This week is all about footy. So while all eyes are on the superstars from the Magpies and the Saints, I’ve decided to look at two veterans (from both grand final clubs) who have kicked major financial goals after they hung up their boots, and discussed how footy shaped their financial success. Let’s meet them:
Lindsay was captain of St Kilda thirds and went on to play 20 first grade games for the club. He was said to be a tough ruckman, and to have got just one Brownlow vote – after which he was dropped. He was told that his job wasn’t to be flashy but to even the score if one of the little blokes got belted!
Lindsay started Linfox in 1956 with one truck, delivering soft drinks in the summer and fuel in the winter. Linfox now operates in 10 countries and employs 15,000 people. He is the 10th richest person in Australia.
Barefoot: Tell me about your footy days.
Fox: It was a lot of fun – and thank god it was, because I wasn’t doing it for the money. In those days I was getting paid about eight quid a game.
Barefoot: You’re one of Australia’s top businessmen, what do you think of the business of footy?
Fox: It’s amazing how big the football business has become, and at the heart of it are these young blokes who are modern day rock stars – it sure wasn’t like that in my day.
Barefoot: Was there anything you learned on the field that you applied to your business?
Fox: Certainly. Footy taught me the importance of being a great team member. They say that a champion group will beat a group of champions any day of the week – and I’ve built my business around those principles. My teammates were incredible loyal. And that was what I looked for when I built my business: honest, trustworthy people that had integrity. It has served me well.
Barefoot: So what do you think about the players of today?
Fox: The problem with players today is that many of them haven’t seen what the real world is about. They don’t understand what a unique opportunity they have to save money at a young age – if they did it would change their entire lives.
Debuted for Collingwood in 1989 and went on to play 122 games. He was a tough defender (he infamously charged at Sydney’s Ben Doolan so ferociously that he knocked many of the poor bloke’s teeth out).
In the early 90s Craig was a co-founder of Elite Sports Properties, one of the early player management businesses. The company started small but now employs over 50 staff, and not only operates across the country but has an office in China.
Barefoot: You were a heavyweight on the football field, but were you worried you’d be seen as a lightweight in the business world?
Kelly: Well, the way I played football, there weren’t many people who I can say really liked me – no one from opposition clubs anyway. At the start, though, it was a relatively new space, so me and my business partner kept our heads down and worked hard.
Barefoot: Why did you get into the management business?
Kelly: I came into football just as it was going from being a semi-professional game to a full-time career. I realised that there was a lot of money being thrown around, but the AFL was busy, the Players Association was just starting out, and there weren’t really player managers like they have in other sports overseas. So I saw an opportunity and I went out and took it.
Barefoot: How long did it take you to transition from being a player to being a player manager?
Kelly: There was no transition. I actually started the business while I was still playing – right after the grand final. Some of my teammates were annoyed that I was always doing deals for myself, so I thought ‘why don’t I make a business out of this?’ Truth be told, one of the reasons I retired from footy – even though I thought I probably still had another year left in me – was the business opportunities that were there to be had.
Barefoot: What are the opportunities for current players like?
Kelly: Every footballer playing today should come out better than they were going in. There’s absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t succeed. The system around them is first rate – they are given every opportunity to succeed, both on the field and off.
YOU’VE GOT TO READ THE PLAY
In my business, the Barefoot Investor, I get to speak to a lot of AFL players about how to best manage their money. The fact that a lot of the clubs have me in is testament to the high level of care players receive these days.
Yet many of the young players I meet fail to understand that footy will make up a really short period in their life. Having devoted so much time to their career, many don’t have a back-up plan – well, except that they all seem to think they’ll play 200 games and then ‘do a bit of media work’ (hint hint, Dermott’s not going anywhere).
The players of today have an advantage in that they’re getting paid good dough early in their lives. In reality though you don’t have to have played football to get the basic message that these two blokes built their successes on: they both saw an opportunity and worked hard to make sure they had a winning team to help them achieve it.
Tread Your Own Path!