By Lazaros Ioannou, Director and Head of the Sports Advisory Department, APC Sports Consulting, Nicosia, Cyprus
Athletes have a passion for their sport and a passion for the game. They spend many hours practicing and they focus on being successful at the game. During their glory days of big dreams and big money, professional athletes do not think of obtaining the required knowledge which will help them make financial decisions with a life-long impact. However, they need to have at least a basic financial understanding to make sound financial decisions which will offer them the lifelong lifestyle to which they aspire.
Leagues are an important and integral part of the sports world. As part of their role in the sports community, they act as guardians for the interests and well-being of their professional athletes and, as such, they must seek and ensure, amongst other things, that their athletes get important and proper financial education.
In the United States, Leagues in cooperation with their respective Players’ Associations, have created a number of educational programs which focus on financial education.
The NBA, in partnership with the NBA Players’ Association, have been providing the NBA rookie transition program for some time now. The program is aimed at rookie players entering the League and includes a few courses on finance.
Also, the NFL Player engagement has recently partnered with several organizations to offer student athletes, current and former players, financial education programs.
One such program is the National Football League Financial Education Program (FEP): This program aims to provide players with knowledge to manage their personal finances and improve financial decision-making. The objective of the program is to ensure the long-term financial stability of players throughout the League.
The MLB, in partnership with the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, was among the first Leagues to address financial literacy for athletes when it launched its Rookie Career Development Program in 1991.
As part of this particular Program, the MLB and the MLB Players’ Association host the annual symposium which brings together three to four young ‘stars’ from all the Major League teams for a series of life lessons, including instruction on financial management.
Acknowledging that both prevention and sanctions are critical to tackling several issues around sports, Associations and Leagues in the United States have implemented regulatory frameworks, in order to protect their sports and athletes on and off the field of play.
Although the Leagues in the United States are taking action, and a number of Leagues and Associations have enacted regulations, for some years now, that make financial education programs mandatory for athletes entering their Leagues, we see that very little is being done from the Sports Leagues in Europe and the rest of the world. Following the example of the United States, Leagues worldwide should also move in the direction of establishing regulations and procedures, whereby they will safeguard that their athletes will receive financial education, not only at the professional level but from the academy level as well. Financial literacy programs should be mandatory for all the young athletes that are involved in sports. Educating athletes from a young age will give them the tools to make sound financial decisions and succeed financially in their lives whether they make it into professional sport or not.
With the protection of athletes in mind, Associations and Leagues, from all around the world, should strive to make financial education programs mandatory, not only to newcomers but to all their athletes, of all ages and at stages in their careers.
We have developed the APC Sports Financial Literacy Academy, with the dedicated purpose of reversing the trend of athletes making fatal financial decisions, by cultivating financial literacy as a life skill for student-athletes, active and retired professionals, and their families. We are, thus, able to provide them and their professional Leagues and Associations, especially those in Europe, with the much-needed expertise and guidance in this important and under-resourced field, through seminars, group sessions and individual advice and assistance.