By Chris Harold

I always planned to play professional football until I was well into my 30s. I never intended to retire this early. It’s a huge decision and there’s no going back. Football is everything I’ve known since I was a kid and I’ve been playing professionally since I was 18. 

I never gave retirement a thought until I came back to Perth, when the A-League stopped in March. Strangely it was liberating to have time away from the game and to think about where I was at, what I had achieved and my other ambitions in life.

Sadly, the whole COVID situation exposed the fragility of the A-League and the fragility of being a professional athlete. It really hit home that our football careers are finite; it is going to end and most of the time it is not on your terms; it’s out of your hands.

It made me think that my decision to retire was only really possible because I had balanced by football with study and because of the encouragement and support in my life from family and friends, and also from the PFA. My decision to pursue a legal degree had given me the flexibility and freedom to retire on my own terms. 

When you’re younger, you have aspirations to play at the highest level. People can have their own opinions of me as a player, but my own self-evaluation was a big part of being able to retire. And I felt like I’d achieved quite a lot throughout my career. I’m the games record holder at Perth Glory, which for me is a big achievement. 

Having so many fond memories provides a really big sense of achievement for me and gave me some peace to make my decision. I’m lucky that I have some amazing positive memories attached to the game and that I’m entering a new phase in my life, which is extremely exciting.


The PFA have played a big part in supporting me through my career and without their support, my path would have been much more challenging.

It is that constant and unwavering support you receive from the PFA, that makes them so important to professional footballers in this country.  When you are playing, they will help to make sure your experience is the best it can be. If you feel that you want to make a change, they’ll equally support you with that. There is no judgement, just support. 

While I was at University, the PFA’s Player Development Program helped on numerous occasions.  If I wasn’t able to complete course work or attend lectures because I had training or I had to travel for an away game, the assistance from my Player Development Managers helped me stay on top of things. It made a huge difference. When I was falling behind and feeling the pressure of keeping up with work, that support always gave me solace knowing I would get the help I needed.

There was also the financial support. The funding that the PFA provided to me through Player Development Program was not just about helping me with my university fees, it helped me get through tough periods when I felt life was getting the better of me. The PFA paid for a third of my degree, which is pretty substantial. Without that, it would have become a burden and something that hangs over your head when you’re retiring and having to transition.

I’m well aware that I will have to start a whole new career from the bottom. I’m having to learn my new trade and gain experience in a completely new industry. Looking at my family and providing the necessary stability for them, it seemed like the right opportunity to start that process now and not in three or five years’ time. I’ve already commenced some work with the PFA in their legal department and also gained employment in a law firm in Perth, so already doors are opening and opportunities presenting themselves. 

For me, having something else to focus on was always a positive and it benefited my football because it gave me something else to put my energy into.

If football is not going the way you want it to go, and if you are one-dimensional, you have less flexibility with making decisions about your life and career. Having external interests and study is also a massive help in keeping your mind off things and maintaining all-round mindfulness.

Importantly, if you’re prepared and you plan a little bit, that will give you a real sense of comfort to know that you have something else when that day comes to retire, whenever that is, you’re ready.