Every day I wake up and feel hugely fortunate that I work within the football industry, watching games and players for a living. I worked hard to get to where I am, and although I don’t own a 6-bedroom house in Cheshire with a fleet of supercars garnishing the extensive driveway, I am reminded of the famous quote “If you love your job, you will never work a day in your life”. Whilst this is quite poetic and uplifting, that unfortunately doesn’t always apply for those wishing to break in to the football industry, more specifically, the scouting industry.
Over the years I have worked with many talented scouts, often very young, always very enthusiastic. Some have spent three years at university, some have played to a decent level in their youth, some, like myself, are just obsessed with football and have always wanted to be involved in some capacity. Without a doubt, the ultimate goal for many of these scouts is to work full-time within the hustle and bustle environment of a professional football club, but they know there is a long and frustrating road ahead.
There is an ugly pattern and attitude within the scouting industry, particularly in the Football League in England, where clubs are praying on enthusiasm and getting a great deal of hard work and effort for next-to-nothing. Budding scouts may initially be ok with this – it’s experience, networking and getting their names out there, but the entitlement of clubs under the guise of “We have no budget!” surely needs to be questioned.
In my own experience, I have felt the rough end and poor attitude of working for a club. I had a club’s chief scout approach me a couple of seasons back, asking for opposition reports on an ‘as-and-when’ basis. Great! It’s what we do at The Scouting Network, and I was happy to cover the first game. They liked the report and many more followed. Invoice time came, slight delay. Fine. More games followed, again happy to do so. Second invoice time came. More games. Reminder of the two previous invoices was sent. I was then told by the chief scout to speak to their finance team and was given details. I spoke to an assistant, where I was told the invoice would be paid end of the week. More games. No payment. Spoke to chief scout, where he said, “It’s not my problem – you need to speak to the finance team!” Spoke to the finance team, still the assistant and not the actual person in charge..… it took 4 months for a first payment, then a further 3 months for the rest. Almost every day I was on the phone trying to speak to the head of the finance department who was either ‘on holiday’ or ‘out of office’. No wonder it took so long to get a single penny.
The chief scout I dealt with washed his hands with the whole affair, with an attitude that suggested “Well, why should we pay you!??”. Well, because, we have spent a large amount of money, time and effort to get YOUR requested games covered, we are a small company that cannot afford to not be paid. We have dedicated scouts travelling to cover these games. They need and deserve paying.
I actually highlighted such reasons in a strongly worded e-mail to him. The sheer fact I had to highlight these basic fundamentals of how business works still staggers me to this day.
By this time the season had ended, but sure enough come the first week of the next season I get an e-mail from the very same chief scout asking for me to cover games. “Yes, but we would need to set up a direct debit to ensure we are paid monthly and without issue”. “We can’t do that – the club won’t sign off on that”. Needless to say, I turned down the work.
I am not talking about ALL clubs. I have had the pleasure of working with many over the years and they have been nothing but professional and always appreciated the work we did and, shockingly, paid their invoices on time!
It’s an all too familiar and distasteful fabric within the game that clubs are taking full advantage of young, talented scouts. I have had many a phone call with scouts who are close to tears because they feel taken advantage of, that they have spent their entire weekends watching games and compiling detailed reports, going more than the extra mile and spending their own money for the pleasure.
Certain clubs are determined to gather the information no matter who they tread on, whether it be on opposition or potential signings, they need scouts yet don’t seem to appreciate them, in fact, they seemingly prefer to completely disrespect them in quite a vile manner. They just want something for free and feel that they are doing scouts a favour by handing them an opportunity. This is a fob-off approach and it’s time it changed.
Budget. It’s one of the most potent words in lower level football. Understandably so, but some of the clubs I have done work for have the lowest budget in the league, yet they appreciate the value of scouting work, appreciate the value of the scout undertaking the work and therefore will pay what it costs.
A club signs a player for fee, the new player agrees terms of wages and length of contract. Protocol. Next to the player is an agent who has done very little but will receive 10% of this transaction which the club will pay. Protocol. The club may be lucky down the road, receiving a sell-on fee of which the agent will also receive 10%. Protocol. The scout who spent a great deal of his time and money tracking, unearthing such players, missing time from the family, writing detailed reports may get paid 40p per mile. Protocol.