It has long been the case that 99% of young players at professional football clubs are released and only 1% offered professional contracts. Clubs will always say they have all sorts of processes and procedures to manage the exit process of young players, but the reality is that once a player and his parents are told their son is being released the effects of rejection kick in and often the effect on parents is as negative as on the boys themselves.
Every parent has dreams for their children and in many cases the boys will have been at clubs for many years. Parents will have bonded with other parents and become friends. Many will have travelled together to matches for some years. Once released the clubs concentrate on coaching and developing the players who are given contracts and will argue that they simply don’t have the resources to assist with the future of every boy released.
When Harvey Peters was released by Norwich City recently, he and his father Keith who is a Charlton fan turned to us at Integral Sports Management for assistance. The latter managed to place the player at Watford following a trial and Harvey has now agreed scholarship forms.
Keith said “When Harvey was told he was being released by Norwich City there was disappointment and tears first and foremost for Harvey but also for me, his mum, his brother, his friends and the players he played with. The reality is that most young players in the academy system are released and only a very few make it to a professional contract.
“In many cases players are at the club for many years before the fateful decision is made. I don’t doubt the decision is taken based on a professional assessment of a player’s strengths and weaknesses but in Harvey’s case our family bubble was there for him and that was key to helping him deal with it. Players he played with also messaged him to say he was too good a player not to be snapped up by another club and those messages lifted his spirits no end and gave him renewed determination.
“I know that not all young players have that family support bubble and to see players taking their own lives is a tragedy and it is good to see Integral Sports Management canvassing for more support being provided to young players when they are released by clubs. I know of players released who have not coped well with the rejection and who are now undergoing counselling. In some cases, the parents struggle with the rejection as much as the boys themselves. There is a lot of money in the professional game, and I would like to see a better support structure for those rejected by clubs so the sort of tragedies we read about are eradicated sooner rather than later.”
Keith is right of course. The real answer is an effective support structure. Words are cheap and lots of people are saying something needs to be done. Integral and its co-founder Ray Winstone has put a proposal to both the Premier League and The EFL to set up an online referral service so that when a player is released there is an automatic referral to specialists who can offer mental health and well-being advice, details of further education opportunities and direct linkage to partners such as The Army who can offer youngsters training to acquire a trade and the opportunity to still play football to a good level.
Now is the time for the talking to stop and for action to replace words.
Peter Varney – Chairman, Integral Sports Management