I don’t bet or drink but I gambled on people and I lost it all – bankruptcy is like being on Death Row says Prem legend
Former Wales and Manchester City star, Craig Bellamy, has revealed how he lost all his fortune and is now declared bankrupt by the British government.
According to the current Burnley assistant coach, the financial ruin he is suffering from is as a result of a series of failed investments made on his behalf because he trusted the wrong people with his money.
In 2009, Manchester City signed Craig Bellamy from West Ham for a reported £14 million, made up of a £12 million up-front payment plus £2 million in add-ons. At the club he earned £85,000 per week.
Bellamy says he doesn't drink and never gambled but he lost it all and his battle against bankruptcy is 'like being on Death Row'
In an article for Sports Mail on Saturday, April 1, he warns young players;
See excerpts below;
He does not own any property any more. He does not own a car. He cannot own a car. He is now, officially, a bankrupt and if there is some relief in that fact being public, he is also keen that his situation acts as a warning to today’s young footballers, who earn even more than he did and who have unscrupulous hucksters and ruthless opportunists circling them just as they once circled him.
‘I have been living the last five or six years on Death Row,’ says Bellamy, ‘just waiting for someone to put me out. I have been waiting for the cell door to open and someone to say: “Today’s the day”. It’s like the feeling of not being able to look forward to anything. All the money I’ve earned, I can’t get a mortgage. Financially, I have no future. The hurt of that. I can’t own anything. Everything’s gone.
‘My life has been on hold. I’m not a tax dodger but I have been very naive and the HMRC have been pursuing me for unpaid tax for some time. Everything I have had has been taken from me. If you get the wrong people advising you, it all haemorrhages, it all dwindles. It has got to the point where bankruptcy is a relief. It means I can just live again.
‘I know some people will probably think I have squandered all my money on drinking or gambling or drugs. I haven’t. I can go quiet where you won’t hear from me but I won’t be down the pub. I have never touched drugs since I was a young kid. I don’t gamble. I have never gambled. It doesn’t make any sense to me. But I have gambled on people unfortunately.’
‘I want this to be a warning to other players,’ says Bellamy. ‘Check everything, make sure the people advising you are regulated. If they are not regulated, it’s the Wild West. Get your stuff audited by independent people, the equivalent of getting a second opinion. I was brought up in a generation of footballers where everything was done for you. Every bill. Wherever I was, the club did everything for me. I think that’s wrong.
‘It makes you too vulnerable. It’s good for players to have their own responsibilities because one day the club will not be there. You will finish your career and you will still be a young man and when you finish who’s going to pay your stuff then? You are going to have to learn to survive. You are going to have live in the real world.
‘When I was a young player starting out at Norwich, my biggest fear was money. I was always wary of it. I didn’t want to end up with a lot of money but no career. I would give you all the money as long as I could keep my career. I always thought money would be the Devil. It would distract me to a point where I would lose my hunger. It would distract me so I would lose my bite and my ambition to want to get to the top.
‘That chase of what everyone perceives to be success is not my chase. I don’t get that chase. Having nice things is nice, but it means nothing. I don’t wake up for that. I don’t wake up for the pursuit of nice things. I never felt like I had money anyway. I could afford nice things but there was no buzz in it. I actually felt like it was more of a pain in the backside, something for people to use you for.
‘Wherever you go, you get over-charged. Wherever you went, you got ripped off. People think: “It doesn’t matter, he’s got so much of it, he won’t even notice.” People think you’re a walking cashpoint for them. I felt guilty saying “no” when people rang up for help so I never said “no”. They don’t ring me now. You don’t hear from them. There was someone I helped get on their feet, he was living with me and then he ripped me off. We were best friends.
‘The idea — which I actually think is insane now but when you are a young kid who is hell bent on being a footballer, it seemed sensible — was for me to take care of my football career and for a guy I trusted with my finances to take care of the money. I said: “As long as when I finish football, it’s taken care of… you trust me to do the football and I will trust you with everything else.” It didn’t work out well, put it that way. Not for me, anyway.’
Sometimes, the money is all we talk about in football. We define players by how much they earn a week as much as by how many goals they score or how many trophies they win and so it was with Bellamy for a time when fat contracts were being negotiated for him at Newcastle United and West Ham United and Manchester City. And all the money he was earning, he was giving away. It felt like there was a bottomless pit of it. Sometimes he knew he was giving it away. Sometimes, he didn’t.
‘People say footballers should know better,’ says Bellamy, ‘but why should I know better? I left school at 15. I felt like such a naive, stupid individual. I didn’t want to drink or gamble but if I’d lost money that way, maybe I could be kinder to myself. If I had done it to myself, then I could get on with fixing it. I don’t trust people because of this. As soon as you do trust someone, this happens. Deep down, I knew things weren’t right but I didn’t want to confront it. I didn’t know how to confront it. I thought: “If I have got it wrong here, I’m screwed”.
‘I am lucky I know what I’m doing as a coach. I’m OK football-wise. But imagine if I wasn’t. Imagine if I didn’t want to be involved in football. Where would I go? What could I do? What type of life would I have? When you go into a dark depression and you start thinking suicidal thoughts, that’s when it comes. I should have been enjoying my retirement from playing. All the injuries I had had, all the work I had put in…for what? For people you trusted to do that to you?
‘I entertained a lot of dark thoughts. But I realised the anger had to go because I was making myself ill. I am grateful I never turned to drink and I had close friends who have been incredible for me. And then Vincent comes up, completely out of the blue. I hadn’t been ready to take anything else on because my health was still not great — the dark thoughts and the dark moments can turn you bad. I wasn’t ready to manage because I had to learn to manage myself first.
‘I knew I had to get up and I had to keep working. Keep going, keep working and it will be OK. I knew if I kept working and I stayed with it, something amazing would happen. I have believed in that so much that I have brainwashed myself. And now I know how lucky I am to be at Burnley, to be doing something I love and something I’m good at. And now we are top of the league and I love what I do. And now, after everything, something amazing is happening.’