Bournemouth & Wales star David Brooks talks to KWM about his cancer diagnosis

8th March 2023

“If I’m honest, I didn’t think much of it when we first took out the insurance policies, but I am really pleased I did”.

When David Brooks signed for AFC Bournemouth from Sheffield United in July 2018, we sat down to discuss his new contract and financial planning options, together with his Father Ian, completely unaware that the decisions being made in this meeting would be put into action only three and a bit years later.

As we so often do with our clients who play professional football, we discussed a strange concept that day – life after football. What does life look like once you’re no longer playing football? How much income will you need each month? And most importantly – where is this income going to come from? At the start of one’s career, it can be difficult to think about the end of the road when the journey has barely begun. 

Our job, in part, is to try to help footballer’s think about this. A footballer’s career is short, often with retirement in their mid-late thirties, far younger than the average worker. 

Life comes at you fast.

These words will resonate with most footballers with regards to their careers and having worked with some players now all the way from their professional debut to retirement, we can attest to this too. That final professional game is closer than it may feel.

Therefore, putting an effective and efficient financial plan in place, sooner rather than later, for the day when one hangs up their boots for the last time is so important. The magical impact of compounding will be a little less significant the shorter the time allowed to accumulate and build assets. For a footballer, starting to think about these things in their thirties is possibly too late.

So back on that day in 2018, 21-year-old David was doing all of the right things. We made a plan together based on his income and expenditure at the time, his short-term objectives such as buying his first property and his longer term goals of having a certain amount of natural income for when he retires from playing football. “Having a financial plan in place made everything feel more organised and secure. Before sitting with John I hadn’t thought much about it, but it quickly became clear that with a good plan I would able to do what I wanted during my career and have an income to last me for the rest of my life after football”.  None of us in that meeting would ever imagine that the plan could potentially be disrupted.

However, when making a financial plan for our clients, we simply must imagine that it will be.

We have to account for all eventualities when we work with our clients. As unlikely as something may seem, if it isn’t covered off in the plan, then you are leaving your client exposed. 

Crazy!

If you would have said to me four years ago that I would be diagnosed with cancer and have to go through a year of chemotherapy I would have thought you were crazy, there was no chance that was happening to me”. 

Fortunately, at KWM Wealth we are happy for our clients to think we are “crazy” when we build such scenarios into their financial plans.  A tried and tested model of financial planning will often work and produce the results it set out to do, but unforeseen events can disrupt it and skew the financials, resulting in a less effective outcome.

Insurance products are designed to protect the outcome of the financial plans our clients put in place.  For footballers, a serious illness can disrupt their ability to work, resulting in long spells of treatment and uncertainty.  In an industry where the average employment contracts span 2 – 4 years, this can have a really devastating impact to a footballer’s future earning potential.  Worst still, as well as a serious illness, a significant injury, either sustained on or off club duty, can force a footballer in an unexpected and early retirement.

In either case, without insurance, a financial plan designed to kick into effect in a footballer’s mid-late thirties may have to kick in far earlier.  This would mean less time to accumulate the asset base, and less income being available, ultimately meaning that the plan may not produce the intended outcome and may not last for the rest of the footballer’s life.  

However, with the right insurances in place, of which there are both off the shelf solutions such a Critical or Serious Illness policies, and bespoke solutions such as Permanent Total Disablement / Personal Accident & Illness Insurance (often known in the industry as ‘Career Ending Insurance’) or Temporary Total Disablement Cover, a footballer can ensure that their financial plan is robust and essentially ‘bullet proof’.

“After the reality of my diagnosis set in, it is only natural to think about my future, if I would play again and if I would earn money again.  I had a mortgage and commitments and together with my long-term Girlfriend Flora we had plans and aspirations for our lives.  If I was unable to play football again, I wasn’t sure of the position I would be in”.

In hindsight we can say it was fortunate, but ever since we first met, David was always very keen to protect himself, so one must commend his maturity in doing so back then. It obviously came as a huge shock to David, his family, and the whole football & wider community when David was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in October 2021. A Welsh international of 21 caps, aiming to make headlines at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar; this wasn’t part of the script. 

Talking about insurance and finances in such a distressing period seemed wrong, but once David and his family were ready, we delicately had these conversations. “I knew that I had always been sensible and taken John’s advice regarding insurance, but I didn’t ever think too much about it as I felt I would never need to use it. When we first spoke after I was diagnosed and before I started treatment, it was very reassuring to know I had John and the KWM team sorting everything out for me with my insurances and financial planning. It took away a big stress that I didn’t need at that time, as my sole focus was on recovering”.

David’s Girlfriend Flora commented on how having some certainty in such an uncertain time was so helpful.  “Everyone from AFC Bournemouth and The Football Association of Wales, plus all of the various Doctors were really helpful, comforting and caring, but even so, David had so much uncertainty at that time with his football career and life in general. All we could think about was the next treatment. Having uncertainty around David’s finances would have caused further anxiety on top of an already unclear time. Having financial certainty because of the policies David had put in place was a weight off his shoulders and one less stress for him at the time which was a big relief”.

Looking back to those early planning meetings in 2018, we can say that we are proud of David for being sensible as unbeknown to him or any of us at the time, he made what was a very uneasy situation a little more reassuring. Insurance can seem like a waste of money, especially to a young, fit and healthy professional athlete. Not every footballer we work with wants insurance, and that is totally their prerogative. We are here to advise on all eventualities to ensure that our clients can achieve the financial results in retirement that they want, protecting both themselves and their loved ones along the way.

“If I’m honest, I didn’t think much of it when we first took out the insurance policies, but I am really pleased I did. I am fortunate that I have recovered and am back training, working my way back to full fitness, and I will be playing again at the highest level. Others might not be so lucky, so I would hope my story can ensure that if this happens to another player, they also have the comfort of financial certainty and protection like I did through my insurance policies and financial plans I put together over the years with John’s advice.”

“I would like to thank John and his team at KWM not only for the initial advice in making sure that I was insured and had a financial plan in place, but also for how much help they provided to me and my family during the worst time of our lives. John was sensitive to the situation and through our regular zoom calls between my treatments, provided me with the financial comfort and reassurance I needed. Between him, My Dad and Flora they took care of all the various forms, Doctors reports and paperwork for my insurances, so I didn’t need to worry about any of it. This took away a big weight off my shoulders at a time when my sole focus was my recovery. Thank you so much”.

It is an understatement that all of us at KWM are really overjoyed to see David’s return to training and we cannot wait to see him back on the pitch again doing what he does best!

Bournemouth & Wales star David Brooks talks to KWM about his cancer diagnosis
We're ready to help