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With increased optimism, FIFPro welcomes the new report on Football Career funds around Europe by Ernst & Young. Although the continent is coping with a persistent crisis the report shows that improvement of current systems is possible.


‘We are all aware that professional athletes must be facilitated to have a second career’, says FIFPro Secretary General, Theo van Seggelen. ‘The European Commission initiates a better climate for pension funds in general. Because of the specific nature of professional sport, it is not only old age pensions which deserve attention but also career funds. Most of the professional athletes need the support of a career fund to have a normal life after their active career has finished’.


Initiated by FIFPro, Ernst &Young has just published its third report on Tax and Career Facilities for Professional Football. In this 2013 edition, 30 European countries are examined, nine more than in their previous research (in 2005) and 18 more than in the first version (in 1999). Research was done on three important issues:

  • Tax rates and tax climate
  • Pension and career funds
  • Education and other career facilities


FIFPro concludes that there is a growing awareness of the importance of career funds and pension funds for professional footballers. Such funds have a very special purpose, being to protect the player: a) every euro that is contributed in a pension or career fund cannot be spent on any of the temptations of life, and b) these savings can help financially bridge the gap between the active and second career, and can help him start a new career.


Most of the Western European countries have existing pension funds which work well, but many of the Eastern European countries lag behind. Currently, discussions are taking place between unions, clubs and governments to introduce some form of pension fund. However, the reality is that such discussions take a long time.


Another challenge, according to both Ernst & Young and FIFPro, remains the possibilities for players to bridge the ‘black gap’ between the active and the second career. For former players new jobs in professional football are scarce and this situation will probably persist due to the economic crisis and the growing awareness of the importance of financial fair play.


Education improves the chances of finding a new job. In many of the countries investigated there are initiatives to educate players and former players - opportunities that are actively supported by FIFPro and the European Commission. However in most countries the costs of education are borne by the players themselves. Ernst & Young and FIFPro are of the opinion that clubs should also accept their responsibility as a corporate social responsible stakeholder, as recent bankruptcies have shown that it is not always in the hands of the player to decide when to end his active career.


Van Seggelen: ‘That professional athletes need extra care has been proven by various reports (for example ESPN’s documentary “Broke”) proving that a significant percentage of former professional athletes end up bankrupt within a relatively short period. A career or pension fund could prevent such misery.’


‘FIFPro calls on their social partners and the governments to follow the new policy established by the European Commission to facilitate the establishment of career funds. Such approach fits in a corporate social responsibility approach for  every professional club in Europe that takes itself seriously.’


Ernst & Young ranked the thirty participating countries based on the attractiveness of tax and career facilities. Spain and the Netherlands are ranked equally. Because of the lower maximum income tax rate, the Netherlands end up first.


Van Seggelen: ‘In the list of countries we see significant shifts regarding the ranking of countries. In a number of countries the situation has become better than eight years ago. When we look at the background of these figures it comes to mind that clubs and governments in these countries show greater responsibility for the wellbeing of professional football players after their active career.’


‘Professional sports need tailor-made solutions and especially the law and regulations in Spain and the Netherlands show that a proper outcome can be a reality in different jurisdictions regardless of the general tax rate.’


Finally, FIFPro wants to emphasise that the situation in most Eastern European countries is worrying. These countries might have low income tax rates, but they also lack other career facilities. In these countries, the professional footballers do not have regular employment contracts. This is stimulated from a tax perspective: the total tax and social security costs are much lower than in the case of an employment contract. In these countries, the short term goal of a higher net income for the player prevails over long term goals, which are players' rights and their financial security. This needs to be reversed.