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Using a trust to prepare for life after football


While footballers at the top level earn vast sums, the career earnings of players in the lower divisions may not be enough to see them through potentially five decades of retirement. James Dickinson explores how using a trust could help players afford a more comfortable life when their playing days are over.

In an age where some football players are being paid more than £500,000 per week by choosing to go and play in the Chinese Super League, there are by contrast many who spend their entire career in the lower echelons of English football.

While they may earn more than the average person, they generally do not see the same riches and have a far shorter window of time in which to earn that money.

The average career span of a football player is eight years, and most will find themselves retired by the age of 35. If you are not one of the lucky few players to hit the heights of Premier League football, it’s unlikely your career earnings alone will see you through potentially 50 years of retirement.

The earnings gap between top and bottom

The figures in the table below highlight the chasm between a Premier League wage and a League Two wage.

Division Average Salary per year (£)
Premier League 1,700,000
Championship 324,000
League One 69,500
League Two 40,350


The difference between an average Premier League yearly salary and a League Two one is a staggering £1,659,650.

While some players will have the opportunity to go into coaching, management or punditry, many will not. There are around 3,500 to 4,000 professional football players in the UK and with only limited numbers of jobs available in football after retirement, it is easy to see why many players are unable to continue being involved in the game.

It is also worth noting that there are examples of non-players becoming involved in the coaching and management side of football which potentially results in even fewer jobs available to ex-pros.

Avoiding bankruptcy when hanging up your boots

The football player charity ‘Xpro’ estimates that around 60% of professional football players are or will be declared bankrupt within five years of retirement. Among the prominent names you may have heard of are Paul Merson, David James and Paul Gascoigne.

The question that therefore springs to mind is: can more be done too assist players in protecting their finances from external sources and sometimes from themselves?

From a purely legal view point there are ways in which players can protect their assets, whether it is through trust funds, tax planning, pensions or life assurance policies.

Other legal protections can come through properly drafted intellectual property agreements, sponsorship deals, contracts of employment drafted and reviewed with players’ best interests at heart and even effective pre-nuptial agreements.

Using a trust to prepare for life post football

An example of how setting up a trust fund can help a player save for retirement is shown below. An average Championship player earns £324,000 per year (as per the above table).

That roughly equates to £6,000 per week. A contribution of £2,000 per week into a trust fund (managed by whomever the player wishes, whether it be professional trustees or lay trustees, for instance parents), without investment the capital alone would accumulate to just short of £1,000,000 over the average career length.

As this money is managed by trustees it can be paid to the beneficiary of the trust i.e. the player at the discretion of the trustees. This therefore would leave little risk of this money being spent in a frivolous manner.

Such an amount of money would provide an excellent ‘cash buffer’ for retired players while they make decisions regarding their future careers.

This is just one example of how seeking proper legal advice at an early stage of a footballer’s career can greatly assist in preventing bankruptcy after retirement from the game.

Many footballers are now branching out from football and examples include Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Robbie Fowler, who now find themselves with many other streams of income outside the world of football.

Harrison Drury’s trust planning experts can advise footballers and non-footballers alike in the use of trusts in financial planning. To find out more, please contact James Dickinson or Ed Stanley on 01772 258321.

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