I have said time and again that athletes are not role models. While very lucrative, the career of a professional athlete does not last long. If athletes do not manage their money properly they will be poor like the rest of us.
It is the jet set lifestyle young lads dream of – playing football for a Premiership club, with the adulation, the cash and the perks that come with soccer success.
But behind the glitz, the glamour and the glory hides a dark picture of former players in debt, destitution and dire straits, many of them turning to crime to make ends meet.
A recent study shows more than 120 stars ditched by their clubs are currently behind bars, serving time for offenses including drug dealing, assault, car theft and shoplifting.
And that is just the tip of an alarming iceberg.
Many are suffering from depression, alcoholism and drug abuse. Others, like former Aston Villa star Lee Hendrie, have been declared bankrupt.
Former Birmingham City and Stoke City full-back Geoff Scott, 55, is the Chief Executive of Xpro, a charity set up to help footballers who have fallen on hard times since they have left the game.
And he says his office is taking as many as 400 calls a month from ex-players desperate for help.
Geoff, who has headed up Xpro since the death of Wolves legend Derek Dougan four years ago, blames the fact that the once beautiful game is now awash in a sea of money.
“With the amount of money in football in the last decade we are bracing ourselves for an epidemic of suicides, mental health problems, bankruptcies and criminal matters in the future,” he warned.
These guys make upward of £20,000 ($35,000 USD) a week. At that point in their lives they are living the £20,000-a-week lifestyle. The moment their career ends they are still living a £20,000 lifestyle but without the cash to maintain it.
Pretty quickly, they have to downsize. It starts with their cars, then their houses. Pretty soon we’re hearing about divorce, which then leads to them losing 50 per cent of their assets. Before you know it, they are in big trouble.
But by the very nature of their sport it is precarious and many of them don’t make the grade. Suddenly you have a teenager, who is used to a very comfortable lifestyle, losing it and having nothing to fall back on.
When you are a player everything is done for you, now more than ever before.
These days, especially at the top level, football clubs and agents will do absolutely everything for a player. They take their kids to school, pay their bills, arrange their holidays – everything.
Perhaps a union that players pay dues into that also provide alcohol and drug classes is the answer. There needs to be some after-career support, but it will only keep them living the high life if these classes are put in place while they are still at the top of their game.