The nightmare of player appearances

By: Hugo Scheckter

Player care consultant Hugo Scheckter offers some easy to implement ideas to help deal with the nightmare of player appearances

Every manager has faced this kind of problem at some point. The CEO wants one of the players to do a bit of filming for a sponsor, the player has refused and it’s come down to you to sort it out. You’ve been here too many times before and this sort of non-footballing argument with an important player is not what you really need.

In larger clubs this isn’t something that should reach you, certainly not regularly, if the right processes and policies are in place. But even at clubs where this might be expected to form a part of your role, there are things you can do to make the experience far less painful.

Players in the Premier League are, as standard, likely to be contracted to perform about six hours of media or commercial activities for the club each week – although very few are ever asked to do that much – so it’s rare that the problem is the volume of requests. The common frustrations from players are usually that they aren’t given enough notice, that the appearances are poorly organised, or that the things they’re asked to do are “embarrassing”. So why not put together a process where all these things are considered?

At most organisations, this takes the form of a monthly meeting where a representative from the stadium has collated all the requests (which player, which activity, when, how long) and brings it to a group of training ground staff – usually an assistant coach, a physio and some sort of administrator or player care person – and together they divide up the responsibilities among the squad.

There are two keys to this system working:

  1. An even workload spread across the squad, which is displayed for everyone to see. This means that the captain, the star striker and the reserve players should be doing roughly the same amount each. A good tip is to make this process fully transparent and for the administrator to draw up a league table of who’s done the least and who is doing the most – players then tend to pressure each other into doing more if they feel like they’ve been overburdened with promotional responsibilities
  2. Publishing a schedule of appearances at the same time as the training schedule. The administrator should send it to each player, as well as a reminder, a week before, three days before and on the day itself. That way the excuse of “I’m busy” is either prevented or a work around can be found.

If players try to get out of appearances, or say they’ve got something else on, then that’s fine, because life can occasionally get in the way. But try to put the onus on the particular players to find their own replacements. If they can convince another member of the squad to step in (usually involving a swap of some kind), then you’re happy and everyone is a winner. This way it takes the pressure off you, and if they’re not genuinely busy, they will usually end up doing the appearance as originally planned.

This isn’t a fool proof system by any means, but by putting in these easy to implement steps, it can take a lot of the pressure off you, as well as letting the club know which players they can call on and maybe even ask to do more for the club and the community.

Hugo Scheckter is the founder and managing director of The Player Care Group, a consultancy based on implementing and improving player care at sporting organisations around the world. He was previously at both West Ham United and Southampton FC.