SIMON CHURCH pauses before reciting one of football’s most staggering but forgotten about statistics.
“60 per cent of Premier League footballers go bankrupt when they retire.”
It’s a percentage that will infuriate most football fans, seeing the likes of recently potless Carlton Cole previously earn more in a year than some do in a lifetime.
You can understand their point – the average weekly wage of a top-flight player is now exceeding £50k, with some appearing to be set for life before they reach 21.
So why and how are they going bankrupt?
For former Wales international Church, it’s a problem in the game that is generally misunderstood – and one which he is hoping to help change for players in the Prem and EFL.
The former striker launched a company called Church Investments – who are now in partnership with top interior designers Alexander James[/caption]
Church, left, advises Prem stars on how to invest their money[/caption]
After being forced into early retirement in May aged just 29 thanks to a troublesome hip, the ex-Reading striker has begun work with his own property investment company Church Investments.
He said: “When I first had my injury two years ago it really hit me, and I thought that realistically I could never come back from this, so I looked into the business of property investment.
“Growing up you never thought about it, but then one of your teammates would retire and you wouldn’t hear from them for weeks. Suddenly they have gone part time as a postman.
“Throughout my whole career I had the advice of my dad saying: ‘Everything you earn put it into property, don’t go and buy a flash new penthouse’, which is what I secretly wanted to do.
Church’s father helped him by advising him to invest in property[/caption]
“I built up a portfolio so that when the time came for me to retire I had that to fall back on financially and wasn’t shocked coming out of the game – unlike a lot of players who really are.”
Other than divorce settlements, Church believes that a lack of preparation for life away from the pitch is the killer – and the problem is only getting bigger.
He said: “We are lucky if we play until the age of 35.
“And despite earning an amazing amount of money, most guys haven’t got anything in place for afterwards.
Former Chelsea and West Ham striker Carlton Cole declared bankrupt last month[/caption]
Church claims 60 per cent of Prem stars go bankrupt[/caption]
Church had to retire in May due to injury[/caption]
“And it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got in the bank, it’s going to dwindle pretty quickly. By then it’s too late.
“You always live to your means regardless of what you earn a week and most like lavish lifestyles.
“And yes players have financial advisers, but they are not specifically advising them for the long term.”
He added: “I didn’t think I would have to retire. It literally happened within a couple of weeks and then you’re forgotten about.
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“Since retiring I’ve only had about one or two people ask me how I’ve been getting on or whether they can help, and I’m lucky to have even had that.
“It’s such a crazy bubble that when you come out you forget what the real world is like.”
Part of the blame appears to lie with football itself – players are changing clubs constantly, while the loan system is forcing young players to continually rent rather than buy and invest.
Church, who played for five different clubs in his final two years of football, said: “Towards the end of my career I felt like I was moving clubs and houses ever six months. It’s a massive spiralling issue.”
He spent six years playing as a striker at Reading[/caption]
He scored 22 goals in 104 appearances for the Royals[/caption]
And Church insists that clubs and the FA must take on some responsibility as well.
He added: “Players are told to get their coaching badges but to get a half decent job in coaching after football is impossible.
“The only way you do that is if you’re lucky and know someone who will give you the role because now there are so many good qualified coaches who are not even ex-players anymore.
“There are jobs that you feel like you should get but there are thousands applying for them and then what do you do?”
Church represented Wales on 38 occasions[/caption]
Church’s mantra to help his old pals struggling financially is simple: Find them potential investment opportunities, then manage it and build it.
And he has already had former teammates and current players asking for help.
“The first aim is to flick the switch, whether you are 21 or 31,” he said.
“History tells us that property always grows wherever you are in the country, so you’ve got an asset that will always grow and a bit of income dependent on what you want to put into it.
“We have a team of solicitors that can help, and they are all people I trust and are transparent. That’s the main thing.
“In my experience of football, you don’t get a lot of trust and transparency.
“So that’s what I want to give to other people – and give them a life after football.”