Player / Marketer

Self – Marketing Footballers

A study into academies at professional football clubs spoke to 303 17 and 18 year olds who hope to make it as professional footballers. Fast forward five years to 2017, when they should be entering into the prime of their careers, and only four now have professional contracts. A dropout rate of 99%. This alarming statistic is in part a product of the vast quantities of money flooding into top level football, creating a cut-throat environment where talent identification and development has been replaced with quick, short term fixes to help guarantee clubs stay in the top leagues in order to remain at football’s top table.

Young footballers as disposable assets to clubs is not a new revelation but the pro-active reaction of young footballers and their self-promotion is an ever-growing trend.

Football’s governing bodies are often quick to protect the clubs, the new compensation system put in place by the FA where clubs can be compensated as much as £40,000 a year for a youth player sounds good in principle and helps protect smaller clubs from losing the talent they’ve developed for a number of years for a nominal fee. However, for those players at academies at the bigger clubs (with a 99% drop out rate) this can lead to young players being left in limbo as their parent club, who deem the player not quite good enough to make the grade, are owed tens of thousands of pounds and the clubs that are eager to sign them can’t afford to pay the fees.

So with many young players facing an uncertain future, many of them are becoming more savvy in managing their own brand. The England Under-17s were recently criticised for their act of self-promotion, turning their shirts around to display their name, when lifting the Under-17s World Cup. It’s worth noting that winning a prestigious trophy isn’t always a fast track to footballing riches, of the 18 players in the 2010 England U17 squad who lifted the European Championship only four or five are established Premier League regulars (Ross Barkley, Jack Butland, Saido Berahino, etc.) but the majority of the squad can now be found plying their trade in The Championship or lower divisions of football.

Add to this the ability of players to grow their own profile through their social media then you have a far more ‘investable’ product, a player that has exceptional football talent as well as a strong brand.

If clubs are unable to guarantee the future of their youth players, then you can’t blame the players from taking their future into their own hands and drawing attention to their achievements, and indeed their name when the opportunity presents itself.

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