Gerry Carlile: ‘For a boy from the Falls Road to end up dealing with Rangers has made an interesting journey for me’
The Big Interview: Gerry Carlile
West Belfast football agent and entrepreneur Gerry Carlile is fast-becoming as recognisable a face as some of the top international football stars he represents.
He's rubbed shoulders with no less than Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers, former Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson and worked with Belfast boxing sensation Carl Frampton.
Starting out life on the Falls Road, in the space of a decade Gerry's gone from selling cars to top football agent, as well as running a handful of restaurants along the way.
Now, the 38-year-old is expanding into the world of public relations and growing his firm the Evolve Group. And in the last six months the father-of-three has worked with clients such as Fonacab, Value Cabs and Downpatrick Racecourse.
"I became the first football agent in Northern Ireland in 2007," he said.
"The company started to develop and grow fairly quickly."
One of his first clients was Northern Ireland international and Aberdeen player Niall McGinn, whom Gerry met when he was playing for his native Dungannon Swifts, before moving on to Derry City and Celtic.
"I decided at that stage of the game I wanted to open a restaurant. I was from west Belfast and wanted to open up where I grew up," said Gerry.
And he made use of the raft of top footballers in his address book - landing no less than six Celtic players for the opening of Failte on the Falls Road in 2010.
"It was a bit of a PR coup. It was incredible. The publicity we got from that launch night, it would have been impossible to buy," he said.
"We had the major TV stations, radio stations, and it was fantastic. That gave me a platform to go on and get my teeth into the restaurant world."
Gerry then expanded with 26 West at the Kennedy Centre - along with Niall McGinn and businessman Sean Duffy - as well as into nightclubs and bars.
It was the success of selling and marketing his own businesses that led him towards starting his own public relations firm. Gerry now has a staff of around 15 across Evolve Group.
"I always loved the world of PR, and we did all of our own PR in restaurants and bars ... so I thought to myself, I can do that for other businesses as well."
He's now sold several of his businesses, including Failte in 2015, but still owns 26 West and Glasgow's Light nightclub.
Down the years he's worked with some of Northern Ireland's top footballers, including Niall McGinn, Kyle Lafferty, Paddy McCourt and Alan Mannus.
"We continually work closely with so many international footballers here and in England and Scotland as well," Gerry said.
Speaking about expanding into the world of public relations, Gerry says "representing a footballer is very similar to representing a business or organisation".
"We have a whole plethora of clients we have built over the last six months," he said.
"I have built a wide network of contacts, not just in Belfast, but also right across the islands. Football interests people. The links between business and sport is incredible."
Gerry says his entrepreneurial spirit came from his father, also called Gerry, who is a retired teacher.
"My father was a schoolteacher and always said, he reckoned I had the ability to be an entrepreneur. I knew I was always going to work for myself," added Gerry.
His mother Ann still works as a receptionist.
He attended Rathmore Grammar school, before studying French and German with European business at Ulster University in Coleraine.
Gerry is married to Louise, who is a midwife, and has three boys - Emmet (9), Barra (7) Paddy (4).
And it's no surprise given their father's job, that each have a passion for sport. But Gerry says he's also seeing "signs of business in all of them".
"They are keen negotiators. They are used to seeing footballers around our house as well."
Gerry started off working for car rental business Enterprise in Scotland, shortly after finishing university, before moving back to Belfast to run the business here. Gerry then worked at car dealer Issac Agnew, before starting his own footballer agency in 2007 at the age of 28.
Since then, he's dealt with everyone from ex-Manchester United manager David Moyes to Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez.
"It's been interesting for me, a boy from the Falls Road, then dealing with Rangers and finding myself at Ibrox, and dealing with managers. But it was a brilliant experience," said Gerry.
"There wouldn't be too many big clubs that I haven't dealt with in 10 years - managers, chairs, chief executives - there's no such thing as a nine to five in football."
Speaking about the highlights of his career so far, he said writing his autobiography in 2014 was one of them.
"That was something I wanted to do. I wanted to show other people, not from a traditional business background, that with a bit of luck you can achieve things.
"Truthfully, the businesses I have launched and run are highlights themselves. When you conclude a contract or deal, there's a great deal of satisfaction."
Gerry is also a firm believer in the strength of Europe, and the EU, and can't see how Brexit will benefit his business, or many others.
"Whenever business starts to sense instability, the ripple effects can go out to other parts of society. That feeds into employment, education and housing," he said.
And asked where he sees his businesses going next, Gerry said: "The football business is steady, it's doing great. I want to develop the PR business over the course of the next two years. I think there are some good PR firms in Belfast, but there's room for one more."
*In next week's Big Interview, we speak to Dr Peter FitzGerald, founder and managing director of Randox