When he dips away and ramps a head-scratching fast bowler for six, you might think England cricketer Jos Buttler just spends his spare time dreaming up new ways to hit boundaries.
Over the past decade the one-day supremo has been at the forefront of changing the way that runs can be scored and has been feted as among the greatest to play the white ball game.
But even as he prepares to defend England’s 2019 World Cup in India this year, England’s Somerset-born captain has his mind beyond the boundary: much as fans would like him to go on indefinitely, Buttler is already thinking of life after cricket.
“I’ve always had a bit of an interest in business and no real knowledge, just sort of ‘what is investing and what do people do and how does it work?’,” Buttler tells City A.M. in an interview.
“Obviously as a sports person, your careers are finite and could stop anytime through a loss of form or injury, so it’s always been one eye on what I might do next, or what opportunities are out there, and what skills you can transfer across from your sporting environment.”
The answer for now appears to be venture capital. Buttler, along with team mates Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad and Indian batsman KL Rahul, are among a host of big name sports stars and professional investors to plough £40m into a new venture called The Players Fund, which both looks to channel cash into a young companies and give athletes a glimpse of life beyond sport.
The new firm has been born from a group of athlete collectives across the US and UK, including ForGood, led by former Manchester United defender Chris Smalling and B-Engaged, headed by Hector Bellerín and Serge Gnabry.
Buttler, Broad, Stokes and Archer meanwhile are members of 4Cast, set up by former pro footballer Fergus Bell and his brother Rory, to begin building business interests for sports stars and give them something to fall back on beyond retirement.
“In the pandemic we had about 12 athletes come to us and say ‘what happens if the Sky TV money ends? If the central contracts end?’ We decided with Ben, Stuart and Jofra to launch 4Cast,” Bell tells City A.M..
Bell’s pro football career was cut short by injury and he’s now become a sort of fixer for professional sports stars as they grapple with a life outside sport. Buttler is among the newer signatories to the group but it’s perhaps an indication of where his mind is going.
He says he’s already sitting in on business calls and scoping out ways where his cricketing nous can add value.
“[I draw] from my different experiences on the sports field that link into some form of leadership or problem solving, which may help in a certain situation or may help push something forward.
“And it’s stuff I’m interested in – I can add value to it.”
He says he’s already invested in a growing Manchester-based padel business called the Padel Club and is on the hunt for other opportunities that catch his eye.
Outside the dressing room
Finding things that excite and stimulate after a life dedicated to the relentless pursuit of winning is a challenge increasingly troubling the world of professional sport.
Much has been written about the psychological drop-off facing professional footballers for example after their careers come to a premature close. 4Cast and now The Players Fund are positioning themselves as a solution to helping sportspeople learn the wares of business and offering them a vehicle to invest.
“You lose that identity that you’ve had since you were 16 or even younger,” adds Bell. “Maybe you’re always the football guy or the cricket guy, and the Players Fund is there almost solely for that really to prepare guys and female athletes after sport.”
Venture capital and investing are proving particularly popular routes for post-sport careers. Former F1 star Nico Rosberg is now a prolific investor, quarterback Tom Brady recently was a key player in the purchase of Birmingham City and Lewis Hamilton and Serena Williams both mulled entering consortiums for the Chelsea sale last year.
“We see the story of Wrexham, Tom Brady’s just got involved with Birmingham. People see that and think maybe there’s potential in some way, shape or form […] for people to get involved in these things,” Buttler says.
So can we expect a new lower league football club purchase from the newly former Players Fund?
“Who knows,” say a chuckling Bell and Buttler.
View from the pavillion
The cricketing world may also be proving a fruitful ground for a new generation of investors. The fact that four of the biggest names in the England set up of the last four years have thrown their weight behind the new fund is surely no coincidence.
Is there something unique to the English game that is producing it?
“Well, there’s a lot of rain breaks in cricket,” Buttler laughs. “So there’s plenty of dead time where you’re thinking what you would do if you weren’t a cricketer.
“Some people have got no interest in the dressing room and just want to bat and just want to bowl and sort of just blinkered to the finish line. And [say] ‘I’ll sort it out when I finish my career.”
But the team atmosphere of an investment collective has been a draw outside of cricket for Buttler. He’s teaming up with Stokes on the fund just after the news he will be reunited with the test captain out of one-day retirement for November’s world cup.
“It’s an incredible boost for us,” he says. But is his investing like his bazball batting?
“He does things one way – so probably.”