The Need for Financial Literacy in Sport!

By Athena Constantinou, Managing Director, APC Sports Consulting, Nicosia, Cyprus

For professional athletes, success on the field of play has to be matched by success off the field of play.

In other words, the financial rewards from sporting prowess and success must not be squandered by high living and excessive spending during the limited career spans that professional athletes generally enjoy.

There are many examples of leading sports men and women, who have made it big in sporting and financial terms, whilst practising their sports, who later on have faced financial ruin and bankruptcy after their sporting careers have come to an end – either naturally or have been cut short through injury or accident.

How athletes do financially after retirement has been the subject of research and most of the available statistics come from North America, especially the big leagues with some of the highest salaries, such as the NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB.

So far, research in Europe and Australia has been quite limited.  As for the rest of the world, in South America, Asia and Africa, such research is practically non-existent.

The statistics that have been garnered from the available research are compelling, to say the least. Here are just a few of them:

  • Despite the exorbitant professional athlete salaries, within 5 years of their retirement, 60% of former NBA players have gone bankrupt or are under financial distress.
  • 25% of NFL players report financial difficulties during the first year of their retirement, and within two years of their last game, 78% of NFL players are divorced, bankrupt, or unemployed.
  • Three out of five English Premier League players, earning an average of £30,000 per week, declare bankruptcy within five years of their retirement.
  • In Australia, 12% of retired professional football players are dissatisfied with their current financial situations, 18,8% report that football has had a negative financial impact on them; and one out of three of them report that they have made decisions that have negatively affected their financial positions.

Amongst sports stars, who have failed financially in the long run, mention may be made of Evander Holyfield. The most decorated professional boxer in the history of the sport ended up, for a variety of reasons, including child support issues, completely broke and destitute.

Sadly, more examples may be cited of famous sports men and women, who have made millions but, after their glittering sporting careers have come to an end, have faced financial ruin and bankruptcy.

So, what is all this down to and how may such catastrophic financial outcomes be avoided?

There are a variety of causes, including extravagant lifestyles; external financial pressures from family, friends and coaches, wishing to share in the athletes’ financial success; expensive divorces; and gambling, which is widespread amongst professional athletes, to mention but a few of them.

But the most important reason of all is bad financial investments, misplaced trust in so-called ‘advisors’ and lack of financial education and knowledge.

In other words, lack of financial literacy!

But fear not, there is a solution to avoid this problem and professional help is at hand.

We, at APC Sports Consulting, believe that the solution lies in educating athletes to make sound financial decisions, by cultivating financial literacy as a life skill at all ages and stages of their careers.

The term financial literacy denotes an individual’s knowledge about money, personal finances, financial options, and the ability to make wise decisions concerning money.  Financially- educated athletes will be able to react in a more prudent and effective manner to situations arising from financial pressures or which involve financial decision-making – not only for the present, but also, just as importantly, for the future.

We have developed customised programmes to achieve these ends.

To conclude, what we want to accomplish through these APC Sports Consulting financial literacy programmes is as follows:

  • First, we want to make sure that athletes obtain a basic financial understanding, which will help them to make sound financial decisions, which usually have a lifelong impact.
  • Secondly, we want them to be able to identify who are the right people to advise them. In the international cross-border sports business, it is of paramount importance for athletes to surround themselves with trustworthy, qualified and knowledgeable professionals, who are there to help and protect their interests.
  • And lastly, we want them to be aware that developing their brand and working on their personal marketing and financial strategy will help them stay up-to-date and in the spotlight for much longer than their athletic miracles endure.

The time to start becoming a money smart athlete (www.moneysmartathlete.com) is today, not tomorrow. That will be a day too late!

Athena Constantinou may be contacted by e-mail at ‘athena@apc-sport.com’