More Support Needed For Retired Players

Players dedicate their lives to football, some careers can be cruelly ended by injury and some can play for many years, but what happens after their playing careers end? It is a common thought that most ex players end up back in football either as a coach, manager or working in the media. However, this is not the case for the majority of ex professionals, there is very little help out there when their playing careers end – something that has to change quickly.

A large number of players will finish their careers, having played for over twenty years. It is extremely difficult to understand when that suddenly comes to an end. Football players are so used to daily routines, being idolised by fans and the comradery in the dressing room. It is a huge change once a player retires – it has unfortunately seen some professionals suffer from depression or turning to alcohol.

I do not believe that there is enough help on hand for players, with many not knowing what they will after they have finished playing. There isn’t any career advice given to players, this would be at least a baby step into helping ex professionals cope with life after football. There should be help for players that are coming up to retirement, they should be sat down and told about the harsh realities of the real world.

The top five or six percent of retired players will go into punditry, however for the majority of ex players that is not the case. Around 40 percent of footballers are declared bankrupt within five years of retiring. Once players have ended their careers, they are finding themselves in serious financial strife and with no one to turn to for help. Players are paid extortionate amounts of money in today’s game, it will come as a shock to players when that suddenly stops. Of course fans will have no sympathy, as they pay their hard earned money to watch their team play each week. The problem is that players live such luxurious lifestyles now, when they retire and the money stops they will start to have problems very quickly. This is mainly due to players spending money quite carelessly when they are still playing, they get paid so much each week that if they invest badly in something they would hardly notice the shortfall. Players will think that they can continue their lavish lifestyles when they finish playing, however that is rarely the case.

It is not only exclusively unjustified spending that is resulting in hardship for former players. Footballers are often chased by financial advisers, who know high profile sport stars will be more easily convinced than people with comparable wealth in other industries. Players will enter into schemes that may seem legal with little understanding of the potential consequences. It seems a fundamental desire to avoid paying tax will always be prevalent amongst society’s highest earners. An investigation by Sports Illustrated in 2009 looked at how players often invested in depreciating assets (like £15,000 watches); gave money to friends and relied on untrustworthy advisers. Divorce rates are also much higher in retirement, meaning players can lose half of their large net worth but with their peak earning period over.

When the financial vultures start circling, there are limited places an ex player can turn to for help. Clubs and relevant associations tend to keep out of player’s financial affairs, usually to everyone but the investment company’s detriment. They have already been sucked into a system that forces them to abandon education for a small chance of success. Those who make it are the lucky ones. Those who invest their earnings wisely enough to last a lifetime are even luckier.

I think that clubs should do a lot more when the players are at a young age, put on different classes that help them gain qualifications because the reality of it is – a lot of promising youngsters do not make the cut and are left with nothing. Also when a player retires, they will have no qualifications and if they do not go back into football, they will struggle to find anywhere else that will give them a chance.

The PFA should be doing a lot more, players should not just be forgotten about as soon as they retire. When their career ends is when they are at their most vulnerable and they must be given guidance. It is a very sad state that even in this day and age people are prepared to turn their backs on retired players.