With a promising career in football cut short through injury, Fergus Bell explains why his fellows players should plan for a life after the game.
Lavish lifestyles and salaries that most people can only dream of are what first come to mind, but with an average career of less than eight years, life as a professional footballer can be short and sometimes end in disaster for those who haven’t planned for the future.
Those at the very top of their game can earn a six figure sum each week, with sponsorship and endorsement deals propelling them into the world of the super rich. Others further down the pecking order survive on much less, while some famously crash and burn and end up losing their earnings through mis-management of their finances.
Injury can also put paid to the most promising careers and young players can find themselves at a crossroads – giving up because their dreams are shattered or regrouping and looking at a new lifestyle.
Former professional footballer Fergus Bell is one such player whose promising career ended because of a serious knee injury. He understands only too well the dilemma facing young men whose dreams of sporting success are snatched away, but is encouraging anyone in that position not to turn their back on a successful life thereafter.
“Upon my final diagnosis with the doctors at the PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) and the realisation I wasn’t going to be able to play professionally any more, I thought it was the end,” said Fergus. “Throughout the obvious emotional turmoil, you still have one eye on the immediate and distant future. I couldn’t see past it, it’s a very hard situation to accept.”
Rather than give up Fergus decided to look to turning another passion of his into a career – and so the Fifty Two Group was born.
Working with another ex-professional sportsman, former rower Daniel Gibson, the pair set up a property development group and are currently turning a former Georgian grade II listed building in Durham into 12 luxury apartments.
“We live in the age of accessibility with endless routes to market across so many different sectors thanks to the wonders of the internet. There is always something else you can do,” said Fergus.
“Sometimes you just have to exchange one dream for another.”
Fergus gives his top tips for building a life beyond the pitch:
Embrace your previous life
The majority of sportsman don’t realise that the core skills learned throughout a sporting career will in fact set you in good stead for a business career. Public speaking, pitching and presenting are similar in ways to that diplomatic but convincing post-match interview with the press.
Negotiation – remember those contract negotiations with agents and managers? Use this skill to negotiate post football. In short, even without a higher education, you are still perfectly equipped to tackle the twists and turns of day to day business from what you know already.