g1smd - 12:02 pm on Feb 21, 2013 (gmt 0)
Moving to an extensionless format reaps a lot of rewards. It is highly recommended. You have much better control over URL formats and can reject all requests with appended parameters.
It's quite a lot of work to set up, but it means you will have a LOT less maintenance going forward.
Setting up the system so that everything correctly redirects to the new URL is crucial.
If every part of the new URL can be gleaned from the old URL, then you can do it in just a few lines of code in the htaccess file.
If the "translation" is more complicated you need another method. Rewrite incoming requests for the old URL so that they are served by a special PHP script that looks up the new URL in a PHP array or in a database. The PHP script sends the correct 301 HEADER pointing to the new URL. If the old URL request cannot be fulfilled with a new URL, it is vital that the PHP script returns 404 and a "not found" error message - it must not ever return 200 OK. It's a couple of dozen lines of code for the whole thing.
Your proposed URL format is more complicated than it need be. You do not need the .php part at all. Replace /sportsperson.php/ with /sp- or similar.