Who are you and what’s your journey into scouting?
I recently put an announcement out to see if any scouts would have a conversation about scouts pay and the state of the industry. Well, I was very happy and surprised that Chris Watts (Academy Scout at a category one club in the North West of the UK and also a first team scout at a North West Counties Premier League Club) said he would be happy to discuss this topic with me. Chris was as I imagined him, switched on, ambitious, humble and yet very astute. We dove straight into the conversation, but I first wanted to know his journey and his reason why he pursued a career in the talent identification industry.
Who are you?
Chris was very forth coming and informed me that his journey into scouting and talent ID has only been around 13 months so far, but his background was in teaching. But like us all he hit on some troubling times with job security due to COVID, which was not surprising. With this pandemic it was time for Chris to re-evaluate his position. So, he addressed what he loved doing, and how he could upskill himself in that industry---and so his journey into scouting began. He did a range of PFSA courses and began networking with scouts up and down the UK. As a result, he now scouts for the category one club, which is a fantastic feat at only 13 months into the industry! With this being said, he is still upskilling himself, and going to university studying for an MSc in Sports Business Management. Also, he is doing a very interesting investigation on the EPPP has on relative age effect! We spoke about this for some time as it was intensely fascinating, but I was conscious of time, and so I pressed on with the subject matter of ‘Scouts Pay’.
So how are scouts paid?
This has been a compelling subject for me as many scouts seem to be paid very differently based on a number of factors including experience, education level, networking and knowledge of the game to name but a few. Chris was very up front about this and explained that as a part of his PFSA qualification (Talent ID level 2) he was tasked with going to Championship games to write opposition reports and sometimes player reports. This was something he thoroughly enjoyed and recommends for scouts to do. These opportunities would sometimes turn into paid opportunities but not always. Normally if he went to a Championship game then the ticket would be paid for, sometimes he would be paid £50 to watch the game and travel expenses would be covered (this is all in a part time position basis). But overall, he has started out volunteering to get experience in the hope it would lead to a full-time job in the future. He has now secured some part time payment (£11 per hour) with the category one club as an academy scout which is fantastic. So, I was really intrigued and wanted to know more about the rates of pay and whether they are related to age, experience, education, qualifications and more.
Are the rates commensurate to experience, education and previous performance? (Are the rates fair?)
Chris said that it really depended on the role of the scout at the club. If they are really experienced as a scout then they are more likely to be doing it on the side as a hobby or something to do in retirement. But the reality is that the role will be dependent on the experience, so for someone that has a track record of finding talented players then they may be more likely to be a Chief Scout who maybe coordinates a team of scouts. Or they will be in a position as a Head of Recruitment, similar to a Chief Scout who helps organise and verify players at all levels. Another aspect of the role would be the level the scout has worked at previously. So for example, if they were a local scout, regional, national or even international scout will help determine the rate of pay. I think this sounds logical, all scouts must be on a salary that is commensurate with experience and education, but, like Chris, depending on the role they are doing at the club. This led me to wonder if there are other avenues for scouts to be paid.
Are there any other ways that a scout is paid?
When Chris was asked about this, he was again very transparent and highlighted what the state of the industry is like and how it works. For example, with the scouting work he does for North West Counties Premier League Club (voluntary, first team scout) his tickets for games will generally be paid for and expenses to and from games. But the issues are sometimes trying to get receipts for tickets to games of non-league clubs that may not generally provide receipts. This is an occupational hazard it would seem of being a scout. There is no way to show that you went to a game and therefore to be paid at least the expenses. The reality is that these scouts tend to do this type of work for the passion, the desire and love of the game, so getting paid or expenses is a bonus.
I was really intrigued about what ages Chris looks for with both clubs and how far he will go to look for a player. He did state that for the category one club it is for academy players aged 9-13 but for the North West Counties Premier League Club it was any age that could play first team. So, the reality of that will be any players aged 16 maybe and upwards! In terms of distance to watch players, Chris is a local scout and will look in the region of the north west for players generally, but he is open to emails and linking up with players as evidenced by several emails from parents and players he had had that week! This to me was fascinating as this seems to be an industry standard. The amount of times I hear of scouts or coaches being approached by players and parents, but they really have no knowledge of them. This I think is wherecomes in, which really does show what the normative data of player is like, as it has psychological metrics, video uploads and many more functions that could help scouts like Chris in these situations in the future. Anyway, I was still intrigued about scouts pay, and had some final questions.
Would you ever get a request from a player to come and watch him/her? And would you go?
As stated before, he seems to get a lot of requests from parents to go and watch a player, but it really depends on each situation. If it was for category one club in the North West, then it would be a ‘no’ straight away because it’s a professional structure and there are certain expectations of a scout in such an organisation. He would be open to looking at a player online though, if they had video footage, but most players don’t seem to have 90-minutes video footage, which is what a scout really needs to make assessments on a player. If the request was for him to watch as a scout for North West Counties Premier League Club then it would be more likely, but ultimately it would depend on the need of the club. For example, most scouts go out with an idea of what they are looking for (i.e. a centre forward, a left back, a goal keeper), but if the player had any talent then the statistics in the league would probably speak for themselves and it wouldn’t take long for a scout to have another look at the player. This seems to be the trend in scouting, they will have a good look at a player, maybe 5, 6, 7 times before they make a decision! So that is worth thinking about for any players still trying to break into the game. Keep going, persevere and show them all what you can do! I had one final question about scout reports and pay!
Would you ever write a report about a player, if requested?
The short answer for this was yes, but on a free basis, he would not charge a player for this, and he would be clear in what capacity he was looking at the player. Additionally, he would need to check with his different clubs to check if they were happy for him to do such a thing, but he didn’t see why not. But he would need to be cautious and protective about what he did in this sense, especially with the clubs’ name and ultimately his job at stake! I think this was a more than appropriate response but also highlights where the future lies foras we have growing numbers of players on the platform who want to be seen by scouts and coaches and more to the point know how to improve their game. We have actually already completed scout player reports for our users and they have been very happy so far with the results. So, watch this space as a new functionality will be coming to very soon. Anyway, I had to draw the conversation to a close with Chris and indeed thank him for his time and very valuable insights, so as ever I wanted to know how to get hold of him. Another great scout that is making waves and progress in the industry, who would be open to networking and future opportunities.
How can anyone get hold of you?
Linkedin: @Chris Watts
Call to action: If you are a scout, could you help with this research on scouts pay here.