Chloe Kelly’s thunderbolt penalty to send the Lionesses through to the quarter-finals of the women’s World Cup was recorded at a faster speed than the hardest hit goal of the 2022-23 Premier League season. The comparisons are often made between the men’s and women’s games, and as interest in women’s football continues to grow apace, this is certainly an area of focus for our team.
We have advised top players across the Premier League for much of the last 15 years, but with a growing client roster in the women’s game, it is important to recognise that there are a number of key differences when working with female players. As in any sector, each client’s specific circumstances makes their needs unique but, for us, these are the key five areas of focus when we’re advising female players:
- Wage levels are hugely different – for now. This means more thought is required as to how a player’s remuneration is structured, and the timing of cashflows and tax bills to ensure players are in control of their finances. Any assistance we can give at the contract stage, particularly on potential tax consequences can be absolutely crucial.
- Image rights structures can still be effective. Image rights companies have been popular in the men’s game for over 25 years. The top female players have huge commercial appeal and their earnings from such deals can therefore be disproportionately high compared to salaries, especially for the best-paid players. However, thought is still needed as to whether players will require access to these funds in the short-term and so considering the wider earnings profile and future plans are key.
- Getting the basics right – because female players often have a very different earnings profile from male players, wider tax and financial planning considerations (such as pension planning) are even more important. Clubs often offer matched pension contributions too, unlike in the men’s game. Maximising the use of all annual allowances and reliefs can make a proportionately bigger difference to female players; therefore regular financial check-in's are even more important.
- Agents’ fees – clubs typically pay agents’ fees in full and a proportion is then taxed on the player as a benefit in kind. As salaries increase, agents’ fees increase too and therefore it is important for players to be aware of future tax payments that might arise – or to negotiate additional bonuses with the clubs to cover the tax liability.
- International planning. Typically, male players who start their careers in the UK remain in the UK, because of the extensive opportunities offered by the Premier League system. Conversely, home grown female players have been more likely to go abroad because of the prospects offered by the top clubs outside of the UK. Different tax regimes bring a range of issues, with often multiple filing requirements during the year of the move. Tax rates may not be materially different so there isn’t necessarily an increase in the overall tax payable, but missing filing obligations can bring enquiries and penalties; an unwanted distraction that no player needs.
Clearly, the important thing is to allow the players to focus on what is important, on the field, and ensuring the tax and financial matters are dealt with professionally by a team you can trust. Hopefully following Saturday’s victory over Colombia, the Lionesses have another week of football to focus on before coming home.
“Chloe’s penalty was just quite remarkable,” said Dr Ken Bray, of the University of Bath. “It was a very, very powerful hit.”