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featured, Performance Analysis

The Intern Debate

17 Apr , 2013  

On Friday last the mainstream media ran a couple of articles, here and here, discussing the internships currently advertised by some Premier League Clubs. In one particular tweet David Conn tweeted a link to the jobs advertised on this site. If I can take that as a sample – it is startling the effect traditional journalists can have on the viewership of an issue. Another organisation Intern Aware who campaign for fair, paid internships were also involved and subsequently a list of 100 organisations (not just football clubs) have been brought to the attention of the HM Revenue & Customs.

Obviously twitter was very active as this story was going on and it seemed that the views held by people were at either extreme. This was either right or wrong, black or white! I’m not sure the answer is that simple and below I will outline why this issue can be a bit more complicated than people are making out. But before I start let me get a few things clear. Reading should not be taking all the blame for this. I have advertised hundreds of jobs and sadly only a tiny fraction of these are paid. Reading seem to be the ones left holding the can for an industry wide practice. Secondly my own personal view is that people should receive some compensation for work. That can be anything from expenses to a wage. As proof of that a few weeks  ago I asked for some help with this site. Although this site generates no revenue I felt morally it was important to offer some compensation (even pittance!) for the help I get.

Are Football Clubs Really That Rich

We all hear the wages paid to footballers but that does not make clubs rich – it could just mean they have foolish owners! Just look at the number of clubs who have gone into administration in the last few years. From first hand experience I can tell you that just because an organisation has loads of money does not mean they spend it in the right places. Are the Performance Analysts departments in these clubs being adequately funded – that’s a question we don’t know the answer to.

Will Payment Increase or Decrease Opportunities?

Again only time will tell on this one. Paul Brand, Head of Performance Analysis at Blackburn Rovers did a piece for this site outlining, the last question I asked him was about the paid v’s unpaid debate;

If as a club we were in the position to provide 5 salaries and therefore have 5, full time, salaried members of staff within the department then this would be the ideal scenario. That isn’t possible however hence the reason to utilise interns. While I don’t think its right to take advantage of people willing to work for little or no payment, what we provide here at Blackburn Rovers is an education and the experience to then gain employment within the industry. In my opinion, if an intern is to be utilised to the benefit of the club, then the relationship must be 2-way and an education, the relevant experience and also help finding full-time employment should be provided.

It could well be the case that if payment is required to hire performance analysis interns that the actual number might go down. Instead of getting 5  unpaid interns a club might only take 2 paid interns. IF (and that’s a big IF) the education and development opportunities are good enough shouldn’t the club reserve the right to decide what level of expenses/payment is attached the position? The difficulty without regulation it that  its hard for authorities and prospective interns to judge those development opportunities before taking the job and no doubt some clubs do take advantage. Perhaps regulation is the only way to go??

The Value of Analysts

It does raise an interesting point about the value clubs, either the manager or chairman place on analysis if they are not willing to pay for the service. This quote from Chris Anderson (soccerbythenumbers) perhaps sums up the problems analysts are facing.

Aside from scouts who have greeted the analytics movement with cold-shouldered trepidation, some of the greatest resistance to analytics has come from members of the coaching profession.

I hope this is a turning point in the paid v unpaid debate. My personal view is still that people should receive compensation for work but not everything in life is black and white and I don’t think this issue is any different.

[Also well worth reading Dave Willoughby's take on this from the point of view of an intern. His piece even has stats. Click here]