From the rugby pitch to the construction site
Exeter Chiefs’ fans sing the Tomahawk Chop war chant when the team walk on at the start of home games.
The pair are now completing their first project, two houses and a bungalow on a site at Bishopsteignton in Devon. All three open-plan, modern-style homes have sold long before completion.
“Our sponsors at the Chiefs included land firms, estate agents, solicitors and accountants, which were all contacts we could use. Those links meant we could deal straight with directors and other developers. It didn’t make it easy, but it did make it a logical choice to move into property,” explains Salvi, an Australian flanker who has retired and is now on Exeter’s coaching team.
Fellow Tomahawk director Low, a Scottish prop in his fifth season with the Chiefs, got the property bug after the club held tutorials on investment for players. “I had several buy-to-lets in Scotland to give me financial freedom after I stopped playing, but the tax changes and the difficulty of managing those while playing in Devon meant I had to get something else,” he says. “This has been a brilliant challenge and it’s my future career.”
The pair have more sites across Devon lined up for their next schemes. It’s fortuitous timing, as demand for property around Exeter remains high. They feel their experience in a sports team has helped them manage their builders, as well as face new tasks including battling against council planning departments.
Now that he has retired from the game, Salvi is finding his kicks elsewhere. “Even getting something like planning consent or selling the homes in advance has given me a new form of adrenalin rush,” he says. “There’s a great feeling of achievement.”
Salvi and Low have some way to go to displace former football stars from the top of the property tree – or, in the case of ex-Manchester United players Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, from the top of St Michael’s, their planned 39-floor, £200million skyscraper.
After a troubled planning history, the new scheme in central Manchester, which has recently been approved, will contain 190 luxury apartments, including a duplex penthouse with two terraces, as well as a five-star, 200-bedroom hotel.
Neville has had a long-standing interest in development, which meant that towards the end of his playing career he would train in the morning and do site visits in the afternoon. He is just one of many from football who have turned to bricks and mortar.
In 2014 then-Liverpool players Luis Suàrez, Lucas Leiva and José Enrique, along with Arsenal midfielders Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla, became directors of regeneration developer Capital and Centric Investments.
The firm’s latest project has been the creation of 60 flats in Manchester’s his- toric Ancoats, deliberately targeting local residents to avoid, in the company’s words, “investors siphoning them off ”.
But it’s Robbie Fowler – boasting 26 caps for England and playing for top clubs including Manchester City and Liverpool – who has perhaps scored the most success with property. During his time at City, fans used to chant “We all live in a Robbie Fowler home” to the tune of Yellow Submarine, a nod to his buy-to-let empire in Manchester.
In recent years he has expanded into seminars, with the Robbie Fowler Property Academy covering everything from investment to development and mentoring. “When I started I didn’t know much about the property world, but I had good advice from people who did. It was putting that into practice that made my business go from strength to strength,” he says, explaining why he champions coaching sessions for new investors.
The property fast lane lends itself to ex-racing drivers like Eddie Irvine, too. In 1999 he came second in the Formula One world championship, but long before he was Michael Schumacher’s team-mate at Ferrari he had a lucrative alternative income from multiple buyto-lets in his native Northern Ireland.
He then became a builder, setting up Chrishardzoe Developments in his home country and the Casa Ischia company in Miami, where he is now letting his own seven-bedroom beach home for a reported $180,000 (£140,400) a month. So is there life after world-class sport? You bet – and it may be on a building site near you.