Get To know: Max Noble, the sportswear designer campaigning against injustice in sports
We speak to the London member and former football player about his industry-disrupting company, Certified Sports
Max Noble is the founder of Certified Sports, a sportswear brand set up to expose and challenge the injustices encountered by young and vulnerable athletes. Inspired by the lack of care he experienced in his youth at the hands of elite football academies, Noble now helps support young athletes with similar experiences, while also campaigning to create policy-level change.
We chat to Noble about Certified Sports’ new collection, the upcoming release of his new film, and what he values most about the Soho Works spaces.
Could you talk us through your background?
‘I’m a former academy footballer who, as a consequence of being released at such a tender age, struggled with mental health issues throughout my late teens and twenties. It is now my mission to change this brutal process of rejection so young footballers no longer have to suffer [like] I and all of my former teammates did.’
What inspired you to set up Certified Sports?
‘To fight injustice in sport. Despite dedicating my childhood to football clubs, they abandoned me when I needed them most. They offered nothing to help further my education: no courses or internships – zero opportunities. I’m desperate to tell the story of what happens to the vast majority of young footballers who don’t “make it”, so we can dispel the myths surrounding them and finally start protecting these vulnerable children.
‘I initially created Certified Sports as a WhatsApp group, a community of “failures” who could help support and advise each other, but after my internship at Burberry, it evolved into a sportswear brand.’
Could you tell us about the garments?
‘Each Certified Sports garment is designed specifically to help you train hard. We create 20 to 25 pieces per season – everything you need to out-train your doubters and prove them wrong. Our new collection, Season 21/22, is all black and made entirely from recycled plastic bottles and fishing nets that have been collected from the ocean.’
How do your own values inform the objectives of Certified Sports?
‘I want to live in a world where people are allowed to make mistakes but are also held accountable for their actions. Within some sporting organisations, there’s often more effort exerted in trying to brush major issues under the carpet. I aim to highlight issues in sport and help organisations create practices that will allow them to easily stick to the promises that have been made.’
How valuable has Soho Works been for you?
‘It’s a space that helps me clear my head, as well as [being] an easy place to focus. There’s something about seeing other creatives work that’s super inspiring. Also, I can’t complain about the free breakfast!’
What’s next for you and Certified Sports?
‘We just sold our new collection into stores for the first time, including one of the biggest retailers in the UK.
‘We’re releasing a new film called The Dream Factory, which tells the real-life stories of rejected academy players, highlighting the difficulties they faced and showing the desperate need for more support.
‘We’ve hired one of the biggest law firms in the country to help create and present a document that will protect children in football academies, including the creation of an aftercare programme to ensure their mental health is a priority after such life-altering rejection. Once every child who enters a football academy is protected, our first mission is complete. We’ll then move on to challenge more injustice in different sports.’