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Former football star Louis Saha: “We need to put an end to gangsters and sharks”

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David McKee and Kevin McMenamin of Kingsbridge Asset Management made over 5m in commission on the players investments before they were sent tax demands after the government challenged the schemes. And it’s not the first time; with weekly pay packets of hundreds of thousands of pounds, top footballers and other high-earning professional sportspeople are often an easy target for people who see them as their next moneymaking scheme and unfortunately it’s not uncommon for the biggest stars to get into difficulties.

Its fair to say that weve had enough of gangsters and business sharks that talk very well but are just looking to take your money. It’s hard when you don’t know if the people around you really want to help you or just make money for themselves; it makes you paranoid.

I know, as Ive been subject to investment schemes like this where I got lured in by promises of getting tax back but ended up losing a large amount of money. Many players invested and it all went wrong.

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But it’s too simple to blame the footballers; the key is to understand and appreciate the pressure players are under. Its all about getting fitter, stronger and more efficient in front of the goal, resulting in that you dont think about anything else. And even if you’re clued up, these tax-dodging and investment schemes are really complex in the best of times, which doesn’t make things easier when you get bombarded with propositions around the clock.

The general public mistakenly see footballers as lavish spenders who give little thought to their future. I think a lot of them do, actually; it’s just that there is a lot of naivety and ignorance about finance.

While footballers typically put money away for their retirement, they dont always pay enough attention to the investments they make. We think weve invested, but there are a lot of people out there who are ripping players off. Its a question of making sure you know what you’re investing in.

Players are easy targets. Weve got a lot of money to throw around and half of us dont know what to do with it; so a lack of business acumen, twinned with poor or dishonest advice, quickly becomes a recipe for disaster. The situation isnt made any better as that macho attitude has disdained asking for help or admitting you have a problem.

Furthermore, when players do try to invest their money wisely, we often make poor choices. This is mostly because the lack of interest and education necessary to manage an investment portfolio. Managing large amounts of money is a skill, and it is not one taught in football academies, trust me! Instead, financial naivety is more often neglected or exploited by advisers than it is mitigated.

Why ex-footballer Louis Saha launched a business preventing athletes from going bankrupt

But we shouldnt blame the players for their plight. Very few of us were born into wealth and as a result, we were never ready for it, never prepared, never capable. The misery suffered is the result of a system that ceases to care the day you hang up your boots, of clubs and businessmen more interested in trophies than pension plans, and of a culture that overvalues material success over education, ephemerality over sustainability.

Around four per cent of the mis-selling victims are reported to be sportsmen, with footballers being a considerably key target. Moreover, the statistics make difficult reading; the myth that footballers are set for life thanks to their footballing career is dispelled by the fact that 60 per cent of Premier League footballers are declared bankrupt within five years of retiring. On the whole, it’s estimated that two out of five footballers run into financial troubles after retiring from the game.

It would be easy to blame these seemingly unlikely financial failings on other, well-publicised, excesses of the game. However, the financial reality of a footballing career is usually very far away from what the public and the youngsters entering the profession perceive to be the case.

To combat these issues and to help clean up the now corrupted the world of football, Ive launched Axis Stars, a platform that helps professional sportspeople manage their financial futures and avoid conmen. Axis Stars is not advising nor negotiating on behalf of the members but acts as a secure filter to help professional sportspeople find reputable advisors.

Not only are we giving our members access to key advisers, in a move to tackle the major issue of post-retirement bankruptcy, but also, we allow them to rate the performances of agents and other companies and providers theyve worked with, in order to create a more transparent industry, in the same way that TripAdvisor has done for the travel sector. Recommendations and ranking come from members including Mo Farah, Didier Drogba, the Neville brothers, Thierry Henry and many more.

But I do believe the bottom line is: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

For any questions or comments on this, please tweet me on: @louissaha08

Former footballer Louis Saha is fonder of Axis Stars.



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