UEFA and Santander launch initiative to help players navigate financial pitfalls

Santander and UEFA have launched a financial management programme to work with players of all ages, with former internationals Gaizka Mendieta and David James also offering their advice on how to manage one's finances given their past footballing experiences.

Santander's Juan de Dios Sanchez-Roselly gave financial advice to players at the UEFA Youth League finals
Santander's Juan de Dios Sanchez-Roselly gave financial advice to players at the UEFA Youth League finals©UEFA.com

Becoming a professional footballer can lead to fame and fortune, but it can also mean new responsibilities on and off the pitch. While players have the chance to earn millions, there are numerous pitfalls they can face – such as overspending and taking poor advice – which can unfortunately end in financial ruin. 

With this in mind, UEFA, in conjunction with Spanish bank Santander, a UEFA Champions League partner, have launched a course giving players the chance to gain a greater understanding when it comes to managing their finances.

The UEFA Financial Management Training (UEFA FMT) programme offers the keys to mastering the basics of financial management and the tools to both plan in advance and keep on top of it on a day-to-day basis.

David James:
David James:©UEFA.com

"We at Santander want to set the pace in terms of sustainable and responsible banking," said Armando Baquero Ponte, the global head of finance and strategy at Santander Wealth Management. "Partnering with UEFA to improve European football players' financial education and help them prosper financially was a clear and compelling objective that is aligned with our vision. We think that the UEFA Financial Management Training is a great tool to do this in a broad and engaging manner." 

The UEFA FMT is an e-learning platform and the course lasts for seven modules, covering the basic principles of finance such as cash management, credit, savings and investments, while also providing a comprehensive introduction into entrepreneurship. Upon its conclusion, the participants will have acquired a greater knowledge in order to make informed decisions and plan for the future.

"UEFA is delighted to have the opportunity to call on Santander's financial expertise and experience in order to help run this course," said UEFA's director of marketing, Guy-Laurent Epstein. "Financial management is of vital importance to players of all ages and through this course they will receive all necessary tools in order to remain in control of their finances."

'Too good to be true'

David James played at UEFA EURO 2004 for England
David James played at UEFA EURO 2004 for England©Getty Images

For former England goalkeeper David James, the best piece of advice he would give to youngsters who are just starting out in the game, as well as those who have established careers, is always to be careful who you trust. 

"Not being an expert in finance, the difficulty is you listen to something and think it's going to be right," said James. "It sounds so good and you get involved and then it doesn't work out. As the saying goes, if it's too good to be true, it probably isn't true.

"There's a standard number and the more money there is in football, the higher that standard number will get. We know that's not the case. My advice, and something I've learned later on in life, is that if someone gives you a contract or a deal, read it. Even if you don't understand it, at least get some knowledge of what you're about to do.

"Then go to someone with the expertise to actually go through it properly. Too often it's a mate, a friend or a relative, who says: 'Do this', 'Do that'. You trust them, you do it and it doesn't work out. If in doubt – which should always be the case if you're not an expert – get someone who knows the right answer."

Do your research

Mendieta performing at the UEFA Champions League festival
Mendieta performing at the UEFA Champions League festival©Sportsfile

Like James, Gaizka Mendieta has also enjoyed becoming a DJ following the end of his career, while he has a number of other interests. Having realised that Spanish cuisine was becoming more and more popular, the former midfielder did his research and decided to invest in a restaurant business in London. 

"I knew the product was successful, because they already had two restaurants, so I knew it was working well," the former Spain midfielder said. "I knew there was a demand for Spanish cuisine, and I knew they were good businessmen.

"From there, now we have eight [restaurants], we're thinking of opening another one, and parallel to that we have two other projects, one of which will open now in May. But [they're] basically with the same sort of people. Why? Because I know they work well, they're professionals, and I know they do things in the way that I think can work."

When he was just starting out his career, Mendieta, who would go on to play for Valencia, Lazio, Barcelona and Middlesbrough, was lucky to have sound financial advice courtesy of his parents, with his father being a former footballer and his mother a businesswoman.

Mendieta now runs a successful restaurant business
Mendieta now runs a successful restaurant business©UEFA.com

"She bought my first flat, she got my contract, got the money, bought me a flat," he explained. "Whenever there was an opportunity to invest, if she didn't know, she would take me to someone to discuss it. I never really invested in anything without either my dad or mum knowing about it, and then they would refer me to someone. Through habit, that's how I did it." 

As his career progressed, Mendieta would often call on experts to give him the best possible advice, partly because he was interested in this topic on a personal level.

"I wasn't educated the way other people perhaps are, but I had that interest in wanting to learn the basics of how things were doing or how things had to be done in order to get a return. I had that interest, I think I've learnt, and I had my investment advisors, tax advisors, lawyers with whom I had meetings regularly."

'Always playing for another contract'

The UEFA FMT will help players of all ages to get a better idea of how to manage their finances and plan for a future outside of the game. This is especially important because footballers run the risk of having their career ended at any stage due to the possibility of an injury which could threaten their livelihood.

"This sounds like a cliche, but you actually never know when your career is going to finish," said James. "I was advised as a youngster by a senior player who said: 'Every time you sign a contract, you're playing for another contract'."

James also advises footballers to broaden their horizons and look outside the industry, adding: "These opportunities are there. Football is a massive industry with lots of opportunities. It's slightly contradictory but if you only focus on football, then you miss out on a lot of opportunities to develop in other areas."