FIFPro thinks about life after football – Newspaper Kommersant No. 171 (7133) dated 09/22/2021

Labor Relations

The International Association of Professional Footballers (FIFPro) has called on the football industry to increase support for players in preparation for retirement. It came after the publication of a study by the structure, which, in its opinion, is a “wake-up call” indicating their serious vulnerability in this sense. The study shows that for half of football players, the end of their sports career comes as a surprise, and about the same percentage of them do not, at least, have no clear plans about what they will do after it.

FIFPro, the international football union, has published a study commissioned by experts from the University of Brussels. It was an important part of the Mind the Gap campaign launched by the structure several years ago. FIFPro initiated it with the aim of alleviating the difficulties faced by players after retirement from professional football. Within the framework of the campaign, in particular, seminars were organized at which famous football players shared their experience – most often successful ones. For example, once the famous defender of the Italian national team and Juventus Giorgio Chiellini spoke at such a seminar, who, while speaking, simultaneously received a university degree.

FIFPro surveyed 282 current and former footballers of various ages from 33 countries, 45.4% of whom came from national teams. And the organization’s secretary general, Jonas Baer-Hoffman, called its results a “wake-up call”, making it clear that, in his opinion, they fully confirm the assumptions that arose when the Mind the Gap campaign was launched.

The most important numbers that allowed FIFPro to interpret their research in this way are not difficult to highlight. Thus, only 33% of respondents answered affirmatively to the question whether they have confidence in what they will do after retirement. At the same time, 18% have not only confidence, but, in principle, any ideas about who they will become when they stop entering the field.

Another important conclusion that FIFPro draws from the study is that for many players, professional careers do not end the way they want, and not at the moment they think about. Of the former football players, 46% called it unexpected. Among the reasons that led to it, appear injuries, health problems and employment in football.

It is possible, however, that the key figure is in another section of the document. 54% of respondents reported that they did not receive any support related to planning a “second career”, that is, after football life. For a third of them, it was simply inaccessible.

Commenting on the study, Jonas Baer-Hoffman emphasized that footballers “make huge sacrifices” in childhood, as well as in their early 20s, to become professionals. In his opinion, the data from the document prove that representatives of the “football industry” are obliged to provide them with the help that the players desperately need, saying goodbye to sports. By it, Mr. Baer-Hoffman understands both non-material, say, with the provision of access to education, and material support.

Three countries – Australia, Denmark and England – are cited in the FIFPro statement as examples of where such support is effective. All of them have a practice of signing tripartite collective agreements between federations, leagues and local players’ unions. Under these agreements, a fixed portion of the income that clubs and leagues receive is directed to the union, and then spent specifically on the “development” of football players with an eye to the period when they leave the sport.

Alexey Dospekhov

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