams press but Liverpool are on a different level. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané are clocked as two of the top even fastest players in European football and it’s the Gegenpress that creates the chances rather than our more functional midfield. Marcelo will go walkabout, Sergio Ramos will push up too high and dive in too much, while Cristiano Ronaldo will get frustrated by a lack of service.

This is the end of the road for this great Real side but now the youngest, quickest and hungriest team they will have played will bring down the curtain on their regal rein. Exuberance triumphs over experience.

Score: Real Madrid 0-4 Liverpool
Man of the Match: Sir Bobby of Firmino.
Random prediction: After Madrid lose, they spend the summer trying to buy their conquerors.


Ben Soley, Sales and Marketing Manager

Real are the dream opposition for Liverpool – ageing, slow, over-confident. Madrid may have the experience in finals like these but Liverpool will have the hunger. There will undoubtedly be some early jitters and the occasion might get to some of the Liverpool players (as it did in the first 20 minutes of the first leg against Roma) but when they get their first chance they will quickly see how easy it is to get at Madrid’s defence.

Many of Liverpool’s games are won in the middle of the pitch, where a dynamic trio dispossess their opposite numbers, and get it to that forward three at pace. Injuries mean they are without linchpin midfielders Emre Can and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain while Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro will prove to be the hardest opposition Klopp’s side have come up against. So, it will be up to Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, and the competition’s leader for assists, James Milner, to control the game.

I expect a high-scoring match but those who doubt Liverpool’s defensive qualities should re-watch the performances of Dejan Lovren and Trent Alexander-Arnold’s against Manchester City in the quarter-final at the Etihad.

Score: Real Madrid 2-3 Liverpool
Man of the Match: James Milner.
Random prediction: Marcelo will misplace a pass that leads directly to a goal.

The final takes place at Kiev’s Olimpiyskiy stadium on Saturday at 19:45 (GMT)

Alistair Hunter, Senior Editor

Liverpool have all the tools to stop Real Madrid but there’s something about Zinedine Zidane’s side in these finals that makes them seem unstoppable.

Call it experience, call it genuine star quality, call it luck, call it whatever you want – there’s just something about them that has me believing that, especially if it goes beyond the 90 minutes, it’s they who pull through. I have been lucky enough to have attended the last two finals so I have seen this in action.

But, on a more practical note, I believe it’ll be Real’s strength in depth that will prove a decisive factor. After all, however Zidane chooses to line up his side in Kiev, he’ll have numerous options on the bench. One of Gareth Bale, Isco or Marco Asensio (or even all three) could be left out of the starting XI. Klopp doesn’t have that luxury and the more this incredibly high-octane, end-of-season game wears on, the more likely it is that fresh legs make the difference.

Score: Real Madrid 3-2 Liverpool (AET)
Man of the Match: Cristiano Ronaldo.
Random prediction: Ronaldo will win and convert a first half penalty.


James Tildesley, Head of New Business

Much has been said about Real Madrid’s weaknesses and, in particular, how Marcelo marauding forward would afford space to Liverpool’s key threat, Mohamed Salah. But I don’t think a team that has got itself to the final for a chance to win its third consecutive UEFA Champions League title could be that tactically naive.

Admittedly, I looked at Madrid against Bayern Munich and thought it to be promising for Liverpool and in the final Marcelo may well find himself out of position. However, I think mental strength will be a deciding factor and, given that Liverpool were rocked several times against Roma, I can see that coming to the fore again.

Score: Real Madrid 2-1 Liverpool
Man of the Match: Luka Modric.
Random prediction: Marcelo provides either the assist or a key pass for a Real goal while also being at fault for a Liverpool goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo is aiming to win his fifth UEFA Champions League title

Jamie White, Social Media Producer

Being a Liverpool fan, I have to have faith in the Redmen to bring home that trophy even if my head says Real Madrid will win.

Given their experience in winning this competition over recent years and considering the players they have at their disposal, it’s hard look past the Spanish giants for a third straight title. Having said that, on our day, we can beat anyone and there can be no bigger or better occasion to prove that than this one. People talk up Liverpool’s powerful attacking trio but its that leaky back line that will have to prove itself in limiting the damage caused by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo. I think that, should the game go to extra time, Liverpool may run out of steam with their high-pressure tactics. Real’s greater strength in depth will also play a key role in swinging the balance.

Score: Real Madrid 3-2 Liverpool
Man of the Match: Luka Modric.
Random prediction: (Not so random) Dejan Lovren will drop a howler.


Scott Hutchison, US Partner

If you’re looking for a defensive battle, this isn’t the match for you. Expect both teams to constantly press, setting us neutrals up to enjoy a free-scoring affair. I’m a firm believer in the intangibles, with experience being top of the list.

I can’t see Liverpool being intimidated by the occasion, but when that whistle blows, they’ll line up opposite the side who have reigned over this competition for three of the last four years. That will bring a certain confidence to Real and will put them up early, making this less of a competitive match than most would want.

Score: Real Madrid 4-2 Liverpool.
Man of the Match: Can it really be anyone other than Cristiano Ronaldo?
Random prediction: Chelsea showed that if you smother Mo Salah, you smother and ultimately stop Liverpool. He may get his goal but expect the Egyptian’s possession overall to be very limited.


So, that’s what we think will go down in Kiev. But what do you think? Send us your predictions by getting in touch via our FacebookTwitter and Instagram pages!

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