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Saha goal to protect players' interests


Louis Saha's new start-up social network Axis Stars is hoping to weed out scammers who target wealthy stars

Louis Saha's new start-up social network Axis Stars is hoping to weed out scammers who target wealthy stars

AFP/Getty Images

Louis Saha's new start-up social network Axis Stars is hoping to weed out scammers who target wealthy stars

Ex-Premier League footballer Louis Saha, one of the sport's most successful strikers, is seeking to raise £4m to grow his new start-up social network Axis Stars, which helps professional sportspeople to manage their financial futures and avoid conmen.

The exclusive service, which accepts only professional sportspeople as members, is hoping to weed out scammers who target wealthy stars.

It has created a financial advisory service, where members can rate the performance of companies they have worked with. "We have had enough of gangsters and business sharks that talk very well but are just looking to take your money," Saha said.

He retired from football in 2013 after a succession of long lay-offs through injury. Now 36, he is currently looking for business angels to back the project. "I have used a lot of my savings for this business," he said.

"Now I am meeting investors, which is strange for me. Before, everyone came to me with the proposition and now I am the salesman."

He refuses to ask his wealthy football contacts for the venture capital, he added. "So many people ask players for money. I'm not going to do that. I want my friends to trust me. The only investment I want from them is to try the platform."

Axis Stars currently has 100 members, including Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, NBA player Boris Diaw, Olympic champion Mo Farah and tennis pro Gael Monfils.

The site encourages members to return by offering a range of opportunities such as a shop featuring exclusive products that can be bought at discount as well as special trips and partnership offers.

Financial education is a crucial issue for sportspeople, who can often become extremely wealthy almost overnight, explained Saha. Some 50pc go bankrupt at some point in their lives.

"It's because when you're young and you're in this bubble, you don't see the danger," he said. "You think nothing can happen to you because you make so much money."

The issue of fraud within the football industry hit headlines earlier this year when former Wolves and Coventry midfielder Michael McIndoe was placed under investigation for allegedly tricking hundreds of footballers and friends into investing in a £30m Ponzi-type scheme.

Almost 100 players including Robbie Keane and former Fulham midfielder Jimmy Bullard were said to have been victims of the scam.

"It's hard when you don't know if the people around you really want to help you or just make money for themselves," said Saha. "It makes you paranoid."

Many players also lose up to half their earnings through divorce, he added.

Saha founded Axis Stars after losing "a large amount of money" in an unnamed investment scheme. "I invested in a scheme that was giving back some taxes," he said. "Many players invested and it went wrong. I want to stop that happening.

"You need to understand the pressure that players are under," he continued.

"All the time it's about getting fitter, stronger, more efficient in front of the goal. You don't think about anything else. You don't have time to think about investments and taxes and there are just so many propositions thrown at you."

Axis Stars will also help professional sportspeople to find reputable advisers. It specialises in contract management, ranging from club contracts to insurance. The business takes a 1.5pc commission on deals done through the site, split between the player, the club and the agent. It also charges £250 as a listing fee for financial advisers. Brands will pay to put their products in the online shop.

There are currently 200 advisers, including PwC and BDO, listed. "It's a risk to join the platform," said Saha. "People can say that they gave the wrong advice. That is what transparency is. But they really want to target these players so it's in their best interests to give a good service."

Saha, who has played for Manchester United, Fulham, and Everton, launched the business last September.

"His bad luck with injuries made him think about his financial stability, he revealed.

"I had so many injuries that I was forced to think about what I would do if my career ended. I want to help other sportsmen so they don't end up losing everything."