Is it time to invest in football as a full-time employment opportunity?

Opinion by Stephen Ignacio

Gibraltar once again lost, this time to Estonia by 0-6.
To some the result would sound the disaster alarm bells, to others their loyalty for the national team will keep them chanting the praises for the national team, to others however, the 0-6 should become a reflection of what path Gibraltar has gone through and where it is heading.
The defeat against Estonia provided some key points of interest.
Although Gibraltar lost 6-0 the Gibraltar team had over 50% of ball possession during the match. This compares to the 28% against Belgium. Without players such as Lee Casciaro many doom and gloom people expected Gibraltar to have little chance of having chances before goal. This did not happen, instead Jamie Coombes, one of the young guns showing promise demonstrated from the first five minutes that he is here to be selected not to merely make the numbers. His strike, hitting the woodwork in the 3rd minute of the match could have seen a very different result.
The match also showed up some of the problems faced by players in terms of levels of fitness and readiness against players who play fulltime football on a daily basis.
The defeat, even the match itself was not as important to the one key fact this match signified.
This was, or should be in theory if everything goes to plan, the final match Gibraltar plays in Faro.
The cost of playing in Faro at a glance might have cost Gibraltar more than just the mere loss of revenue keeping matches at home could have generated. A simple look at one of the hotels used shows that prices for a football package (which includes the use of FIFA sized pitches) is advertised at (from) £174 per person. Assuming this is the minimum cost, assuming (although not expected) that there was no negotiated price for the frequent use, and assuming the Gibraltar national team spend up to three days every time they went to Portugal and had a squad, including physio and head coach of 30 people the cost is as follows.
174p/p x 30ppl x 3 days = £15,660 x 5 matches = £78,300
Now imagine those matches had been played in Gibraltar and that there team would not have had to stay for so long in a hotel, but instead would have maybe stayed overnight prior to the match at
£70 p/p x 30ppl x 1day = £2,100 x 5 matches = £10,500
The overall savings would have been of £67,800
Now imagine that instead of using this money to fund home matches away from home the money had been invested in something like an “apprentice scheme” for young footballers. Providing them with a 24/7 type full-time football scenario.
In a “dream-world” a scheme could have been created in which GFA could have allocated funds for an apprentice scheme in which
1 – clubs would employ under an apprentice scheme a player and pay 1/3 of the wages
2 – The GFA scheme would pay another third of the player’s wages
3 – the Government apprentice scheme would provide for the final third of wages therefore committing club and GFA to follow employment regulations on apprentice schemes. This would require a minimum commitment towards the players by the clubs. A three year contract.

Based on a £15,000 per annum wage this would require
1 – The club to commit to £15,000 in a three year contract. This translates to £5,000 p/a in some cases far less than they are already paying some players per season.
2 – GFA to commit to £15,000 in a three year contract
3 – Government to commit to £15,000 in a three year contract. Once again this translates to £5,000 p/a far less than the £900-£1,000p/m the present training schemes provides for other industries.

Totally £45,000 over 3 years for one apprentice.

Importantly this would be less than the cost of five international matches played in Faro, where there has been a greater loss in revenue than a return in benefits for local football.
With both club and GFA already having assigned coaches the scheme would have to provide training and coaching for the players on a full time basis, plus other educational skills which could include coaching the player to be a coach himself, so that his skills and education can be re-used for the benefit of others, even club administration, club business management, nutrition, etc ect. Indeed, this will be argued would increase the cost, although such a cost should be considered as part of the overall educational and development programme of football, especially with the youth in mind.
If every club had at least one apprentice (18-23 years of age preferably, home grown player) The scheme could generate 10 first division full time players. Not all would make it to the national team, not all will make it past the goalpost, but those who do could attain a higher level of development which could in essence provide them the possibility of having a market value in the transfer market which itself could generate income for the club, and provide a stepping stone of the player to go to higher league outside of Gibraltar and earn a professional wage (a real-life professional wage no dreams of Messi wages).

The overall cost to the GFA of such a scheme would be
£15,000 x 10 players = £150,000 over a three year period (based on an annual wage just slightly higher than the minimum wage which stands at just over £13,000 p/a on a 39hr week.

Additionally the cost of continuing the elite training programme (this time without restrictions on when it can happen as players are available 24/7) and the potential of creating an elite academy scheme are more than available.
Considering that bringing football home will no longer require to invest funds to pay for the use of a stadium, nor should it see the GFA having to invest in transport and tickets to attract local fans, the GFA should be able to make extra savings which could be diverted into such a scheme. With a view of creating the foundations which would provide a long term benefit to player development, club football development and assisting in creating one of the essential building blocks towards the growth of football as a business sector.
The cost of playing in Faro has been put in the hundreds of thousands spent over the past four years. Whilst there will be additional costs to the GFA on top of the cost of building a new stadium, such as paying for ground maintenance teams, the savings which will be made, along with the increased revenue that can be generated from bringing football back to Gibraltar means that there is the potential for funds to be allocated to a scheme such as this if it were considered viable.
It would also create EMPLOYMENT, something which no sensible Government would turn their backs to.
Clubs would also benefit from having a potential candidate for selection to the national team which would in effect generate income every time the player is selected which would offset the costs.
Would this mean that the ten apprentices would be in line to play for the GFA national team? No, it would mean that the national team selector has ten potential full time players, trained, coached and developing as full time players which are eligible for selection. It would not mean that he has to choose any of them, but the chances are that the scheme could potentially create the backbone of a future national squad.
With football attracting such a high number of potential investors and sponsors, there is the possibility that clubs could use the scheme to attract specific sponsors willing to invest in the player themselves and provide further funds into the scheme. Therefore the potential of having a four way partnership between club, GFA, Government and a third party sponsor to funds such a scheme is a far more real scenario than many are willing to imagine.
What is apparent is that Gibraltar cannot afford to ignore that it can no longer solely rely on the efforts of semi-pros who have secondary jobs, which are their main priorities, to perform at the highest levels internationally and expect a result.
Like all persons, in any industry, football players require rest, they require resources, they require rewards. You cannot expect a fulltime commitment to a sport on part-time wages. In the same way clubs cannot be expected to invest in local talent when in essence they are businesses looking to make a profit, when there is no guarantee that the local talent will provide a return and is not necessarily yet at a level comparable to cheaper fulltime/part-time players which can be brought in from the outside. Like all business sectors promoting the development of local talent means that there is a long term benefit, especially if the three years of training provides more than just football skills training. Educating a player in other essential football scene areas would also provide more experience in other areas which would in the long run provide more local coaches, more local football educators, even more local football entrepreneurs as the begin to understand other sides of football other than mere football on the playing field.
(Figures are based on advertised figures on websites relating to hotels used and are not based on official figures. The figures are an estimated cost and may vary from official figures.)


The article reflects the personal opinions of myself, Stephen Ignacio, and does not reflect the views of any other party or entity and should not be associated to any other third party, publication or other entity to whom I might be associated with.

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