Sporting end game for job-hunting athletes

Former jockey Mark Bradburne in action Ex-jockey Mark Bradburne trained as a physiotherapist but is now an electrician

The career opportunities available to former sports people after they call time on their playing days have come a long way since the era of choosing between either the pub or hospitality trades.

Nowadays there is much more planning, career advice, vocational courses, and all-round general support available for when the final whistle blows.

"The transition is always difficult, and it is very similar across the different sports," says Brendan Batson, chairman of the Professional Players Federation, the UK umbrella organisation for professional player associations.

"You are leaving a very physical, dressing room environment, and going into the outside world."

Batson, a former Arsenal, Cambridge United, and West Bromwich Albion full-back, says the key to making the difficult move from the somewhat closed world of sport into the world of business, is "preparation during your playing career".

Injury focus

One former sports person, who made the tricky crossover, and with unusual results, is ex-jockey Mark Bradburne, who came third in the 2004 Grand National.

University-educated and a trained physiotherapist, he chose to become an electrician after hanging up his National Hunt saddle in December 2011.

Brendan Batson, left, playing for Arsenal in 1973 Ex-footballer Brendan Batson (left) works with people leaving the world of sport for work

"When you are doing sport, it is hard to think outside of that," says the 37-year-old.

"But most jockeys have some time on the sidelines injured, and that was when I had time to think about the future and giving up sport at some stage."

He had started riding as an amateur while doing his degree.

"I slowly realised that I would not be a great physiotherapist. So I thought I would look to build a successful riding career," he says.

When his sporting career ended, he did not want to go into physiotherapy. He says starting again at a junior level would have paid about £18,000 a year, not enough from him to support a wife, two children, and house.

With support from the Jockeys Employment and Training Scheme (JETS) he realised he wanted to become an electrician.

He did a high-intensity course, and passed his City & Guilds, and is Part P qualified.

Start Quote

You have an identity as a sportsman, and then you lose that identity and become someone totally different”

End Quote David Barnes Former Bath prop and RPA officer

"I am still learning all the time. I am was lucky to have experienced the world of learning before, but I think other jockeys - who all have brains - might not find it so easy." says the Scot.

He is self-employed, and hopes, if business does well, he will be able to offer training schemes to other jockeys.

After 85,000 miles on the road a year as a jockey, much of his work now comes from the racing fraternity around the town of Lambourne.

"I have probably worked in 90% of the yards," he says. "It means I can't charge the top commercial rate, but I never have a day off either.

"I am lucky to have retired on my terms. My opportunities were getting less but I could have ridden for another year. But if people are forced to retire through lack of opportunities, or age, or injury, then they might struggle."

Regimented life

Former Bath prop David Barnes is director of rugby and player development manager at the Rugby Players' Association (RPA).

David Barnes, chairman of The Professional Rugby Players' Association The RPA offers a variety of courses, including public speaking

"The biggest hurdle - one I have been through - is you have an identity as a sportsman, and then you lose that identity and become someone totally different," he says

He says when players start a new career they often find they are behind their peers in terms of experience, and hence pay - which can drop steeply in the early years outside sport.

"In sport you live in a very regimented sphere, you are given schedules, and know exactly what is expected of yourself and team mates," he adds.

"When you move into a different role, there is that lack of the 'constant'. A lot of players find this very hard."

Start Quote

We advise players to use their spare time to research what they want to do with their future”

End Quote Jason Ratcliffe Former Surrey batsman and PCA officer

He says that the down-time enjoyed as a player also disappears when they move into a nine-to-five job.

"It effects not only the player, but also his family - he may not be able to look after the children as before. There can be a lot of domestic upheaval."

However he points to the positives, and says sports people have many transferable skills - including dedication and professionalism, and "the habit of doing things right, and to the best they can".

"In sport they have had to work hard. Players are good at teamwork and are very committed."

He says ex-players have gone into a wide range of careers, from lawyer to to grass seed salesman.

Winter opportunities

Jason Ratcliffe, a former Surrey batsman, is now deputy chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA).

He says cricketers have a very close and loyal working relationship.

Jason Ratcliffe in action for Surrey in 1997 Jason Ratcliffe encourages cricket players to get out and network

"When I analysed it I realised I was not chatting to many people apart form my team mates," he recalls.

He says this can often leave cricketers without a network outside the sport that they can tap into after their playing days.

Start Quote

This is the right thing for me, for my wife and children and for our long-term future”

End Quote Mark Bradburne

"We encourage players to get out and talk to other people, for when the transformation from playing days to workplace days." he says.

"The players who are savvy are the ones who, when they are making a sporting name, are also going to functions and seminars and meetings, talking to corporate partners and others who might be able to help with careers."

He also says cricketers generally have more time free in the winter than other sports, and can use that time to seek work experience or vocational training.

"We advise players to use their spare time to research what they want to do with their future," says Mr Ratcliffe.

Despite the many courses and training opportunities which player associations offer, there will be those - such as former footballer Paul Gascoigne - who find leaving their sport traumatic.

Paul Gascoigne playing for Newcastle v Liverpool in 1986 Paul Gascoigne has encountered problems since retiring from football in 2004

"We give a lot of support to former athletes but sometimes you can have everything there and individuals have their own personal issues," says Brendan Batson.

"But there is support for those individuals who fall on difficult times."

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories


BBC Business Live

    Russia adidas shirt

    European companies say sanctions against Russia are already taking their toll, reports the Financial Times. Adidas shares dropped 15% after its profit warning yesterday - it's closing stores in Russia. Also seeing an impact are Volkswagen and Siemens.


    Direct Line is the largest motor insurance group in the country. It reports an 8% rise in six month profits to £225.1m. Brands include Churchill, Privilege and the Green Flag roadside recovery service.

    IAG PROFITS 07:28: BBC Radio 4

    IAG boss Willie Walsh tells Today the airline group is "doing very well" and is on course to deliver its full year guidance. The conversation quickly turns to safety. British Airways and Iberia have been avoiding Liberian airspace since March, he says. "We don't look at the cost at all. It's simply a case that we look at whether it is safe to fly over an area or not," he adds. "We don't fly over Libya or Syria." But the airline judges that it is now safe to fly over Iraq.

    IAG PROFITS Breaking News

    British Airways and Iberia Airlines owner International Airlines Croup reports pre-tax profits of 155m euros (£123m) for the last six months, compared with a loss of 177m euros a year earlier.


    Office services business Rentokil Initial said its half year profits rose 38.9% to £66.8m.

    US ECONOMY 06:59: Radio 5 live

    More from Terry Savage on the US economy. She says the US Federal Reserve policy of quantitative easing "has created all of this money... and all that money has not gone into, so far at least, good paying jobs or homebuilding. It's gone into the stock market and... made the rich a lot richer."

    PORTUGAL BANK 06:47: BBC Radio 4
    Woman outside BES

    Bill Blain from Mint Partners tells Today Portugal's government has a tough decision to make on BES: "Does it bail it out as 'too big to fail', or does it stand back and let the bank sort itself out? Many want the debt holders to pay the cost of this."

    TOUGH MUDDER 06:36:
    Man leaping

    The Today programme likes a natter with a company boss of a Friday morning. Today's is Will Dean from Tough Mudder. People pay him £100 to spend time on an obstacle course - jumping, swimming, crawling through mud and so forth. Why? "It's not a race its a challenge. It's about team work over 12 miles. Its a set of individual challenges to test you mentally and physically." Fine.

    PORTUGAL BANK 06:28: BBC Radio 4

    Shares in Banco Espirito Santo lost 42% yesterday after the bank announced a loss of 3.6bn euros (£2.8bn). Bill Blain from chief strategist at Mint Partners tells Today this is "Deeply concerning for all bankers looking at Europe. It's [Europe] had 450bn of new capital to sort out the relationship between sovereign debt and the banks. What the Banco results show shows is the bank remained a piggy bank for the family".

    US ECONOMY 06:15: Radio 5 live

    The US releases jobs data later today - GDP figures earlier this week showed the US economy growing strongly. Expectations are that another 230,000 jobs could have been added to the US economy in July and that the unemployment rate may - we'd stress the may here though - have fallen below 6%.

    US ECONOMY 06:07: Radio 5 live

    US financial expert and businesswoman Terry Savage tells Wake Up to Money the US economic recovery is still difficult to read: "It's kind of a glass half full/half empty kind of thing. Different parts of the economy have picked up, particularly consumer spending on autos and other big items," she says. "It's not what we would call a booming economy . It's just so much better than what we have had for the last few years."

    06:01: Rebecca Marston Business reporter, BBC News

    In a short while we'll have results from William Hill and British Airways owner IAG trading updates. And we'll have an eye on everything else that's going on. @bbcbusiness.

    06:00: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Morning folks. So what's happened overnight? Well the World Trade Organisation has failed to agree a global customs deal.... again. But manufacturing in China grew at its fastest pace in more than two years in July, according to the latest figures.



From BBC Capital


  • A woman sits on a bed in a scene from Gustav Deutsch's latest film about Edward Hopper's paintingsTalking Movies Watch

    How film-maker Gustav Deutsch brought Edward Hopper’s paintings to life

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.