Can football clubs crowdsource a new player?
Stephen Hurrell | July 4, 2012
Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest – all tools for social networking. So why hasn’t anybody come up with a football networking tool? The answer is they have – and it could lead to the age of the crowdsourced footballer. Football is littered with tales of unique lengths a club will go to in order to find the next star. Think Roy Essandoh, who was signed by Wycombe Wanderers after responding to a Teletext advert and promptly scored the winner in an FA Cup Quarter Final against Leicester. Or, less successfully, Ali Dia, whose claim he was former World Player of the Year George Weah‟s cousin, who was signed after a phone call from a fake Weah, according to legend. He played just 53 minutes as a substitute before being taken off and released by the club. But as social media and club‟s online presence grows, it seems inevitable the notion of the crowdsourced signing will emerge.
In fact it already has – in 2008 Everton signed a deal with Sports Interactive, makers of hugely popular management simulation Football Manager, to be given access to their database of players. The database, compiled by legions of „scouts‟ from around the world, all signed up because of their knowledge of local clubs, is probably the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in the UK. But would it work at local level? The idea was broached by local non league blog TheMatlockFan and later by the BBC, who reported Yeovil manager Skiverton had asked his followers on Twitter to suggest players for the League One club. He said: “I can‟t afford a scouting system. I‟ve got 1,700 followers and out of that I‟ve got quite a few names and there‟s been some interesting ones.” On a local level AFC Liverpool, who sit six divisions below Yeovil, have nearly 5,000 Twitter followers and a popular fan group has nearly 2,000 more. With this number of loyal followers, the potential to scout one of the UK‟s most productive areas for unearthing new talent is huge.
“Occasionally, I would see articles about clubs complaining about lack of finance necessary to actively scout and this was now worse due to the financial crisis but no solution was ever offered. “ Futbolistico.co.uk spokesperson
While the chances of potentially finding the next Messi seem a little ambitious, it could mean talented players in the amateur leagues are picked up. New website Futbolistico.co.uk hopes to capitalise on this new generation of scouting by „significantly changing football from grassroots level up‟. The site wants clubs to sign up for a yearly fee and in return, a volunteer scouting network will file reports on players and opposition tactics. This, says the blurb, allows clubs to create a scouting network according to its size and budget. The amateur scouts can be rated and assessed so that clubs can target the best and, according to Futbolistico, represents a cost-effective scouting system for players and to help develop tactics. A truly crowdsourced footballer would be an interesting social experiment and another gleaming endorsement of the connectivity of social media.
However, when asked about the term, a Futbolistico spokesperson was not keen: “I would suggest that the term may need a little work as it has no reference to the clubs final viewing of a player prior to making an approach.” But the site has problems. How much will time and energy will volunteer scouts wish to hand over to a profit-making website. How will the quality of the reports be judged? Is a manager not a better judge, knowing his area and keeping up contacts of talented players in the local area? According to Futbolistico, it will not be a problem: “At non‐league and local level an army of volunteers help keep clubs going as do their spectators. “It always amazes me the amount of time and effort people volunteer for their local clubs to make sure things run smoothly and so helping as a spectator scout will be something many will happily enjoy. “Paying scouts for their help is not intended and furthermore, I‟d say that if clubs could pay scouts then they would and so the need for Futbolistico would not arise.” For Futbolistico, whether it agrees with the term or not, the crowdsourced footballer is on its way at lower league – the first model has been put forward and now it will see if it works. According to Futbolistico, it will work. The spokesperson added: “A site like what Futbolistico has become is was very much in keeping with the Twitter and Facebook age we live. That is, where the proximity between famous people/organisations and the public is far less than ever. So why couldn‟t spectators help clubs?”
A truly crowdsourced footballer would be an interesting social experiment and another gleaming endorsement of the connectivity of social media.
But as social media and club’s online presence grows, it seems inevitable the notion of the crowdsourced signing will emerge.
In fact it already has – in 2008 Everton signed a deal with Sports Interactive, makers of hugely popular management simulation Football Manager, to be given access to their database of players.