The new season has started and that also means that the scouts – first team and academy – are in full swing to look for the future. Looking for the players for next season or for the next transfer window, and that’s something I want to talk about today: the pressure felt by other clubs to sign or not sign a certain player.
We are talking here about scouting players that are playing on amateur or semi-professional level who are being watched by professional clubs. This is in the case of a first team, but also in the case of a player that will be invited into an academy. In this article no attention will be given to players already playing in a professional academy or first team.
We are not talking about massive clubs here, clubs that have the ability and money to scout beyond the borders. We are talking about clubs that have to scout regionally and profit from the talent that is in the next 50-100 kilometres from them and will scout in that particular area.
It sounds kind of fancy: academy scout, and I would love to give a clear definition of what the role entails, but this might be different for every country or every club. The structure is like follows: there are five regions and each region has 3 or 4 scout with a coordinating scout or ‘headscout’ of that particular region.
Each region consists of 10 or more grassroots/non-league clubs. Each scout is responsible for 3 or 4 clubs which he or she monitors for the different age brackets. In the club that I scout for, we look at the U8’s until the U12’s. This is because at our club, the teams only start from the U12 and up.
The scout is tasked to look at different clubs and their teams and scout the children that might be good enough for the academy we are scouting for OR are considered good enough to train with a higher resistance.
Academy set up
There is a difference between scouting and recruitment. Obviously, you can do a lot of scouting and recommend many players, but in the end, a selection has to be made of players that can actually join the academy. This can happen through three possible options:
- Training programme. The younger players will train in a training program with the possibility of joining the U12 or U13.
- A player is scouted through the resistance programs of the Dutch football association. I will explain that later in this piece.
- Player is scouted from the age 14 and up – exceptionally good and can join instantly
- Players that have been let go from bigger academies and are picked up
Sometimes, there have to be more players get into the academy. This has to do with the flow of academy players to the first team. This means that in every team, players will flow to a team from a higher age bracket. From U16 to U18, U18 to U21 etcetera.
So as I’ve said there are a number of clubs involved in the region. These are all amateur clubs, but it’s hard to get a player to sign for you as there are different professional clubs scouting in the same areas. A mid-table club will definitely have less appeal to a player or their parents than for example a club that regularly played for the title or Europe. That means you have to be creative and quick.
The region consists of 10 clusters of which 5 are based in Germany. Clubs opt a lot for local identity and significance rather than scout all over the country and beyond. Obviously, this has also got to do with the finances of clubs and the idea of identification of fans with the club. Taken this all into consideration, it’s both culturally and financially the best decision to scout in the direct region. This also means that the club’s identity and core principles reflect that of the region they live in.
Now the difficult part in one of these processes is the pressure from other clubs. If you have four academies in a 100 km radius, with another BIG academy just a bit further in the Netherlands, and 4-5 big academies in Germany – this puts pressure on your scouting. The idea that you need to sign a player because otherwise, your rivals will take him/her – does make it more difficult. You are not only scouting to get a player but also to prevent the rivals of getting that particular player. When it’s more crowded with clubs, the quality of the academy can go down. This is because of the fact that academies with no immediate local rival, will opt for the best players only because they are not worried that potential prospects will be snatched up by local rivals.