What is a football scout?

If you are a football scout, then it is your job to attend football matches with the goal of finding talented young players to sign. Scouts are usually either employed by a team directly, or serve in a freelance capacity. Although technology has begun to make a major impact on the industry, the main means of scouting remains personally attending matches.

Are there different types of football scouts?

When you are training to become a football scout, you will find that there are two main specialisations. These are:

    • Talent spotters – their job is to visit matches to try and find young players to recruit, all in the hope of discovering the next football star.
    • Tactical scouts – their job is to watch matches being conducted by upcoming opposition, observing gameplay and reporting back, to gain a tactical advantage.

Some football scouts will focus exclusively on one role, while others will alternate between the two depending on what their clients require. You may also find that these roles begin to evolve, especially with increasing levels of technology within the industry. This may even reach the point where some scouts may not even head out to games at all, becoming full-time data analysis professionals.

What is a football scout looking for?

As a scout, you are looking for up-and-coming talent based on a range of criteria, including:

  • Personality – does the player have the determination, passion and psychological stability to play at a high level despite the intense pressure?
  • Tactics – does the player know to think ahead to secure the win?
  • Technique – does the player have the skills that they will need to fill the niche the scout needs to fill?
  • Team relationship – does the player help and support their teammates effectively?
  • Background and family – is the player going to have the support needed to reach the top level and excel as a top-flight footballer?

While travelling to and observing matches is often still the largest part of the role, a football scout will also often be expected to conduct data analysis. This aims to begin your assessment of player potential before committing to watching a full match. You will also find that video scouting is increasingly common, and a modern football scout is likely to find that searching through databases will be an ever-growing part of their job.

What are the skills for becoming a football scout?

A good football scout needs a wide range of skills, but the ones you will find most vital are:

    • A passion for every aspect of football with an excellent in-depth knowledge of gameplay, rules and tactics.
    • Excellent observation skills when watching players on a pitch, with the ability to judge their ability accurately from a distance.
    • Outstanding communication skills to allow you to pass on your observations through exceptional communication skills, both in written and spoken reports.
    • An ability to judge character at a glance, often without directly interacting with the individual you are observing.
    • The patience to accept that not every lead will play out, and that you won’t always find something worthwhile.
    • The flexibility to know when to adapt your strategy, and when to cut your losses with a lead that isn’t working out.

“This is my passion, I have great satisfaction seeing the boys develop. I do it because I love youth football. Oh, and I’d like to find the next Lionel Messi.”

Andy Penney, Football Scout 

Steps to become a football scout

1. Play, coach or get involved in sports

It sounds obvious, but the most important part of being a football scout is knowing how to look for talent. Without this skill, you are going to find breaking into the world of professional football scouting to be all but impossible. To obtain this skill, you will need personal experience in sports. The best way to get that experience is to be involved in it yourself. This also has the added benefit of helping you build social skills and understand how teams work, all useful skills when you are launching your budding career. 

2. Build a network and communicate with the professionals

Another important step in becoming a football scout is getting to become a part of the scouting community. There is now a professional body of football scouts called the Professional Football Scouts Association (PFSA), and by meeting with the professionals, you might find yourself able to pick up some hints and tips! In addition, these contacts will be invaluable in helping you get started as a football scout.

3. Earn some qualifications

If you are serious about becoming a football scout, especially if you’re looking to work for a top-flight team, then you need to get yourself some qualifications. Both the PFSA and the FA offer courses in professional football scouting, and these will give you the information you need to succeed. While these courses will cost you some money, the skills and contacts you will earn through them will be essential in helping you achieve success in your chosen career as a football scout.

4. Get your foot in the door

Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter how qualified you are if you can’t get a job in the first place. This is why it’s important to build a network of contacts, because you will need their help to land your first few jobs as a professional football scout. These will likely be for smaller semi-professional clubs, so it doesn’t matter if your first few hunts are not successful or particularly well-paid. Remember, you are at the start of your career, and by getting your foot in the door, you will be taking the first few steps on the path to being a football scout so keep pushing towards your goal, and stay patient.

5. Put in the hard graft

Finally, the key step to becoming a football scout is to put in the hard work, and to keep pushing onward until you make your big break. It will be hard work, and you will have to deal with long hours, but if you have the passion and drive you will be successful! Keep working hard, developing contacts, and chasing down leads, and soon you will find yourself with the valuable experience you need to succeed as a professional football scout.

What do you need to be a football scout?

Historically, you would not have not needed any particular qualifications to become a football scout. However, in recent years, there have been major steps taken to professionalise the role to reflect the high-level skills it requires. This is increasingly visible at high-end clubs, who are likely to expect you to hold relevant qualifications. 

Foremost among these qualifications are the Football Association (FA) Talent Identification courses:

  • FA Level 1 – An Introduction to Talent Identification in Football
  • FA Level 2 – Talent Identification in Football
  • FA Level 3 – Advanced levels of Talent Identification in Football

While there are other courses available, you are unlikely to need any qualification above FA Level 1 or FA Level 2 when applying for any entry-level role. The Professional Football Scouts Association (PFSA) also offers equivalent courses which are widely recognised.

If you’re looking to pursue a career in football, then football scouting is definitely a step in the right direction. Talent identification is becoming increasingly important in English football.

Adam Hobson – Commercial Director, PFSA

How much does a football scout make?

As a football scout, as with many professions, there is the potential to earn large sums of money. This does come with a caveat: it is dependent on you reaching the highest levels of the profession. For most football scouts, according to Glassdoor you can expect a wage between £20,000 and £24,000 if working in a salaried role.

Related occupations

While the role of a football scout is somewhat unique, there are a lot of other professions with similar skills. If you have a passion for sports, football, or the idea of helping to develop young talent, then these could all be roles for you:

  • Personal trainer
  • Sports dietitian
  • Football coach
  • Sports performance analyst
  • Life coach
  • Referee
  • PE teacher

References:

1. https://www.independent.co.uk/student/career-planning/getting-job/i-want-your-job-veterinary-nurse-758945.html

2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/24653124