Interview with the Vice President of FIFPro-Europe, Mr. Spyros Neophytides

Interview with the Vice President of FIFPro-Europe, Mr. Spyros Neophytides

Question: List and explain the most important issues faced by footballers as they near retirement.

Answer: As they near retirement, footballers come across a series of different issues. One of the primary and most important issues they face is their future financial sustainability and the huge danger to have limited to almost no income when they stop playing football. Apart from that, lack of education can create huge stress, as it creates uncertainty regarding their future professional steps. In addition, the possible lack of accumulated financial funds can be very stressful for professional football players because it means that they have to start building their life away from sports from scratch. The effect on the psychological state of pro-athletes can be devastating and may cause serious health hazards, including depression, sleeping and dietary disorders, anxiety and unrest.

Question: How does FIFPro prepare its members for retirement and life after sports, in terms of education, career development, and financial sustainability?

Answer: FIFPRO has several programs that are utilized by numerous member unions to support footballers. Such programs aim to educate the players and prepare them for a smooth transition from a football professional career to a new, probably different career. For this purpose, FIFPRO has instigated the so called “Players Development Managers” (PDM) who are trained to engage with players, inform and prepare them on what to expect as they near retirement and also guide them in the process of preparing their future career development. Also, FIFPRO has introduced several other programs like the “JOB4PLAYERS” and “Mind the Gap” that prepare players for their retirement.

Question: Based on your experience as a former footballer, what is the best advice you could offer to other athletes on the matter?

Answer: The best advice I could give to athletes is to be prepared. They need to realize that an athlete’s career is short. From the moment they turn professional, they should realize that their profession has an expiration date, hence the need to prepare for a second career after their sports career retirement. Regardless of each player’s personalized plan, whether that be in sports or in another industry, players should understand that they need to devise a plan, act on that plan throughout their playing days, create savings and investments and revenue streams unrelated to their playing abilities, and reap the benefits when it’s time to retire.

Question: In relation to the financial future and sustainability of athletes nearing retirement, what would be your advice to athletes and how do you think the industry can support athletes in the long term?

Answer: Athletes should receive support and mentorship from fellow athletes who have been through the process, but should also seek professional support from people or firms that can guide their financial endeavors and decisions.  It’s actually a recommended action plan well before footballers near retirement, as we all need to understand that miracles cannot happen and definitely, one should not expect fireworks to save the day!  Given that footballers’ earnings peak relatively early and in large amounts, footballers should turn to sound, honest and professional guidance to prepare for life after sports. The industry has a moral and social responsibility to support athletes, by creating opportunities for a dual career, as well as providing constant access to resources and to a renewed framework of “business as usual”. This renewed framework should have the athletes’ health (mental and physical) and their future financial sustainability as a priority, given that these athletes constitute assets who need to be well taken care of, now and in the future.          

Question: What are the social challenges faced by retiring footballers and how can they prepare for them?

Answer: Footballers tend to be highly publicized and popular figures, who receive global attention and large rewards; their life is highly structured and repetitive, full of personal and family sacrifices. One should expect that the end of an athletic career comes with lower levels of stress and the tension caused by the constant demands of a sports career, and that it is more relaxed and family oriented.  Instead of that, athletic retirement lacks the structure and repetition of sports life , it lacks the attention, the rewards and the popularity and can often lead to health-related problems. It’s not uncommon for athletes to suffer from depression, some reporting even greater problems like suicidal tendencies, alcoholism and other addictions. It’s quite usual for athletes nearing retirement to have no idea what to do next, worried about their future and their financial stability.  Athletes are in need of a transitional period, but in order to have as smooth a transition as possible, athletes should remember that preparing for this transition starts on the day they sign their first pro contract. Athletes should remember to enjoy the ride and embrace future developments. Retirement is a fact of life and it should be anticipated and taken care of accordingly.

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