Football Comment: Footballers may be multi-millionaires, but they are still at risk of financial pitfalls too

Footballers could be an untapped resource for club owners and financial institutions
Ex-England keeper David James’ recent bankruptcy shows stars aren’t immune

IF YOU find the sums of money swirling around in football unpalatable, then stand by your beds because, in the next 10 years, it will look like chicken feed.

The growth in the bottom line of Europe’s elite clubs is now being driven by two things: Uefa’s fundamentally flawed financial fair play rules, which prevent clubs spending more than their income, and the technology sector.

Facebook’s purchase of the Oculus Rift virtual reality system has the ability to put any spectator on the planet into the best seat in any stadium in the world, giving the impression of being at the ground while the headset flashes up affiliate in-play betting and beer commercials in the top corner.

If Manchester United’s millions of global fans were to pay a subscriber fee to watch their team play live every week, it would blow any offer that BT or Sky could muster clean out of the water.

The net result is that wages will increase. After all, you’re paying to watch us, your team. We are the entertainment and we are increasingly aware of it.

What has always surprised me is the lack of financial help afforded to players by their clubs.

It is still as easy as ever to con a football player out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

And I speak on behalf of 99.9 per cent of my contemporaries when I say that we don’t want the headache of investing money, we just want to play football.

With some of the affiliations that top clubs have to financial institutions, it amazes me that the owners have not worked out that recommending players to such an institution could, in a roundabout way, reclaim some of the salary outlay through legitimate finders’ fees and kick-backs – thus increasing the clubs’ own spending power before those financial fair play restrictions bite.

Actually, in amazes me that the institutions haven’t approached the clubs yet because the best thing about footballers – as far as investors are concerned – is that where one goes, the rest follow.

I remember being told that, when David Beckham was given a house on The Palm resort in Dubai by the developer, in return for promoting the project, he was the England captain at the time.

He took it on the condition that the England squad players were allowed to purchase similar properties for cash for half the purchase price. That is part of why Beckham is a legend in the game to us players.

A team-mate, a friend of mine, who hadn’t done any due diligence at all on the project, told me that the deal made him over £1.5m when he sold the property four years later.

All he’d done was listen to Beckham. Scary, huh?

My friend wanted the money to invest in some projects that other players were into, so the timing was sheer luck.

Yet many of the other England players didn’t get out in time and the market crashed.

The whole thing is a coin toss and, mark my words, unless someone gets a grip, it’ll go wrong for my friend one day, too.

The Secret Footballer is the pseudonym for an English Premier League footballer. His third book, The Secret Footballer’s Guide to the Modern Game, is out now on Guardian Faber, priced £12.99. / @TSF

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