The importance of scouting - IFBI.Brussels

The importance of scouting

“The most important relation and the one most influential on the club’s success is the trilateral relationship between the club’s top management, the head coach and the football squad. A healthy relationship with shared vision and values between these three elements is key to the success of the club”

-Javier Zanetti, Vice President FC Internazionale Milano

At the end of the day, sporting activities and their results define a football club. Whereas the management department operates and orchestrates the everyday functioning of a club, the sporting department forms the beating heart of the footballing community. The football-specific organisational structures are “the most recognisable -with the highest profile- with which supporters, stakeholders and partners identify” and, therefore, need to deal with a lot of exposure (ECA Guide, 30).

Also on the financial part, the sporting side plays an important role. The cost of employing players has risen tremendously over the last decade(s). Overtaking economic growth in general, the expansion of players’ wages is even more remarkable than the staggering rise of transfer fees. If we take Premier League as an example, we see that the transfer spending fees continued to grow over the years, but so has wage cost. During the season 2014/15 Premier League clubs spent a total of £2.03 billion on remunerations (Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance 2017, 2). Season 2016/17; £2,5 billion. A growth rate of 23% in only 2 years!

Graph: Numbers by Deloitte – Design by Jonas Thumas (intern IFBI)

Undoubtedly, employment cost is a crucial factor when making up a club’s budget for the year(s) to come. The club’s non-sportive departments need to ensure that –through for example commercial activities- enough resources are available in order to fund the buying spree of the football department. It is clear that the decision of recruiting players has vast implications, and is therefore not a one-man job.

The Sportive Director (responsible for the football strategy), the Chief Executive Officer (responsible for the management strategy), the Chief Financial Officer, the Legal Secretary, the Head Coach and the Scouting Department are the heart of the club when it comes to dealing with transfers. Clear lines of communication between all parties are vital for a successful recruitment process. In order for the sportive department to justify their interest in a certain player, the information provided to the management board should be perceivable and fact-based. This is where the scouting department kicks in.

Due to the financial risks involved, knowing what you buy is of great importance. A good scouting section can prevent unfortunate transfers and, thus, financial distress can be avoided. Following the ECA Club Management Guide, the role of the scouting department can be described as follows:

“Collect data on potential targets from markets identified by the club, based on criteria set by the club; Disseminate gathered information within the club between key decision makers; Provide facts on player recruitment made by the club in order to maximise the success rate of transfers.” (ECA Guide, 43)

So, apart from tactical scouting where the tactics of the other team are assessed, it is obvious that due to the increased mobility of players over the last decades the role of the scout has evolved and became more significant in the overall sporting department of a football club. The image of the football scout has clearly changed; from taking notes during a game (the old-fashioned way) and hearsay, to analysing data, tracking injury history, considering psychological aspects, backing conclusions by using video footage,…

Decisions in scouting based only upon emotions, is a thing of the past. Utilising all forms of intelligence has become a crucial aspect of the job. First of all, a scout needs to know whether a player’s positional play is good, if he is talented and able to perform, and that involves watching the game completely differently. Second, the scout needs to back his findings when reporting to the decision makers in dealing with transfers. This does not only requires a scout who has the ability to transfer his knowledge, but also the stakeholders in the buying process of a player need to have insights into how the scouting has been done.

How to acquire the knowledge of scouting? Training!

At the International Football Business Institute – IFBI, we teamed up with the International Professional Scouting Organisation – IPSO. IPSO is an international scouting network designed by experienced and professional scouts and managers in order to introduce innovative training for current and future scouts and to provide appropriate systems and procedures for effective analysis and scouting at a professional level. By following the constantly changing trends, technological developments and improvement of training methods in football, IPSO developed their own, unique scouting programme.

We believe that the insights IPSO can provide to improve and optimise the professional techniques and selection of appropriate criteria to obtain a crystal view of the real skills of a player, not only benefits people working at a scouting department, but is of value as well for people working on the management side of a club. That is why we decided to incorporate the IPSO Level 1 Scouting course in our curriculum and opened it up for the public.

Want to get more insights into how scouting can provide added value for clubs, or interested in being able to analyse a player from a holistic point of view? Join us in Brussels on Tuesday the 19th and Wednesday the 20th of June for two days of scouting.

Take a look at the IPSO website for more information:
See you at IFBI!