By invitation only

Louis Saha has chosen Cannes film week to launch his new social media platform, aimed primarily at footballers. Kate Carlisle talks Axis Stars with the ex-United star.

In a luxury setting backdropped by Cannes and its A-list Film Festival, some 350 soccer stars, celebrities and entrepreneurs are all a-schmooze. There’s even a red carpet.

The reason? Axis Stars.

Is it an after-shave? A lighter than lightweight boot? An exclusive restaurant?

No. Axis Stars is a new private social media platform for players to interact and conduct business, away from the attention of the many sharks in the water.

Being launched at an invitation-only affair on the French Riviera on May 17, Axis Stars is the brainchild of former Manchester United and Fulham star Louis Saha.

‘We are the first targets of frauds and sharks,’ Saha told Libero Guide, as he was taking off for Cannes. ‘My ultimate goal is to see players reach their full potential during and after their careers. It is not about giving them the power to buy more watches or cars.’

Back in the day, the majority of recently ex-players would open a pub or publish a putdownable ghost-written autobiography. Not Saha.

Aware of the activities of the various agents and middlemen who plague the game, Saha conceived of Axis Stars. Free for players, Axis Stars charges service providers and companies for access after screening them for ethics and authenticity. Saha is clear that it is a business venture – but not without altruistic potential.

‘I hope that the network will also help players nourish their charitable ambitions,’ he said, referring to platform member Didier Drogba and his African education and health-care foundation. ‘There are endless possibilities for network users. It is not an end point, it is a starting point and from there each member can safely work to meet their needs.’

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Axis Star Louis Saha

‘Like on other networks, players can go to chat, get or spread news and socialise,’ Saha went on. ‘But the difference is they can also find information and make connections easily and directly without someone in the middle who wants a cut or who is looking to take advantage of them.’

When Saha decided that it was time to let his experience help others skirt the shysters, he built a five-a-side team of an IT executive and a trio of consultants in finance, business and marketing, with experience in football, Formula 1 and global commerce. Saha himself played in three of Europe’s top five leagues, and appeared at Euro 2004 and the World Cup 2006 for France.

‘There isn’t much privacy for high-profile figures,’ explained Saha. And while professional athletes always seem to be in the spotlight for just about anything they do or say, this is one place where the playing field has been levelled and shielded from onlookers and eavesdroppers. A squad of designers has come up with a brightly coloured and stunningly sleek, user-friendly platform. But the revolution is not in the style, nor the technology. Axis is making waves. Exclusively.

‘There has been criticism,’ Saha admitted. ‘By putting everyone in a virtual room together, the middle man, and their cut, is threatened.’

Axis will not only float in cyberspace. Saha plans to organise events two or three times a year so that the network members can meet face to face. After tomorrow’s kick-off, the next Axis Stars bash will be in Los Angeles in two months’ time. From Cannes to Hollywood – who said football wasn’t all glitz and glamour?

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