A recent spate of burglaries and attempted robberies has prompted Premier League footballers to once again consider hiring bodyguards for their personal protection. Arsenal first team players Mezut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac are the two most recent targets of such criminal activity, having been targeted by armed men on a scooter in July.
As long ago as 2010, in an article by Andrew Fifield for The Telegraph, the Professional Footballer’s Association (PFA) were advising players to put security measures in place to protect themselves, their families and property.
The PFA’s warning came on Saturday after it was alleged that an unnamed top-flight footballer is being forced to pay £15,000 every three months in protection money to a London gang.
The BBC World Service’s World Football programme claims footballers and their relatives are becoming prey for gangs, who see them as easy targets for extortion and intimidation. The threat has now become so serious that PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor believes players should hire private minders to supplement any protection afforded by police.
“Football reflects society and sometimes society can be not very pleasant,” said Taylor. “If these threats are a reality it’s a terribly intimidating thing for the player concerned.
“Clubs and players are a lot more conscious about security, we have made them aware of this, and there’s a strong need for private security to go alongside the police.
“It’s not a massive issue but we’ve seen enough examples in recent times of players’ houses being targeted while they’re away and teams suffering security scares for it to be taken seriously. Ultimately, it’s something that clubs and players have to discuss with the police and their security people.”
Paul Hughes, David Beckham’s former bodyguard who runs Benchmark Security, claimed he had heard of players being involved in protection money demands.
“I believe it has already happened, it’s an ongoing thing in the north east from what I have been told,” he said. “Most of your players are up-and-coming lads from the council estates and have still got all these contacts with people from when they were hanging around on street corners.
“When these other people see the money they have got they are contacting them.”
Hughes said players and their families were easy targets. “They are so easy it’s ridiculous and I think the clubs and the FA need to do a lot more to protect them and their families.”
Retired Premier League footballer Jermaine Pennant, who played for Arsenal and Liverpool, has reiterated the need for high profile targets to remain vigilant and take steps to protect themselves and their families, especially when using social media to show off their lifestyles:
"Now it's probably even worse because the money in football from TV has gone through the sky," he told BBC Sport.
"Players are getting paid a lot more and it's documented in the media. People are aware of how much footballers get paid, especially the high profile ones which we've seen recently on social media.
"Social media is a big thing. When you're - I wouldn't say showing off - but showing what you're worth, the goods you've got - you're entitled to and so you should be - but it gives more of an easy target."