Category: From Our CEO

From Our CEO: The Inside Story of Diego & Icons

Take it from me: Diego Maradona was unlike any other footballer and unlike any other person we have ever dealt with. It’s true, he was at times difficult, tempestuous and unreliable but he was also unquestionably charismatic, astonishing and unique.

From first contact to the present day, as we launch our ultimate and exclusive range of Maradona signed memorabilia, this is just part of the extraordinary story of our relationship with the man, the myth and the legend that is Diego Armando Maradona.

I first met Diego in Buenos Aires in May 2010. Those at the company who had previous with him knew we needed to give him about a week to get around to doing a signing session – and even then nothing was guaranteed. In fact, there was one time our team had flown from the UK to Argentina with hundreds of items in tow only to find Diego had left town, without word, for a nine-day holiday.

So you could say I knew I would need to be on my toes for this trip. How much? Well, there we were, the Icons signing team, out drinking past midnight in the fashionable Palermo district of one of the world’s most exciting cities, enjoying what we thought was a night off. The phone rang. ‘Diego will see you now.’

We raced back to the hotel, grabbed as many items as we could carry and jumped in a cab to, of all places, Diego Maradona’s mum’s house. We entered a darkly-lit front room – not exactly the most bizarre setting for a signing but certainly up there – when all of a sudden he emerged, like the human deity he was.

Icons CEO Dan Jamieson at Diego’s house in Dubai

Once he’d figured out who we were, he was as charismatic as you’d expect, posing for photos and generally loving being the centre of attention. The signing went smoothly and even included a special request for a dedication for a certain Mr Wayne Rooney. This was mid 2010 and Diego was the manager of Argentina, shouldering hopes of leading Lionel Messi and his teammates to FIFA World Cup glory in South Africa. Sadly for both Diego and Lionel – and Wayne, too – that wasn’t quite to be.

Even back then Icons had a worldwide-exclusive signing contract with Diego and with him we conducted a further two sessions after he’d moved to Dubai. It would be nice to say that signings with Diego were always hassle-free but this blog is about the truth of our relationship.

On one occasion it took a full week to get our items signed as he had fired all his team and suddenly wasn’t taking any visitors. A couple of years after we’d completed our two-session contract we tried to re-engage with him and were given the green light to buy stock in readiness for another signing only for the phone lines to go cold. For three years we were left with boxes and boxes of unsigned shirts, boots and photos, obliged also to return payments to our pre-order customers. 

After that we waited. And so did you.

Fast forward to 2018 and Diego is managing Dorados de Sinaloa in Mexico. So I reach out to a good friend of ours, Emilio, who is a top commercial agent in Mexico City. And so begun a 20-month-long negotiation to get Diego to come back and be an Icon again.

The phone rang. ‘Diego will see you now.’

I was sure we had it done in the spring of 2019. He was all due to sign a contract that was sat on his desk but first, and very reasonably, he had to concentrate on his side’s promotion campaign, the highs and eventual lows of which can be seen in painstaking detail on Netflix. Too tired and emotional after (spoiler alert!) losing in the final, he left Mexico entirely, returning to Argentina for urgent hip-replacement surgery.

The trail had gone cold again.

Sometimes in our line of work the most effective solutions are the simplest and most obvious. So, in May last year, that torrid excuse for a year we call 2020, we gave up on nuanced negotiations and just asked plain and simple: ‘Diego… what’s your price?’

By now the world had all but closed down due to Covid-19. And while we usually attend all our private signing sessions, we had to adapt to the difficult circumstances around us. We had a signed and agreed contract so we were able to send the shirts, photos, boots and balls directly to Diego via shipping agents – all in all they took about a month to arrive. 

Diego with Icons’ Chairman Edward Freedman in May 2010

Finally, on August 5th 2020 we had what we were all waiting for: confirmation. It came in the form of a gallery of photos and videos of Diego putting pen to product. He even signed Icons.com and A1 Sporting Memorabilia boards, which we now hang proudly in our office. 

True to form, Diego signed our products while smoking a big fat cigar and listening to boisterous Latin music. He even managed to send back a shirt with a hole in it that had been singed by that very cigar. “Well, you can’t argue that’s not authentic!” our warehouse team said.

The first shipment made it all back in one piece and we were able to fulfil all the pre-orders we had sold both on our site and to our wholesale customers around the world.

The second shipment was sent out to Argentina in September and they remained mostly unsigned until after Diego’s brain surgery. To his eternal credit, he spent part of his rehabilitation in the days that followed signing the remainder of our products. What a legend. 

He even managed to send back a shirt with a hole in it that had been singed by that very cigar.

We were working on shipping them back, approaching the end of another successful signing, when we heard the awful news of his tragic and untimely death.

In the difficult moments that followed for our staff who, along with so many around the world, were only just processing the very sad news, we knew we had to make a number of quick and ultimately respectful decisions.

We took down all pre-order products but kept the other items we had live on the site. We decided not to change the prices, not to remove unframed items and not to block any of the discounts codes we’d issued to our loyal customers to what was then the run-up to Black Friday. As such we sold out of every Diego signed item we still had within 29 minutes of the news breaking.

As you can imagine it has been a slow, difficult and expensive operation to secure, package and return all the signed items in our second shipment. Dr Matias Morla, one of Diego’s lawyers, has been very helpful throughout and it’s testament to the long-term relationship we have with Diego and his team that we were able to work closely with them even in those dreadful weeks after his passing.

The items finally left Argentina in the week before Christmas and we were eagerly awaiting their arrival when we got the news from our shipping agent that all the boxes had been lost at Heathrow Airport. 

After a sharp intake of breath we sent a polite request to please, please, please go back and check again. This was precious cargo of the highest order. The boxes were found then the van sending them to our warehouse broke down. It was Christmas Eve and quite frankly, we were feeling very done with 2020 on the whole.

The reason I wanted to illustrate all this is to try to explain the lengths we go to in bringing our loyal audience the world’s best signed products. Sometimes the job we do is easy and glamorous and takes a week or two from start to finish. Sometimes it takes twenty-one years.

Today, on Monday the 1st of February 2021 we will be proud and excited – and yes, mournful too – to launch our ultimate range of authentic and official Diego Maradona signed products. 

We have ensured all our pre-order customers have their orders fulfilled, and we are putting the framed items we took down on the day of his death back up at the original prices. We are also introducing a whole new range of Maradona products, with our signed Puma King boots, signed retro FC Barcelona shirts, signed photos and classic signed 1986 Argentina shirts. We’ve also been working with our partners at Getty Images, Llewellyn Illustrations, Toffs and Opus to add yet more items to that core range.

Icons is the only place to buy genuine products hand-signed by Diego. As our agent Sport & Life commented: “We must be proud that it was the last contract he signed, and that he worked on it to the end.” 

We will miss working with our friend Diego. Through it all and to the end he was iconic in every way.


Shop from our full range of 100% authentic Diego Maradona signed items by visiting Icons.com today…

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Diego Maradona: A Tribute To An Icon

On Wednesday evening, the world of sport lost an icon of near-unparalleled stature. The death of Diego Armando Maradona, at just 60-years-old, has shocked and deeply saddened all of us here at Icons.com.

The tragic news brought into sharp focus the profound reverence millions of people had for Diego – not just in Buenos Aires and Naples, but all over the world.

The cascade of heartfelt tributes from family, friends, teammates – even rivals – reminded us that few players were as passionately hallowed as an earthbound deity like Diego.

Diego with Icons’ Non-Executive Chairman Edward Freedman in May 2010

Last night we watched as many on social media shared their favourite Diego memories. We saw those spectacular scenes of his arrival and unprecedented success at Napoli; the wild and almost animalistic celebrations he became known for; the iconic lift of the FIFA World Cup trophy at the Azteca in 1986; and, of course, those goals against England (yes, both of them).

This week has reminded us that icons like Diego are very reason we love to do what we do. When we arranged to get a new collection of memorabilia signed by Diego over the past couple of months, we knew those items would be a huge hit. They have been every time we’ve stocked them over the course of our near-two decade relationship with him. And so they were again.

Icons CEO Dan Jamieson at Diego’s house in Dubai

Many of us have heroes that we pay homage to in our own way. Whether it’s a signed shirt hanging from a wall or a simple ticket stub hidden away in a drawer, we keep memorabilia to stay close to the people whose talents make us love the sports we watch. Bringing Diego closer to his legions of fans has been a great joy of ours for many years.

We may never see the likes of Diego Maradona again and for that the world of sport has been dealt a severe blow.

May he rest in peace.


For information on Diego Maradona signed memorabilia, including pre-orders not yet fulfilled, please contact our Customer Support team via [email protected] or by calling +44 (0)20 3904 7600 between 9am and 5.30pm GMT Monday to Friday.



From Our CEO: Business As Usual

Here at Icons.com, we wanted to provide an update for all our customers, suppliers and friends in sport. In particular we’d like to assure everyone that for the time being we are still operating business as usual – but, of course, there are a few changes.

We are still taking orders 24/7 from all around the world and dispatching said orders to 3-4 working day(s) timeframe. To allow this to continue, while adhering to the all the safe-working practices and protocols recommended to us by the UK government, we have closed our headquarters in London. Our distribution facility in Dorset is, at the time of writing, unaffected. 

We care deeply about the safety and wellbeing of our staff and all those around us. So we will continue to keenly monitor the ongoing developments and take every precaution as necessary.

We dispatch using DHL and their world class international shipping service and, as such, we’re able to continue to send out orders to all four corners of the world on a daily basis with no problems.

While the football season is suspended, we’ve decided to reach out to our friends and partners across the wider football community to give away some of our iconic products – hopefully bringing cheer to some lucky winners in these uncertain times. Look out for promotions, competitions and giveaways over the coming weeks. We’re very excited about what we have planned. 

Stay safe, take care, look after your own team and thank you for your ongoing support.


For more information about how possible restrictions due to the Coronavirus outbreak may affect ordering from Icons.com, please contact Customer Support via [email protected].

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From Our CEO: All Of Us Are Fans At Heart

I was born and raised in Liverpool and have been a massive fan of Liverpool FC since before I can remember. I grew up in the city when Liverpool and Everton were the two best teams in the country – if not Europe – and I remember not bothering to go to the open-top bus parades if we had ‘only’ won the league. Things aren’t quite the same nowadays.

Last Tuesday I was back in the city for the first leg of our UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie against FC Porto. Quite unlike my unfortunately rare childhood visits to the ground, I was there last week as a guest of UEFA.

Icons have been an official UEFA’s licensed partner for memorabilia for seven years now and it’s the most successful licence we have. With our unrivalled roster of European superstars, we created an official UEFA Champions League range which is sold all around the world. Most recently we had a large order from MasterCard, who are using our signed memorabilia to promote their sponsorship of the tournament in Singapore and Thailand.

Our licensing manager, Ben, is also a big Liverpool fan. So, he and I take full advantage whenever we are invited to watch the Reds by our friends at UEFA. I was at last season’s quarter-final as Liverpool beat Manchester City and I was there for our epic UEFA Europa League semi-final triumph over Villarreal in 2016. I’ve seen some pretty huge Jurgen Klopp-inspired victories over these past few years!

Point is, here at Icons we are all huge football fans at heart. I grew up very rarely being able to get into Anfield and now I have been lucky enough to go three years in a row. We wanted the UEFA Champions League licence because we love the competition and we thought we could bring something unique to the party. The same goes with our official FIFA licence, which we’ve had for nine years now.

We love our teams, our stars and the iconic nights under the lights. It’s what football is all about and it’s exactly why we do what we do: always aiming to bring other fans closer to their heroes.


See the full range of Official UEFA Champions League signed memorabilia by clicking here.

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From Our CEO: Adding To An Iconic List of Ballon d’Or Winners

What do George Weah, Jean-Pierre Papin, Andriy Shevchenko, Matthias Sammer and Hristo Stoichkov have in common? Of course, it’s pretty well-known that they are all past Ballon d’Or winners. But the few names on this short list share something else, too. These are the only five names from the past three decades who’ve won the Ballon d’Or but aren’t Icons… yet.

Every other former winner of football’s most coveted individual prize has undertaken a signing session for Icons, from Marco Van Basten to Ronaldo Nazario, Zinedine Zidane to Lionel Messi. And so, when mercurial midfielder Luka Modric won this year’s accolade, it was only a matter of time before he joined our roster. Well, it was 58 days, to be exact.

In fact, our recent signing with Luka also kept alive another impressive streak of ours: we can now say that we have worked with the winners of the award from each of the past fourteen seasons.

Luka was delighted to join the list and even allowed our signing team to hold the actual Ballon d’Or award that he has at home on his mantelpiece in Madrid. ‘Signed By The World’s Best’ indeed!

So, how do we get to these players? Well, to be frank, it’s a combination of judgement and luck. We first worked with Messi, for example, when he was just 17-years-old. The year was 2006 and we had been tipped off about this new sensation in Barcelona by our man on the ground in Spain. I could write for days with similar stories. We met Cristiano Ronaldo as he arrived in Manchester. Kaka had been an Icon for a number of years before he won a Ballon d’Or. We even saw a 19-year-old Neymar Jr playing in Sao Paolo – that was 2013 and we were sat next to Kaka’s father. It was Ronaldo Nazario who had let us know that this guy might be a future Ballon d’Or winner. Neymar Jr hasn’t won it yet, of course, but we’re playing the long-game.

We like to think we can spot talent and it was great to see our first Icon of the Future, Callum Hudson-Odoi, who signed for Icons back in May 2018, selling more items during our January Sale than many of the biggest names in the sport. It shows we might be on to something with the Chelsea starlet. Maybe he too will have something shiny on his mantelpiece in a decade’s time…

I always say that as a kid I collected football stickers but nowadays I collect footballers. So come on, George, Jean-Pierre, Andriy, Matthias and Hristo – it’s time to get in touch and join the world’s most truly iconic club.


See the full range of all-new Luka Modric signed memorabilia by clicking here.

See our unrivalled collection of memorabilia signed by nominees and winners of the Ballon d’Or by clicking here.

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From Our CEO: Experience The World’s Best with Icons XP

One of the pivotal moments of my life happened in Barcelona. It was 2001 and I was drinking cheap cava in a hillside terrace bar overlooking the city. Dusk fell and the cityscape turned sparkly. I had a job I hated for a dotcom startup in London and I was on a football tour in the Catalan capital.

“Why don’t I just quit my job and come and live here? It’s got sun, sand and sexy football – what more could you want?” I asked.

Five months later I’d left everything behind to move to Barcelona to play, watch and teach people how to talk about football. Some of my friends were incredulous. They said: “You’re just going out there for the experience. Why would you do that?”

Fast forward to 2018. I’m reading an article written by the founder of Airbnb, Brian Chesky. He’s talks about how his company have been able to create a trust platform, unlocking the spaces left vacant in people’s spare rooms and empty houses. Their next step, he explains is to create 100 million entrepreneurs, unlocking the potential not of spaces but of people. “We’re creating Airbnb experiences where people all over the world offer their talents, skills and knowledge to others to buy as they travel. Hidden city tours, salsa classes, art history lessons, Airbnb can use its trust platform to put consumers together with suppliers,” Chesky says.

Now, what that got to do with memorabilia?

Well, firstly, if we can bring memorabilia together with memories, we are tapping into what Generation XP want more than anything: stories to tell. At Icons, we have access to the world’s biggest superstar footballers and we can get to the world’s greatest sporting events. Hey, it’s why I do what I do.

So, this month we’re launching Icons XP with the tagline ‘Experience The World’s Best’. As with lots of these ideas, we start in Barcelona. Icons now have a private corporate box at Camp Nou. If you love Leo Messi, you can now buy Experience Memorabilia package from Icons.com and be our guests at his next game to see him play in the flesh. We were in the box for the Joan Gamper Trophy earlier in the year and the little magician we love so much scored right in front of us. Imagine watching El Clasico or a UEFA Champions League semi-final and seeing Leo, Luis Suarez or Philippe Coutinho doing something truly iconic? Maybe we can even get them to pop into the box after the match to say hello… we’re working on it.

Now wouldn’t that would be an iconic experience?

While it starts with Barcelona it most certainly does not end there. Icons are co-promoting a speaker tour that brings Manchester United legend Eric Cantona to London, Manchester and Ireland throughout October. Icons founder Edward Freedman worked with Eric at United and, in fact, Cantona was the first player he got to sign shirts, making him the very first on a long and ever expanding list of Icons. For Eric’s tour, Icons XP is offering VIP and VVIP tickets that allows fans to come backstage to meet Eric himself. When we did this two years ago a grown man fainted upon meeting Le God. That’s what it means to our customers.

Memories plus memorabilia. That has a nice ring to it, I think.

If we can bring fans closer to their heroes through events, tickets, boxes or meets and greets, we will. Our roster comprises the biggest names in sport and we have a reputation for running the best competitions and giveaways for money-can’t-buy prizes. If The FC Barcelona Experience and Eric Cantona Live work, we’ll expand, offering more and more experiences to our customers. Maybe we can even put together those experiences in cities around the world with Airbnb’s local experts. A Diego Maradona tour around Boca in Buenos Aires, for example. Maybe a Steven Gerrard framed memento from a trip to Anfield or a native New Yorker talking you through the iconic nights of Madison Square Gardens.

Icons XP is a new way to get closer to your heroes. And we couldn’t be more excited to bring it to you. See you in Barcelona soon.


  • FC Barcelona Experience Memorabilia packages are available for matches throughout FC Barcelona’s 2018/19 campaign, including the world-famous El Clasico derby plus crucial La Liga clashes, thrilling Copa Del Rey ties and, of course, those epic UEFA Champions League nights. Contact [email protected] for prices, match availability and further information.
  • Eric Cantona kicks off his UK speaker tour on October 24th with a show at the Hammersmith Apollo in London. VIP and VVIP tickets are available for all dates. Click here for more information.


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.



From Our CEO: Authenticity Is Everything

The dictionary definition of authenticity is “not false or copied; genuine, real” and I spend every minute of every day worrying about it.

Why? Because I run the world’s leading signed football memorabilia company, Icons Shop Limited, and we constantly need to reassure our customers that our items are genuine. If Icons sold one fake signature we would pretty much go bankrupt overnight with our reputation in tatters. Living on that knife-edge does focus the mind somewhat.

At Icons, we go to extraordinary lengths to provide evidence of our authenticity. We have long-standing relationships with some of the greats of world football, including contracts with Leo Messi and Diego Maradona. We are the official memorabilia licensee of the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Champions League. We provide a Certificate of Authenticity with all our products, along with photographic proof, holograms and videos of private signing sessions with the top stars.

Yet every day we’re asked if our products are really signed by the players. It seems all the facts on our website are often not enough. People regularly call and email us to express their concerns – they want to be reassured that they can trust us and from our side it becomes about engaging with them on an emotional level.

One of the things today’s digital marketers do is create ongoing dialogue between brands and their audiences. Traditional advertising shouts a consistent message with a megaphone while a smart brand strikes up a two-way conversation. Consumers want to know more about the products, causes and companies to which they choose to give their money. They’re looking for an emotional connection and digital marketing can bring this to life.

It’s also made me think about authenticity on a personal level. My wife is the communications director of a social enterprise called Leaders’ Quest, which works with leaders from all walks of life who want to use their unique influence to create positive change in the world. They talk to their communities about the importance of authenticity and how real leadership shines through when someone is genuine and true to themselves.

Most people are quick to spot self-interest and false charm – you only have to look to Lance Armstrong on how not to do it. The most successful leaders I know are genuine, honest and great at empathy.

Authenticity isn’t about being good and worthy, it’s about being who you are, warts and all. Personal authenticity is only achieved when people are honest with themselves. Brené Brown, in her TED Talk The Power of Vulnerability, describes how showing vulnerability allows people to connect with others on a human level. As brands develop their willingness to have open conversations, they will find ways to connect more deeply with their audience.

 

This blog was first published by Zone Digital on their Digital Distractions email newsletter in 2014.