The Football and Society Podcast

Unpaid football scouts in England: a route into the industry, or exploitation?

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Episode notes

In this episode, we’re looking at unpaid work in football scouting in men’s professional football in England, joined by Jacob Griffiths of the University of Chester. 

While football in England has long been professionalised, with all but two of the English football league’s 86 members registered as private companies, the work of scouts seeking out new talent is often voluntary. A recent study interviewed scouts in unpaid roles to find out more about their motivations and experiences. Jacob Griffiths and Daniel Bloyce interviewed 12 football scouts; these included scouts who had previously worked or were currently working in an unpaid role, along with individuals working in senior roles who had experience employing unpaid scouts. 

For several participants, unpaid work as a scout was an extension of their passion for football as a spectator, though there was also an underlying hope for many of them that with enough experience they could land a professional, paid role. This was despite the lack of evidence indicating that working unpaid will guarantee full-time, paid scouting work. The authors of the study saw this as an example of the romanticisation of football, whereby individuals are led to build fantastical hopes on the prospect of ‘making it’ in the game; indeed, several participants perceived their unpaid scouting work as an escape from the mundane routines of ‘normal’ life. As the article notes, however, scouting remains on the periphery of football clubs: the scout operates at an outsider level because they are not traditionally part of the ‘inner sanctum of the backroom staff’.


Football and Society, a podcast exploring societal issues through the lens of the beautiful game. In this series, we’ll be covering topics such as the Safe Standing campaign and football fan activism in the age of anti-politics

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