Miller broker and ex-footballer Steve Talboys talks about keeping young players informed, protecting and insuring against the worst, and the variety of contractual obligations that clubs around Europe have to their injured players.

Tell us about your role at Miller and its sport offering?

My involvement with the team involves looking after the personal accident insurance for a substantial number of professional footballers. In all, we have around 600 players throughout Europe, but predominantly our clients are based here in the UK.  

Being an ex-professional footballer myself, I’ve also bought the very same product, so I understand exactly what it covers from both sides. It’s then very important that – as well as the players – we are on hand to help explain everything to the agents, advisors, parents, extended family or whoever else might be working with the players and make sure they’re aware of the financial implications following injury and illness, and how those players’ contracts match up in the event of a career being ended prematurely. 

How useful is your time as an ex-player during those conversations, having already experienced these offerings from the other side of the fence? 

It’s a huge help. Rather than being perceived as ‘a guy with a briefcase’, I’m hopefully more one of them. I’ve experienced the need for these policies; I’ve purchased them in the past and seen them in action. 

Unfortunately, I’ve also seen players’ careers ended when they haven’t had any insurance to fall back on, and the ramifications associated with that, which will impact their families as well. 

What lessons did you learn from your playing days that you were able to transfer to the world of business? 

I was 25 when I became a professional footballer, which is obviously later than many, so I was able to experience getting up and working for a living before I turned to full-time football. It’s slightly different now, as players are basically sheltered from the real world at 15 or 16 years of age.
Just having that initial experience of employment outside of football, I was at least able to appreciate and understand that my career on the field would come to an end at some point, so I made sure I spent my time in the game wisely – building up strong links and learning whenever I could. I didn’t know what I was going to do when I left football, but eventually moved into insurance and I’ve been involved ever since, for nearly 18 years now. 

With the majority of professional players now signed up to long-term deals straight out of school, experience in the workplace is certainly not the norm for young, professional footballers anymore, which presumably makes insurance even more essential? 

Exactly. A player at 17 years old probably has 18 years of income to protect, and that’s if they have a great career. The terrifying thing is that it can disappear with one tackle, so what we tend to do with the younger players is to make them aware of the Premier League and Football League contracts, and the small print around termination, for instance. 

They need to know that they’re not invincible and what is available to them in terms of insurance packages to protect themselves and their families moving forward.   

What did you make of this summer’s transfer window? Are the escalating transfer fees just a reflection on the growing income of broadcast and commercial deals, or is the whole model entirely unsustainable? 

It’s an entertainment industry for sure. It’s moved away from the old model and as long as the television money continues to come in, we’ll continue to see these figures rise. Foreign ownership isn’t going anywhere either, and these are experienced business people who must see some longevity in it as well. 

A player is worth a little more than the second highest bidder is willing to go, and when you’re talking about world-class players, there will always be plenty of people in the mix, so I can’t see these sums of money disappearing anytime soon. 

As the fees and wages continue to rise, the urgency to protect them – from a player and club point of view – continues to rise as well. What does Miller do to support this?

First off, particularly if a player is transferring to another country, it’s about making them aware of their contract and especially any changes that may have cropped up between markets. 

For instance, in Germany the clubs will stop paying a player’s salary after just 42 days following injury and illness. In France it’s 90 days. So insurance policies will vary drastically from market to market, depending on the level of protection required. 

We’ll also advise players and agents, prior to signing new contracts at clubs, of the variations that can occur and then providing a solution, which we do for a number of top players around Europe. 

As for England, the Premier League and Football League contracts state that players who sustain an injury under club duty, the club is obliged to pay his salary for 18 months. If it’s an illness or off the pitch injury it’s 12 months, with an additional termination period that the club would need to give notice on if the player was unfortunately forced into retirement as a result. 

The risk is definitely there. If a young player signed a new six-year multi-million pound deal and then has a car crash on the way home and loses a leg, for example, suddenly the club can serve termination straight away and he’s only going to see six months of that long-term deal. A six-year deal doesn’t necessarily mean six-years’ pay. 

Internationally, there is a club protection policy in place that is purchased by FIFA. This means when a player goes on international duty, if he gets injured, there is a policy in place that reimburses the club for the player’s salary up to €7.5m.

Using Neymar as an example, PSG reportedly paid out €220m for his services in the summer. If he gets injured playing for Brazil and he’s out for a year, the club would only getting €7.5m in compensation - despite him reportedly being on a €40m-€50m a year salary. Not only that, if he’s then forced to retire, then that €220m asset essentially disappears, unless the club has their own insurance policy on him to protect their financial interest.