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The Portuguese football player union SJPF is asking parliament to change national legislation so players can access a tax-efficient savings fund aged 35, when many struggle with a decline in salary.

Several FIFPro member unions have set up such funds including those in Finland, Slovenia, Sweden and Zimbabwe. In other countries, such as Portugal and the U.K., legislation prevents footballers accessing a pension in the middle of their working lives.

A law change in Portugal would help support players who cannot immediately find a second career, or who have suffered a sudden illness or injury. An estimated seven out of 10 players in Portugal run into financial trouble when their career comes to a sudden halt.

Former Celtic striker Amido Balde (pictured), for example, was forced to turn to the Portuguese union’s hardship fund for money to live off while he had a serious lung condition last year. He received no income for almost a year because the illness – a blocked artery - was not covered under a sports-injury insurance policy he had at first-division club Maritimo.

Footballers like Balde cannot access a pension until the age of 55 in Portugal, in line with workers in other industries.

 “We were able to help Amido but we can’t help everyone,” SJPF lawyer Joao Oliveira said.

Several political parties are open to the plan after hearing how many players on modest wages in Portugal run into difficulties, Oliveira said.

Under the union’s proposal, footballers would be able to contribute up to 7,000 euros per year into a fund with half tax free. To encourage players to start saving early the union proposes to make it compulsory for 5% of their salary to go into the fund.

“We want to make sure young players are prepared for the future,” Oliveira said. “The idea of saving is not appealing in your 20s, but it can make a big difference when you’re older.’’

In the Netherlands, players have to contribute 30% of their salary to a post-career fund. Some 15% of players in the country take between one and three years to find a job after their football career, according to a 2014 study.

SJPF in September announced plans to set up a pension fund, earning financial backing from the Portuguese football federation. The union is also actively encouraging active players to start studying for a second career.

Picture below: Amido Balde receives a Christmas hamper from SJPF officials João Oliveira, Joaquim Evangelista and Joaquim Rebelo.

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