It soon became clear where he wanted to end.
The most transparent clues can be found in Smith’s broadcast setup inside the Irish citizens’ apartment in Nyon, Switzerland: In the bathroom, a tablet broadcast MLB games, the living room TV was showing NFL Sunday and the kitchen was home to a third machine dedicated to the Football League.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” said Mooney, who was then Smith’s teammate with UEFA in early 2010. “It was just about to be on his mind.”
The seeds to be transported were sown during a series of visits to the United States during Smith’s formative years. As soon as the right opportunity arose, he put aside his UEFA financial analyst and made a leap across the Atlantic to take the position of sporting director for Colorado Rapids.
Now the club’s executive vice president and general manager, Smith has found a home in Front Range. To understand what made him a football sustainability supervisor and clever rosters builder, one only needs to look at the experiences that led him to Commerce City.
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Smith, the eldest of six, grew up in Mornington, County Meath, a seaside village of 11,000 people located between the Irish Sea and the estuary of the River Boyne. As in many Irish families, sport has been a focal point from an early age.
Gaelic Athletics – Bowling and Gaelic Football – Control County Meath. The game’s roots go back to the 1880s, and the community ties are so strong (54 clubs for 220,000 residents) that it’s hard to get past anything. but GAA. The Smith family all played, but Pádraig kept returning to football.
His interest in the sport coincided with a golden era for Irish football. The national team reached three major finals between the 1980s and early 1990s, and the country’s best players were making a splash with England’s most famous clubs. He also found an unrivaled sense of belonging while supporting his local team, Drogheda United.
There was only one problem: Many of the teams he followed close to home were struggling to stay afloat.
“We are all a product of our environment and we are all a product of our experiences,” Smith told The Post earlier this season. “The introduction to the sport came to me because the clubs were on the verge of bankruptcy at the time. … That’s why I really got into the sport.
“…I don’t think you can have a strong club and I don’t think you can have a strong league if it is not financially viable for the long term. I think the same foundations should be built on youth and community development. Those are two very important things. “.
In the late 2000s, UEFA was in the midst of drafting a blueprint for new regulations to prevent teams from overspending, known as Financial Fair Play. The organization only knew who to add to the steering committee: Rookie Smith.
Smith quickly rose through the ranks of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and became a representative at continental meetings. Once on the committee, he ostensibly represented the smaller countries of Europe while representing the Big Five – England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Discussions back and forth proved vital to the final framework.
In 2007, he joined FAI as an Internal Compliance Officer after spending five years at Ernst and Young as an Audit Manager. His task was to dive deep into the bleak financial picture of the Irish League and implement a quasi-salary cap to prevent clubs from collapsing. At the time, Irish teams were spending money, spending 96% of clubs’ income on players’ salaries. Survival became such a problem that key members, including Smith, addressed the Irish Parliament on the matter.
Smith built on his knowledge of the American sports league’s use of salary caps and successfully reformed the union’s salary structure down to 65% of the club’s income versus players’ salaries. In 2008, it became the first European football body to operate mandatory salary cap regulations.
Years ago, Smith noticed how baseball teams used the data to more accurately assess the value of players—a discovery made after he spent the summer of 1999 in Cape Cod on a J1 visa.
“He’s definitely been[through]baseball and understanding that if you go deeper, you can see things that will give you an advantage,” he said. “…there is a curiosity as to why you can learn more below the surface and why a player can be visualized in two completely different camps.”
Smith went on to serve as Acting Chief Financial Officer for FAI from 2010-2011 and then as Director of Financial Analysis at UEFA where he worked at Financial Fair Play until 2014.
Dr Helen Raftery, CEO of the non-profit organization Junior Achievement Ireland and a lecturer in sports governance at University College Dublin, worked with Smith as Director of Strategic Development at FAI. You remember his new point of view.
“He (Pedridge) could see that there was a lot of things to overcome,” Raftery said. “That didn’t stop him from seeing yes, there’s a different future here, a better outcome that we can strive for. I think that combination of being able to dream and see things long-term and strategically, as well as being, I mean, forensically detail-oriented…that’s A really unusual combination.”
After just five years shy of “The Rapids Way” in The Post’s opener landing on trails across Colorado, Smith has the club in a healthy, vibrant spot.
The athlete highlighted many of his traits in his anonymous annual MLS executive survey. Smith has been recognized as one of the easiest executives to work with, but also the toughest negotiator. Unsurprisingly, the Rapids have been called “the team that does more with less.”
There couldn’t be a better compliment to Smith.
“The way we talk about this is that the job of (coach) Robin (Frasier) and the coaching staff is to win from Saturday to Saturday,” Smith said. “My job is to prepare us from year to year.”Since being appointed to his current role in 2018, Smith has been determined to define and implement his vision. He fully admits he had to right his course, but with a back-to-back playoff and a third out of the question this fall, the foundation is laid.
From local talent Yaya Toure and Darren Yappe to Diego Rubio, William Yarbro, Jack Price and now Ralph Brysso, Smith has made smart moves to improve player recruitment.
Auston Trustee, Sam Vines and Cole Bassett, all of whom now play in Europe, are concrete examples. Trusty arrived for $600,000, but was sold within the KSE family to Arsenal for a fee of $2 million, while the Coloradans could be a staple of the US men’s national team for years to come.
“I don’t think I could have imagined living in Mornington, that was the path I would have taken but certainly from an early age I knew I wanted to be involved in the sport and knew I wanted to be in the States,” he said. “It is unbelievable to have these things come together and be the current custodian of this club. It is truly a dream come true in so many ways.”