Player Welfare in Cricket: The View from the Outside

25 Feb 2021

By: Sport Industry Group

Over the last month, Sport Industry Group and Miller Insurance have been casting a spotlight on player welfare in cricket, a sport that saw athletes travel from one quarantine to another in 2020, facing mental health challenges, contract fragmentation and a foggy duty of care.

To begin the series, Miller’s Alex Mendis set out the current state of play in the sport, discussing what players were facing and why – and importantly what could be done to remedy it.

You can read that one here.

Following this, Eddie Tolchard and Tom Harwood of Insignia Sports – who work with the likes of Jofra Archer and Kieron Pollard – brought a player’s point of view to the debate, detailing some of the experiences their colleagues had faced first-hand.

That piece is available here.

For our third installation of the campaign, we’re turning our attention to those who sit outside of the sport, but support and supply players around the globe within their specialist subjects.

  • Ian Hurst – Managing Director at men’s mental health firm We Are Hummingbird
  • Jon Goss – Head of Partnerships at FX company Argentex
  • Jon Alexander – Founder and MD at wealth manager Arundel Wealth
  • Anna Freeman – Founder & CEO at money and mental health firm ZavFit 

What risks are you seeing cricketers and athletes face at the moment?

JG: From a currency perspective the risks are substantial for players earning overseas. In the last year, the value of a dollar-denominated contract has varied wildly. Partly because of Covid and the strengthening dollar, a player could have earnt up to 15% more on a same value contract paid in March, than one paid in August. It is therefore vital that they are working with a team who are able to help them manage this risk.

We are especially conscious that the last year has been enormously taxing, and as such we have spent more time making sure that our clients are coping rather than thriving.

JA: Our services to sports professionals are based around financial planning for the short, medium and long term.

Ultimately, compared to the outside world, they have a short career and need to maximise their revenues from the game to support their future after retirement and give themselves financial options.

With the Covid situation, Cricketers have been hit hard in some cases with furlough, lack of contracts or reduced contracts that leads to uncertainty for their immediate futures. Contract offers in the future or at renewal, may not be as financially rewarding as before. Clubs, Counties, International Boards and franchises have to cut their cloth according to their own financial situation and the bottom line is the players will be affected financially from the knock-on effect.

IH: The stress and anxiety for sportspeople to deliver is unbelievable, especially the more successful you become. If an individual can achieve their full potential for club or country, there is instant expectation they can (and should) do it again and again.

We have a misconception in society that money and fame makes you happy. Sportspeople subsequently feel they are not entitled to talk openly about their mental health, often citing, ‘well who I am to complain, there are people worse off’. It makes no sense; we need to change the perception and allow everyone the freedom to express how they really feel.

Do you feel that cricketers are made more vulnerable to these risks by the fragmented, franchise nature of T20 cricket at the moment?

JG: They are – I would say that, like many people globally, cricketers are feeling enormously pressurised to work.

This combined with the suboptimal conditions of playing without crowds, bio-bubbles and long distant travel combine to form a challenging time for the players. The financial aspect of playing overseas can be rewarding, but only if managed correctly.

IH: It is so common for sportspeople to feel isolated and that’s exaggerated in this situation. Everything about their life, especially when touring for long periods of time is intense and full on. Weeks or months away from home and creature comforts is a huge risk factor to poor mental health.

Combine this with the pressures pre match like training, the euphoric highs whilst performing and then the dip back to being sat alone when the match is over is a real rollercoaster of emotions.

JA: Yes, where the contract is for a one-off tournament. Where the contract is on a 2- or 3-year basis, it is much easier for us to assist the players to budget, and financially plan. Without the longer-term security, it’s very much one step at a time and the planning is more important than ever. Short term considerations as well as an eye on the medium and longer term is so critical at this time.

AF: Cricketers, like other professional sports men and women, face numerous pressures throughout their careers, including the demands and high expectations they place on themselves. This can really impact on their wellbeing.  Uncertainties around contracts, time out due to injury and short playing careers can also add to that stress. All of these uncertainties have a financial dimension.

What do you think – in your sector - can be done to better safeguard against the risks cricketers face?

JG: I think it’s just taking advice or asking for help. Some of the county professionals heading overseas for the first time may not even have the correct currency account set up to receive their payments, and it can cause issues. It’s important they think about educating themselves and learning the risks – one avenue is to find a reputable FX company, and ask them for help.

Agents, too, can play a vital role in making sure that their players are educated when they first go overseas.

IH: Counties and franchises, player associations and cricket boards are doing so much around early mental health support, but as is the case everywhere, they need to continue to educate. It can sometimes be seen as an expensive luxury to provide to their players, but mental health support for sportspeople is a must, ahead of everything else and it’s good to see the cricket boards continuing to seek education on this.

JA: In this climate, financially it is very difficult to say. Revenue streams to sport are down and the impact of that means the players are affected in their day-to-day contracts.

Our financial planning strategies help the clients to have various options for the short term and so they have some peace of mind that financially they are secure for a period of time. This requires a regular contact with the client as things can change so fast.

Ultimately, we need to be available to reassure our clients that their individual position works for them.

Do you think that the respective cricket boards can do more to educate and protect players?

JA: In England I think the ECB and the PCA have done an excellent job in assisting their players and members. The players themselves have to take some responsibility too and seek out help and guidance from people they trust for the short, medium and long term.

Education is key given the short career span and financial planning is critical. The boards need to continually remind players that, when careers end, the financial gains of playing professional sport aren’t there and it is harder to maintain the level of lifestyle they often become accustomed to.

JG: Undoubtedly – I don’t think it’s speaking out of turn to suggest that the explosion of international tournament cricket has caught some boards on the hop. They will always be able to do more, but it will take time and resources in my opinion. 

AR: At ZavFit we aim to directly address the habits, triggers and emotions that can give rise to worrying about money and we’ve already partnered with the PCA to do so. They’re doing great work and members now gain an understanding of how to make money decisions that are right for them, their mental health and wellbeing. It arms them with positive skills when they eventually make the transition to life after sport.

This is the third feature in an extended campaign taking a look at Player Welfare in Cricket. The first and second pieces can be read HERE and HERE, respectively.

In the coming weeks, Sport Industry Group will be convening a recorded panel session bringing together multiple voices from across the cricket landscape to dive in to the topic further. Featuring Miller Insurance, the PCA and others, the panel will be available to watch in full and through highlights in mid-March.