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Viv Anderson & Playonpro: The company bridging the gap for ex-pros

Overpaid, spoilt and disconnected might be pejoratives applicable for a small percentage of past and present footballers.

But for the majority of people who have been paid to kick a ball around for a living, the reality of reentering regular society can be a daunting, difficult and sometimes tragic affair.

"The facts are 75 per cent of players once they retire, get divorced," Viv Anderson, former Manchester United, Arsenal, Nottingham Forest and England defender, told Tribalfootball.

"40 odd per cent who earned £40k per week will be bankrupt in five years. 5 per cent of ex-footballers are in prison. These statistics are mind-blowing. They are staggering.

"With elite sportspeople, once they retire its a big void for them. And so, some of them go to drink, some of them go to drugs, some of them go to gambling or whatever it may be."

It has been an almost a year to the day that Anderson launched Playonpro, an initiative that acts as a conduit for former professional athletes to make the transition out of their "cocoon and into the world".

By signing up as a member, former sportspeople ranging from footballers to badminton players, are afforded some of the benefits that they may have taken for granted during their careers. These vary from discounts at restaurants and hotels, employment opportunities and access to a 24-hour doctor.

Playonpro also use their vast support network to help members with whatever predicament they may find themselves in, whether that be mental health or financial problems.

The fulcrum of Playonpro is their phone application, which allows members to access the aforementioned benefits, while also serving as an exclusive communication platform for members to recreate valuable social networks that are often lost once a player walks away from the dressing room.

"There's a great example with two lads that played for QPR, a lad called Kevin Gallen and a lad called Steve Hodge," Anderson continued.

"They played together 20 odd years ago, they lost contact with one another, they're both on the app and started talking to one another on the app. It's a way of talking together and a self-help group if you like.

"If you fell in hard times you can chat to the other person and ask them how they got through that situation. It's a way of getting your friends back that you lost along the way."

To help expand their scope and possible employment opportunities, Playonpro have teamed up with REDSTRIKE, an agency backed by Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, and with former Manchester United International Managing Director Mike Farnan as CEO.

REDSTRIKE have already established a football academy in Vietnam and Anderson hopes the partnership will grow in other developing football countries, such as China and South Africa, subsequently creating more employment opportunities for Playonpro members.

"It is work for ambassadors, fitness coaches and sports scientists. We need all sorts of people to work at these academies once they're up and running and their countries buy into the ethos we're trying to achieve," said Anderson.

Playonpro are hoping to increase their membership to 600 members over the next 12 months as well as expand their app internationally. An Australian consortium led by former Manchester City and Leicester City defender Spencer Prior is hoping to implement the app to a number of sports, including rugby.

Viv Anderson MBE was speaking to Tribalfootball to promote the partnership between 'Playonpro' and 'REDSTRIKE'.

Click here to find out more information on Playonpro.

Andrew Maclean
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Andrew Maclean

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