Failure to adapt to a career change often leads to new challenges at home
After Gary Lineker became the latest high profile ex-footballer to announce his divorce, expert lawyers from Irwin Mitchell have called for more to be done to support players once their careers reach the final stages and prepare them for the challenges ahead.
The former Aston Villa, Marseille and Millwall player turned successful pundit Tony Cascarino spoke to The Sunday Times this weekend to share his experiences after two failed marriages.
Tony Cascarino first married when he was 25 and had two children but the relationship ended in an “amicable split” when he was divorced seven years later.
Despite his ex-wife moving back to England with his kids Tony admitted to playing some of the best football of his career despite the difficulties in this private life. He said that this can be a recurring theme for many footballers who “immerse themselves in the game and become more focused” an option which is no longer available once your career is over.
Whilst living in France, Cascarino found love again, re-married and had three more children only to separate a year after retirement.
Xpro, a charity set up for the welfare of ex-professional footballers, revealed in 2014 that 33% of players get divorced within a year of retiring with many admitting a failure to adapt after hanging up their boots.
Cascarino admitted that it was “a nasty split” made more problematic by the fact his income had diminished due to his retirement. He added: ”My ex-wife took the children to Tahiti and the cost of flights to and from there was prohibitive. I was advised I had no legal means of challenging where my children lived.”
The striker who was capped 88 times by the Republic of Ireland admitted that he felt lost on his first day of retirement and “woke up without a clue what to do with my day”.
Despite lucrative wages at the top level of the country’s most popular game many footballers face financial difficulties when they fail to adapt their lavish lifestyles and focus on the next chapter of their life away from the pitch.
Family law expert Mark Hands from Irwin Mitchell acts for players and feels that there is an unfair stigma attached to professional footballers and it is time for the FA and the footballing industry as a whole to do more to support players and their wives when retirement approaches.
“There is an endemic failure to recognise mental health issues amongst footballers and the emptiness caused at the end of a career, which has a direct and indirect impact on family life.
“At a time when they need support from their partner they end up pushing them away and relationship worries then add to the strain felt after stopped doing the only thing they’ve known since they were teenagers.
“Yes, for many people being a footballer is a dream job but hundreds of professionals do not enjoy the money and fame that is associated with ‘the beautiful game’. Footballers from the lower leagues don’t earn enough money to support them once their career ends and therefore spend countless hours worrying about what to do when they retire and how they’ll continue to live the lifestyle they’re accustom too.
“Players are often advised to settle down and marry whilst they’re young so they’re away from the well-publicised distractions that can harm their career. But not enough is done to provide them with financial guidance and explain why prenuptials may help avoid some of the problems that could come later down the line.
“Unfortunately we’ve seen first-hand that often the first time a player speaks freely about their emotions and starts to get the support they need is in the first appointment with their divorce solicitor.
“Tony Cascarino’s words should not be ignored and it is worrying to hear his admission that “no wonder marriages fail at this point (after retirement), everything changes and the players feel lost and isolated”. Players may well become coaches and pundits but that may not make the transition any easier.
“Football is a unique industry. It is often assumed that splits are financially motivated and there is a distinct lack of empathy amongst the public when often a range of reasons are involved in the decision – ones that could have been prevented.
“Despite being modern day celebrities (whether they like it or not) we should not lose sight of that fact that these players have relationship challenges just like many of us do and the football clubs, the governing bodies and everyone with a vested interest in protecting footballers should work together to help prevent so many divorces taking place so soon after retirement.” Mark Hands - Senior Associate Solicitor