Football supply, demand and planning for reality - Part Two

15 Sep Football supply, demand and planning for reality – Part Two

While fans live in hope about what the future may bring, there are many people who feel quite different. This includes those young players who have been released and are uncertain of their future, those players who are at the end of their career and waiting (or having to prove) they are worth another year, those Managers / Coaches who are still out of work and waiting for the phone to ring, and the host of players who are out of contract and hoping to impress on trial for a new dawn.

In part one we considered the supply and demand for professional footballers. This follow up blog considers the opportunities for those to make a career as a coach or part of the support staff.


Coaches and Support staff (the supply system, the role of the education system)


The ability to be involved in 1st Team football at a football club is even more cut throat than wanting to fulfil the dream as an athlete. Helped by the introduction of the EPPP there is an increase in the number of roles within football clubs. However there is still a significant volume of supply through the role of the education system which allows many to chase an opportunity that in reality is very difficult to realise. Here are some hypothetical thoughts on the competition in supply and demand:

  • 92 league clubs with an average number of professional roles involved in 1st team football at 7 (acknowledging that at the top of the game these numbers can be in excess of 25) = 644
  • Of the 644 there are only 92 Managers jobs available.


As with players there is an annual movement within those 644, and many are linked to the leader / manager.

The opportunity to break into this group of professionals, is arguably harder when you consider that the education system is supporting the ambition and aspirations for many who have played that game at a good level, but also those who haven’t. The FE and HE system have thousands of students (including those who have played professionally, some supported by the PFA) now studying courses that focus on each of the areas in the 1st team staff including Performance Analysis, Sports Science, Physiotherapy and Coaching, with an aspiration to make a career in professional football in that profession. Added to this there is the football education system that is run by the FA, Premier League and the League Managers Association who skill up thousands of non and current professionals to become qualified coaches, scouts and managers.

The reality is…the supply system (in this case the education system), completely outweighs the demand required by the industry and this has one lasting effect on the system. This allows the industry to recruit high quality people (who have or haven’t played at a high level) into the majority of back room roles for a much reduced market value (this is for another blog!).


The simple message


This shows that achieving a career as a coach or part of the support staff in professional football is as tough, if not tougher then the journey as an athlete into professional football. The numbers are stacked against them, even if they have completed their education and qualifications (added to this challenge is the increasing supply conveyor belt from outside the UK). Being flexible about the next step in their careers, is evident, as not just the opportunities are hard to come by, but the lifespan (average life span of 1st Team Manager is under 18 months) of their role is very volatile.

For those whose aspiration it is, without the background of 100 plus league games, the opportunity is even more difficult, even though there are many positive examples. However, the size of the supply with this type of background is huge, meaning there has to be something special about you. Once you are in however, you are then exposed to exactly the same journey as the above…


Summary – Planning for the future


Although what I have spoken about in these two blogs in terms of statistics and numbers is hypothetical, the message is quite clear for both athletes and football staff. Breaking through the talent identification pathway, having a lengthy career and never having to work again is not the reality for the majority of players in the system – it is these stories that need telling to raise awareness and equip the future generations in the system, and more importantly their support networks, for the challenges ahead. Longevity is certainly very difficult in football.

It is really important for me, that the game does more through EPPP and its associate bodies, The FA, PFA, LMA and the Premier League to tell the stories of reality and challenge for many in the future, and invest in the development of a proper systematic approach. There is nothing wrong with creating aspirations, and exposing the system to the opportunities at the top of the game, but the statistics show that this only affects a real small minority of those in the game both on and off the field. Investment, time and education really needs to improve to ensure that the system creates opportunity not just to fulfil potential in the game, but to also to ensure that if the dream does not become the reality they are equipped to follow another path.

It is clear from the statistics and the journeys of professional athletes that I am very aware of that it is not just those in the talent identification system that require the support and education for the future. It is just as important to those who are in the professional system now to ensure they have every chance to deal with the inevitable, once the day comes, if they have not had the chance to make themselves financially for life.

As I said at the outset this time of year is a really tough time (one of a few in the year) for many athletes, staff and their families in the football industry. It is where there is much celebration with good news, but it is also filled with uncertainty and for some a time of real worry. I hope, that for everyone involved that their aspirations, desires and for some, their new path ensures their safe and secure future for themselves and those around them.

“Football isn’t everything – but some of its experiences, lessons and relationships it has given you will stand you in good stead for the future.”