As an eight-year-old, former Millwall and Brentford defender Scott Barron slept with a football in his bed. “All I wanted to do was play football,” he recalls. “I played at lunchtime, school break time. When the older boys played down the local park, I played with them.”
At age 12, Scott’s dream of becoming a professional football began to be realised. Selected for his county after playing for his local youth team, Scott was spotted by a scout who recognised his talent and got him a trial with then first division club Ipswich Town. After six weeks, Ipswich put him under contract.
Two years later, Scott made his professional debut for Ipswich in an FA Cup fixture on his eighteenth birthday. For a young player this was the start of looking forward to an exciting and lucrative career, and like most other young players he never considered the possibility of injury cutting it short. A double hernia that kept him off the pitch for 13 months was followed in 2013 by what Scott describes as ‘an innocuous injury – something ripped in my hip area’.
That innocuous injury refused to heal, even after multiple treatments. No matter how hard he tried, Scott couldn’t regain his match fitness. Yet the financial demands of supporting his family and paying for a footballer’s lifestyle left him will little space to consider some kind of plan B.
In 2014, Scott had to announce his retirement from professional football. It was the first time he really appreciated the value of the injury insurance he had bought many years earlier. For Michael Sahl Hansen, however, director of Danish football players’ association Spillerforeningen (SPFO), that value has never been more apparent.
Michael represents the interests of around 1,500 professional footballers in Denmark, in both the men’s and women’s games. Where once the role of SPFO would have been primarily to negotiate salaries and commercial agreements on behalf of the players, over recent years the association has increasingly focused on the long-term health – both mental and physical – of players.