Footballers have often been stereotyped as having their brains in their feet – well think again.
A growing numbers of players are now forging a career for themselves in tech while some of the biggest names in the tech sector started their lives as footballers.
I have picked his 15-strong team of footballers turned tech entrepreneurs. It’s an attacking 4-2-4 formation with four substitutes.
Chris Kirkland, goalkeeper
Former Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland has backed mental health social media app Yapa, which encourages its members to talk to one another rather than sharing photographs or amassing ‘likes’.
The app encourages users to send out ‘Yaps’, text-based posts that are mood-dependent. These range from Depressed to Happy via different colour codes, giving members the chance to connect with friends or well-known personalities and express themselves honestly.
Speaking on his involvement with the app, the 6ft 6in tall shot-stopper said: “I have dealt with depression in the past. When you’re in that state of mind, everything has an effect on you. I know that looking at your phone and seeing others looking happy can affect you negatively. We can all benefit from less taboo surrounding the subject of mental health, and that’s why I wanted to get involved with Yapa.”
Ryan Bertrand, defender
The Southampton left-back has always had a keen interest in business and is the co-founder of a FinTech start-up called Silicon Markets, which is aimed at revolutionising retail trading with a bespoke offering of advanced machine learning and AI software.
In an interview with the Guardian he said he got interested in business when he started accompanying his mother to offices of the investment bank Morgan Stanley, where she worked in the administration department.
“She was a single mum and sometimes I had to go with her to work – when they had the open days, when the kids were allowed,” Bertrand said. “I remember being wowed by the buildings in Isle of Dogs, Canary Wharf. That’s what sparked my interest.”
The 30-year-old England star, who began dabbling in trading when he was 18, is also involved in Footiemoji, which produces football-related emojis.
David Beharall, defender
David Beharall started his football playing career for his hometown club Newcastle United in 1996 and graduated to the first team in 1998.
He went on to play for Grimsby Town, Oldham Athletic, Carlisle United and Stockport County before retiring due to a knee injury at the age of 27.
After 11 years playing professional football he set up digital agency CandidSky in Manchester, modelling leadership skills straight from mentors like Sir Bobby Robson, Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish and Ruud Gullit. CandidSky helps clients attract and keep customers.
James Wilkinson, defender
James Wilkinson’s dreams of being a professional footballer were dashed when Rochdale Football Club told the left back he hadn’t made the grade.
He dropped down into non-league football but eventually fell into business at the age of 24 when he co-founded Car Loan 4U in 2006 alongside Ryan Dignan after identifying a growing trend of people buying their car over the internet and requiring car finance online.
Wilkinson won EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year winner in 2015 – the same year Car Loan 4U rebranded as Zuto.
Nick Moutter, defender
Nick Moutter was signed by Crewe Alexandra Football Club at the age of nine but his career was ended by a horror car crash when he was 18.
“I was driving a car and hit black ice and stuck a tree at 60mph,” he said. “Both my legs and arms were broken and I had numerous cuts and dislocations. I had to be cut out of the vehicle and I should be dead. That was the end of my football career but, in truth, it was never really my passion.”
Instead he went to Sheffield Hallam University to study law and found he had a talent for building websites.
In 2013 he co-founded Admedo, a programmatic advertising start-up, which allows advertisers to target the right audiences at the right time at the right price.
The 35-year-old’s latest business venture is Olivia’s, which supplies mid to high end furniture at scale.
Mathieu Flamini, midfielder
The former Arsenal and AC Milan midfielder is arguably more successful as a businessman than a footballer.
The 35-year-old is a partner of GFBiochemicals, the leading global producer of Levulinic acid and derivatives. He co-founded the business with the ambition of finding sustainable alternatives to oil-based products. He is also the President of Wega, the first acoustic payment and identity smartcard FIDO certified. Mathieu has always been interested in new technology and has played an active role in developing his businesses alongside his playing career.
Tom Pickersgill, midfielder
Tom Pickersfill is the CEO of Manchester-based Broadstone, which describes itself as a ‘labour-as-a-service’ staffing platform that allows jobseekers to find temporary work opportunities with some of the largest employers in the UK.
Pickersgill is a former professional footballer who played central midfield for Morecambe in his early 20s before heading to Indiana University in the United States to read business management on a full scholarship.
Dexter Blackstock, forward
Dexter Blackstock is a former professional footballer whose career included successful spells at Queens Park Rangers and Nottingham Forest.
The 33-year-old is now the CEO of healthtech disrupter MediConnect, which claims to use the technology for social good in the pharmaceutical industry, which it intends to revolutionise.
At a time when 200,000 Brits are said to be chronic users of prescription painkillers, MediConnect provides a blockchain solution to share information securely between companies, pharmacies, hospitals and health organisations.
Louis Saha, forward
Ex-Manchester United star Louis Saha has successfully transitioned into business with the launch of social media start-up AxisStars.
The former France international launched the company in 2014 to give access to a secure and exclusive market place for sportspeople and entertainment stars and their industry.
People simply enter their interests and the matching system will identify and highlight targeted business opportunities.
Julian Joachim, forward
Julian Joachim clocked up more than 450 appearances and 100 league goals during a lengthy playing career, which included spells at Leicester City and Aston Villa.
In 2017 he founded PlayerTrader.com, combining his knowledge of football with technology.
Recognising that half the challenge is getting spotted in football PlayerTrader.com creates a platform for players and clubs to collaborate and find each other.
Their technology and scouting network helps them identify and source the top talent and offer a digital recruitment solution for football clubs.
Luke Massie, forward
Luke Massie is the founder of Vibe Group, which includes VibePay and Vibe Tickets. Last year billionaire property developer Nick Candy invested a significant seven figure sum into his business.
Growing up Massie was on the radar of Blackburn, Bolton and Blackpool’s academy systems although, as his business career took off, he dropped into non-league football and represented Bamber Bridge, Lancaster, Coppull and Longridge Town.
In business the entrepreneur has regularly shared a stage Sir Richard Branson and won a clutch of awards, including being listed in European edition of Forbes 30 under 30.
Oliver Kahn, goalkeeper
The famous Bayern Munich and German goalkeeper will forever be remembered for the goals he conceded – the two against Man Utd in the Champions’ League final in 1999 and the five when England famously beat Germany 5-1 in 2001 with Michael Owen scoring a hat-trick.
A less well known fact about him was his involvement with a tech sports company called Goalplay, which is described as “linking the physical world of goalkeepers to the digital world, creating a complete service platform for goalkeepers”.
According to his LinkedIn profile he was the CEO of Goalplay for four years until December 2019.
Michael Heverin, forward
Michael Heverin was a forward in the lower leagues before he became a teacher and the co-founder of Liverpool-based Supplywell.
“I began playing for Leek Town in the Football Conference in 1998/99 aged 18 and after impressing in the opening few games of the season I was asked to Crewe where I trained as a member of the first team squad,” he said. “When I was there I played against Liverpool at Anfield in a behind closed doors game to assess the merits of a particular player.
“From Crewe, I went back to Leek and flitted between clubs for a season (Macclesfield, Northwich Victoria and Runcorn) before settling at Warrington Town where I scored 96 goals over four seasons. In 2005 I moved to the Welsh Premier League and signed for Cefn Druids scoring 30 goals in 60 games.”
In 2008 he moved to London to take up his first teaching post. The idea for Supplywell came from his experiences as teacher, where he identified a problem of teachers going off work with stress.
He recognised that agencies were making a lot of money out of supply teachers as the expense of schools and teachers themselves so launched Supplywell, which connects supply teachers with schools.
Mark Barlow, forward
Last year Manchester headquartered digital adoption solutions firm AppLearn secured $25m of investment
The company expanded its presence to Boston a few months later as part of its international growth strategy.
AppLearn’s CEO is Mark Barlow started his working life as a professional footballer with Blackpool FC. He did a two-year apprenticeship, then moved to Stockport County but broke his foot whilst playing which ended his professional career.
Reg Rix, forward
Reg Rix is the co-founder of fast-growing Manchester-based CarFinance 247 and is one of the UK’s brightest entrepreneurs.
He left school at 16, founded his first company at 17 and went into business with his younger brother Louis after recognising a gap in the market for people trying to obtain car finance.
In the last six years employee numbers at CarFinance 247 have soared from 10 to 500; turnover is £50m; and there’s a business plan to double in size by 2025.
As a child he was a national sprinting champion and a talented footballer, representing Rochdale and Sheffield United at junior level, before he launched an online car search business called Netcars, which was later bought by the RAC.