It’s an oft-repeated adage that a sportsmen’s career is short and lacks stability. Even for those who make the grade and are not forced to retire through injury, in most sports it is very rare to play beyond 40.
It’s hardly surprising then that for years professional sportsmen have been weighing up their alternative options from an early age. Some even start businesses when they are still playing; either as a way to invest some of the piles of money they earn or as a way to remain in the public eye after they retire. Others add their drive and talents to other people’s companies after their retirement.
But for some athletes business is about survival. Olympians of track and field only make real money through sponsorship and rugby union was an amateur game until 1995/96.
So which stars have taken the business world by storm with their entrepreneurial spirit? Read on for some of the most famous names in sport – along with some whose talent for business far outstripped their athletic prowess.
One man who found professional success firmly after hanging up his racket is David Lloyd. Many people in the UK will be familiar with his upmarket tennis and leisure centres – but Lloyd was himself a professional tennis player until his retirement in 1981.
His career highlight was reaching the semi-final of the Wimbledon doubles in 1973. But as a singles player he didn’t reach the higher echelons of the game – never getting higher than 123 in the rankings.
But his leisure company has gone from strength to strength since he opened the first site in 1982. In 1995 Whitbread PLC bought the company in a deal worth £182 million – serving up a pretty tidy profit for Lloyd.
Redmond was part of the 4x400m relay team that triumphed against the much-fancied Americans in the 1991 World Championship in Tokyo. But perhaps he is most famous for the semi-final of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
After injuring his hamstring during the race, Redmond decided he still wanted to cross the line as a symbolic gesture. In a moment that would go down in Olympic history his father Jim joined him on the track and they crossed the line together.
Redmond has been a motivational speaker with his own business for several years and recently joined psychometric testing provider Thomas International. The company has adapted its employee-testing suite to athletes and Redmond’s experience in both fields will prove invaluable for the company’s development.
Redmond told Growth Business that “the mindset of the successful sportsperson is no different to the successful businessperson”.
“For years I’ve been advocating this through my motivational speaking but I’ve also been practicing what I preach,” he said. “Part of my new role as performance director at Thomas is to help others to do the same thing. I’m taking what I’ve been talking about to other organisations and one has said ‘okay, come and do it in our organisation’.”
The former Leeds and England footballer was best known for his uncomplicated defence and short fuse during his playing days. But this overshadowed some impressive achievements within the game. His 19 senior international caps include an appearance at the 2002 World Cup.
But these days Mills, as well as being a regular TV and radio pundit, is an advisory board member of equity investment business Enact. He was instrumental in saving the West Cornwall Pasty Company from administration.
“They got into a bit of trouble but it’s a fantastic brand and a great product,” he said at the time.
As well as his business interest Mills made the final of 2012 Celebrity Masterchef and rowed across the English Channel for charity in 2013. He’s certainly not taking his retirement lying down.
Another footballer who has kept himself busy since his retirement is Liverpool fan favourite Robbie Fowler.
After a sparkling career with Liverpool, Fowler became a big player in the UK property market. In fact he started even before his retirement from the game.
His ever-growing property portfolio led to fans singing ‘we all live in a Robbie Fowler house’ to the tune of Yellow Submarine.
As well as his property portfolio, Fowler’s other business interests include Robbie Fowler Sports Promotion and The Macca and Growler Group – a company co-owned with former team-mate Steve McManaman that invests in racehorses.
His various business interests led to Fowler being named on the Sunday Times rich list in 2005. At the time his combined wealth was estimated at £28 million. Today his bricks and mortar housing empire is thought to be worth in the region of £31 million.
Andy and Steve Moore
Understandably many former sportspeople start businesses that are linked very closely with their former career. One such company is Athletic Career Transition (ACT).
Founded by brothers and former rugby players Andy and Steve Moore – the former of whom was once captain of the Welsh international team – launched ACT with the help of Sir Steve Redgrave. The business makes introductions for other sportspeople who wish to make the transition to the business world.
Having straddled both the amateur and professional eras of rugby union; the Moore brothers themselves are not unfamiliar with work beyond the touchline – but this is not always the case for former athletes.
It works with sportspeople long before retirement – so that when the day comes that they can no longer play their respective sports to a professional level they are not left in the employment wilderness.
Kirsten enjoyed a career as a South African cricketer before moving into coaching for both his home country and India.
The nuggety opening batsman played more than 100 tests for his country before retiring in 2004 and embarking on his management career.
But last year it was announced that Kirsten was launching imaginatively named tourism company Gary Kirsten Travel and Tours. Despite moving into the travel industry, Kirsten isn’t moving too far from his cricketing roots.
The new company offers global crickets tours for players and fans of all nations – including the UK. Kirsten expects particularly high demand from the cricket mad Indian market.