Football as a career is highly competitive. Only a minority of aspiring young hopefuls secure paid employment with a league club and only a few amateur clubs offer salaried positions.
Football league and some amateur clubs throughout the UK employ footballers. Their job involves working and training as a team. Most footballers specialise in playing one position, such as goalkeeper, striker, defender or mid-fielder.
The majority of professional football players are spotted by talent scouts and approached to join a club Academy or Centre of Excellence Apprenticeship programme. As well as playing in both competitive and friendly football matches, footballers are contracted to attend regular training sessions. Typical daily schedules can be a combination of:
Player health regimes, the behavioural code of conduct and club rules can be strict. To optimise team performance levels, footballers work closely with fitness coaches, doctors, sports and exercise scientists, physiotherapists, psychologists and the team manager.
Squad selection for a match can depend upon each player's physical and medical health, as well as the skills they bring to the team. Any injury can mean time in rehabilitation doing physiotherapy.
Players may also spend time talking to the media and conducting community work on behalf of the club, such as hospital visits or coaching local children and young people. Some have individual sponsorship contracts.
Apart from high-ranking players, many have second occupations outside of football.
During the football league season, which traditionally runs from July to May, footballers train most days, preparing for match fixtures. During the close season, which is approximately six weeks, footballers may join club tours or play in tournaments.
Most training takes place outdoors at a purpose built training ground. Professional players train virtually all day, every weekday. The majority of amateur clubs train twice a week, usually in the evenings. On-site facilities can include gyms, swimming pools and indoor sports halls. Matches can take place any weekday, including weekends and bank holidays.
A lot of time is spent travelling to and from matches. Players can spend periods away from home. Some overseas travel may be necessary.
A Football Academy or Centre of Excellence apprentice receives a training allowance from the age of 16, which is a minimum of £45 a week. Performance and actual play bonuses, sponsorship deals and media appearances can increase earnings.
Football Academies now operate at all Football Association (FA) Premier League and some Football League clubs. In addition, Football League clubs operate Centres of Excellence. Professional clubs in Scotland run a scheme titled the Youth Initiative Programme. Although there is no set professional football programme for women and young girls, many of the professional clubs have league amateur football teams.
All of these programmes are special training schemes aimed to help develop and nurture future football players. In addition, many non-league clubs run their own development schemes or community projects.
Places are not advertised. Players with a chance of succeeding at a professional level are usually spotted by scouts while playing for school or youth teams.
While no formal academic qualifications are required for entry, some GCSE's/S grades can be useful, as individuals are encouraged to learn about other aspects of sport science, physiology and nutrition as part of training. Qualifications are also useful for when a player reaches the end of their football career and needs to move onto a second career.
The main route into the professional and semi-professional game is through formal programmes run by clubs. A player must be at least nine years old to join an Academy, but many premiership clubs have development groups catering to younger players. Living locally to the club is usually a requirement for young players.
When approaching 16, clubs decide which players will go on to join their Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence. There are limited places available. These programmes generally last for two years, during which time young players progress from the Academy youth teams to the reserve teams. It is possible to sign a professional contract at 17, although 18 years of age is more realistic.
Those completing a full Apprenticeship programme may be offered a professional contract with their club. If not successful, candidates can be released from their club.
Some may be placed in a central talent pool. Many participate in annual assessment trials. These events showcase individual talent and allow other clubs to express an interest. The FA and Scottish Football Association run schemes and education fairs to support and assist young released players and to help them to think about future career options.
As well as practising skills and improving techniques, during the two-year programme apprentices usually attend college for one and a half days a week, working towards qualifications such as:
The Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence programme also includes studying key skills and addressing topical issues, such as working with others, and career and lifestyle management. The Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence is currently available through many UK football clubs.
An NVQ Level 2 Apprenticeship in Association Football also exists, providing the framework to learn coaching skills. Minimum club level footballing experience is required by all applicants.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
Contract renewals with football clubs are dependent on remaining injury free. Some players may transfer between clubs, and may potentially go overseas to join international teams.
Football careers are relatively short, with many over by the age of 35. As a second career, footballers may move into related fields like coaching, club administration or management, promotional work, media and journalism. A few may become football agents or referees.
English Institute of Sport, 4th Floor, Byrom House,
21 Quay Street, Manchester M3 3JD
Tel: 0870 759 0400
The Football Association (FA),
25 Soho Square, London W1D 4FA
Tel: 020 7745 4545
The FA Premier League,
30 Gloucester Place, London W1U 8PL
Tel: 020 7864 9000
The Football Association of Wales,
1/12 Neptune Court, Vanguard Way,
Cardiff CF24 5PJ
Tel: 029 2043 5830
League Football Education (LFE),
Edward VII Quay, Navigation Way, Preston PR2 2YF
Tel: 0870 458 9250
Professional Footballers' Association (PFA),
2 Oxford Court, Bishopsgate, Manchester M2 3WQ
Tel: 0161 236 0575
The Scottish Football Association,
Hampden Park, Glasgow G42 9AY
Tel: 0141 616 6000
SkillsActive, Castlewood House,
77-91 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1PX
Tel: 020 7632 2000
Sport England, 3rd Floor Victoria House,
Bloomsbury Square, London WC1B 4SE
Tel: 020 7273 1551
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.