The PFA offers grants for educational and vocational courses across the UK.

by Andy Robinson

At some point tomorrow I imagine a lot of professional footballers and young players will get the news that they have come to the end of their time with a professional Club – these lads probably knew already and hopefully they have made plans and have ideas of how they would hope to move on with their lives. Some will carry on with other clubs but for many it means the end of their professional playing days and the need to look for work and a new career. I wanted to find out what support these young people got and where it came from.

After a couple of days of unsuccessfully trying to get hold of somebody at the FA to speak to me – I never actually made my way past their recorded messages so I did what any sensible person would have done in the first place (incidentally this is the same in all walks of life and is relevant for all problems and issues): I tried the Union. So I fired off an email to the PFA and got a reply straight away.

Pat Lally made over 350 League appearances in the seventies and eighties for Millwall, York, Doncaster, Swansea and finished off his playing days in non-league with Burton Albion where he was a team-mate of Neil Warnock. He is now employed as Director of Education at the PFA.  After a false start when our initial “time for a chat” got cancelled due to Pat’s attendance at Loughborough University where soon to be released young pros were “trialling” in front of American colleges Pat took the trouble to contact me and arranged a new time for the interview.

The first question I wanted to ask Pat was answered so precisely and accurately that in effect it finished the interview as it practically answered the rest. I wanted to know if it was harder or easier dependant on the age group of the player in finding a new career. From the young kid released from an academy at 19 and 20, to a player in his early to mid 20’s with a 100 plus career games under his belt, to the player pushing thirty and so on. Pat went on to explain:

“The academy players complete relevant courses in key skills and undertake a BTEC in Sport which is the equivalent of 2 “A” Levels as well as FA Level 2 coaching. The BTEC covers areas such as nutrition, psychology and fitness and provides a basis for further study which the PFA actively encourage through Learner Reps usually associated with the club. This academic grounding coincides with the discipline aspect of being a sportsman and other areas such as teamwork and time keeping. Also nowadays social skills through media training are taught in academies and all these qualities appeal to potential employers. This starting point follows naturally through with the other age groups.

A former footballer then; due to his background has a better than average chance in the job market.

Pat sees the main purpose of the Education Department to “provide information, guidance and advice to encourage members and former members to retrain and achieve the necessary qualifications that will ease their transition into careers outside of the game”.

The PFA have developed considerable links with a variety of organisations and groups in order to provide opportunities for its members. These include Government, Training Associations and Companies and with Universities and colleges. A recent example is a link up with OLCI a highly regarded training body from the construction industry. “Taster” courses initially in plumbing were rolled out and courses in the fast developing renewable energy sector have recently been added.

The PFA have also successfully negotiated with various Universities a number of places for members to be enrolled and accepted on courses where they don’t initially meet the universities standard entrance requirements. These courses have included subjects such as Sports Science, Physiotherapy and Journalism. Scott Minto the current presenter of “Revisita De La Liga” graduated from such a course at Staffordshire University.

The PFA provide continual support for their members and former members, last year a 71 year old former pro received a grant towards a course. Examples of funding available include 50% towards the cost of the majority of recognized qualifications and a sum of a £1000 towards fees for those on a University course. Other sums are available also for living expenses and reading materials.

A few days after speaking to Pat I read about former Chelsea player and Match of the Day analyst Gavin Peacock and his new career and life in Canada as a Church Minister. In the article he alluded to the help he and his family received from the PFA in starting his new life.

Pat told me if I named a career the PFA would have a former or current player involved in that line of work at some level. Teaching, wine tasting, lawyers, accountants and dog groomers. Forensic scientists, electricians and driving instructors.

As someone who on a professional level sees the need and requirements for a high level of training and a strong union presence and someone who in his personal life has always been jealous of the life of a professional footballer when you mix the two sides up you realize just how lucky the players are that once they hang up their Boots (come on I had to throw in at least one cliché) they have the support of Pat and his eam behind them.