Sheffield W U23 2500

Mind the Gap: English footballers plan ahead

English Premier League players are being encouraged to prepare for life after football, even if they have just signed their first contract.

The Professional Footballers Association (PFA) regularly visits Premier League and Championship clubs to speak with Under-23 squads about making plans for the future.

Paul Raven, a PFA education executive, spoke to the "Mind the Gap" campaign after he made a presentation to young players recently.

“It is better that they start planning at a younger age,” Raven, who played for English clubs including West Bromwich Albion, said. “It doesn’t matter how long you’re in the game, at some point you end up, like me, being out of the game and being an ex-footballer."

“At the PFA, we’ve been particularly active the last 2 or 3 years with players at the development squad age: I’ve been down to Brighton, across to Norwich up to Middlesbrough to speak to players, I’ve covered the country.

“I’m giving them the same message as if they were established professionals in their 30s: take care of your future. If you have a structured plan you can work towards a smoother transition to life after football."

The PFA distributes more than 1,000 grants every year to help players – both active and retired – finance courses. Of those doing a university course, 39% choose a sports-related subject, 18% pick a business course and 8% select a science subject.

“We’ve got doctors, pilots, lads working on North Sea oil rigs, taxi drivers”

— by Paul Raven, PFA Education Executive

Others specialize in physiotherapy, architecture and politics. Outside university, players are trained in everything from barbering to becoming an airline pilot.

“We’ve got doctors, pilots, lads working on North Sea oil rigs, taxi drivers,” Raven said. “It’s incredible the range and scope of industries footballers go into.”