Three league titles with three different clubs was impressive shooting for former striker Chris Morgan in his Irish League football days, but the Drumbo man is still hitting new heights when it comes to business.
here was just no stopping Morgan, who had successful trophy-winning stints at Crusaders, Linfield and Glentoran before going on to play for Newry City and Dungannon Swifts.
In fact, he even has a memorable football occasion named after him. Who will ever forget Saturday, April 23, 2005?
Playing against his former club Linfield, Morgan bagged a last-gasp winner for Big Two rivals Glentoran at The Oval, which was the catalyst for the club’s title win that season. It’s been christened Morgan Day ever since.
He is still very much involved in the game, but in a different capacity — as managing director of Club Sport NI Limited, a company he set up a decade ago.
Similar to what he did on the football pitch, it’s been a successful venture for Morgan, whose business provides sports gear and off-field products to clubs up and down the country.
Having been named as Nike’s sole distributor, Morgan has now branched into the Republic of Ireland, with a new office in Wicklow.
Club Sport NI already supplies kit and equipment to Irish League clubs Glentoran, Larne and Glenavon — with another one in the pipeline — and, eyeing further growth, the company secured a £100,000 loan through Whiterock Finance Growth Loan Fund II, which is backed by Invest NI and the EU.
Undoubtedly, Morgan’s expanding business acumen is a legacy of a wonderful playing career.
“It’s a football business and it’s obviously made easier when you’ve a background in playing the game,” stated Morgan.
“The business is now 10-years-old and it’s still evolving and moving forward.”
Having worked for O’Neill’s sports distributors during his playing days, Morgan set up his own business when he hung up the boots.
“I moved jobs, which was a bad decision — I took another position but I very quickly realised that it was not for me,” he recalled. “On the back of that, I decided to set up the company I have now.
“Basically, that bad decision I made, I needed to rectify it quickly, so it kind of just went from there.
“There were a couple of other people involved, but I bought them out and ran the business on my own.
“I was a one-man band for a while, although Jaimie McGovern, who played with Glentoran and Cliftonville and is currently with Ards, was pretty much with me from the start.
“Running any small business is challenging and it was tough going in the initial few years, mentally and physically. Although we were successful in terms of sales and things, you have to learn how to run a business as well.
“I suppose the way things developed, it was thrust upon me. I’ve made mistakes along the way, but you learn quickly.”
Morgan, who has a working staff of seven in his North City Business Park premises in Belfast, sees being the sole Nike distributor for the whole island of Ireland as a feather in his company’s cap.
“They were making strategic changes within their business,” he added.
“Their strategy was to grow their business, but cutting certain accounts. The way they looked at it was if they had bigger and better accounts then sales would grow with the companies they deal with.
“Whenever I set up the company, no one was actually promoting Nike over here. It’s a huge company and I thought it would be a good opportunity. Fast forward to three years ago, we were in Barcelona to watch a Champions League game against Chelsea.
“The head of (Nike) team sales informed me they were closing other accounts and wanted me to take over supplying the entire country. I thought it was too good to be true, but he said that was the strategy the company was taking and we were the best they had in Ireland.
“What we were doing in Northern Ireland was much bigger than any accounts they had in the south. That in itself would say they were not doing enough because it’s a much bigger area.
“It was a fantastic opportunity for us. Our workforce will increase, but most of the administration stuff will be done in Northern Ireland.
“We deal with Bray Wanderers, who have recently merged with Cabinteely — they are basically two clubs in the same area. We got involved with Cabinteely about a year ago, they would be the biggest clubs we have down there.
“There are a huge number of grassroots clubs down south, much bigger than up here. In saying that, the senior clubs we have, Glentoran, Larne and Glenavon, spend big money when you take into account their academies and club shops.
“We still look at the grassroots market up here as our bread and butter. Clubs at the lowest level buy the same things as a professional club, so it’s pretty big business.
“Having a brand like Nike means you don’t have to sell it — it speaks for itself. The strength of our business is relationship management. If you get a client on board, deliver for them the best you can and keep them happy.”
With the pandemic restrictions gradually being lifted, Morgan believes his company can flourish even further.
“We are coming out of a tough period so it has taken a bit of time to become established down south, it’s new territory for us. We are still a bit of an unknown entity in relation to that whole market,” added Morgan.
“Indeed, the market has been fractured over the last while because sport has stopped and started because of the Covid situation and, not surprisingly, we’ve also had problems because of the Brexit situation, so we haven’t had a proper run at it so far.
“The fact is that anyone in the south who wants to buy a Nike product, we are the only company they can deal with, so that alone gives us a big advantage and should help us grow down there — hopefully fairly quickly.”