Disengaged Players Look to Impress at 2014 FIFPro Tournaments

Away from the riches of the Premier League and other leading top flight domestic competitions around the world, tough global economic conditions are making it harder than ever for thousands of professional and elite semi-professional players to secure employment in the game.

According to figures published by the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, Premier League clubs spent a combined £130 million in transfer fees during the 2014 January transfer window, whilst top flight clubs in France spent around 40% of that figure during the same period. The collective teams in Serie A and 1. Bundesliga also spent 20-30% of the Premier League figure each.

However this spending at the top end of the professional game is masking a significant change in the player labour market in many other domestic professional leagues around the world.

Like many other global industries, the football industry has not been immune from the financial crisis engulfing many parts of Europe, which has seen clubs enter administration, file for bankruptcy or even dissolve altogether.

It has also resulted in major cuts to playing budgets at many professional clubs, which has resulted in clubs operating with smaller squads, with players on lower wages and shorter contracts, which is leading to several thousand players facing an uncertain long-term future.

This summer has seen over 900 professional players and scholars being released by English professional clubs alone - and one of the key challenges facing various domestic Player Unions around the world this time of year is supporting members as they look to secure future employment, either in a playing capacity or in retraining for a new life outside of football.

Earlier this month FIFPro, the worldwide representative organisation for professional players, arranged a competition in Nyon, Switzerland, which featured six teams made up of disengaged players representing their respective national player unions: Team SAFP (Switzerland), Team PSAP (Greece), Team SPINS (Slovenia), Team SPF (Serbia), Team HUNS (Croatia) and Team ABF (Bulgaria).

The tournament, which also took place last year, gave 103 disengaged players who were actively playing in leagues around Europe last season the opportunity to showcase their abilities in front of club scouts.

Following two days of intense competition it was the Serbian side that emerged victorious for the second year running, defeating the Croatian team 3-2 on penalties after the final finished 1-1.

Two players who stood out for the Serbians over the course of the weekend were their 23 year old attacking midfielder Milutin Ivanovic, who was named player of the tournament, and right back Nikola Duric, who in addition to being solid defensively also ended up being the tournament’s joint top scorer with two goals.

After the competition I had the opportunity to speak to Duric and I asked him what he had been doing since being released by his former club, the Greek second division side Ethnikos Gazoros, earlier in the summer.

Nikola Duric opening the scoring in the Final for Team SPF

"I had initially been training and maintaining my fitness with one of my former clubs in Serbia, then I got the chance to get involved with the SPF Team, which was a great opportunity to gain a new experience," said the 24 year old.

"Before the tournament we trained together at good facilities in Zlatibor and our Union provided a great team of coaches who organised a training camp that ensured we were are well prepared and ready for the tournament in Switzerland."

"The tournament itself was really well organised and gave all the players without a contract an opportunity to draw attention to themselves by giving good performances."

Last year saw over 40 players who took part in Nyon going on to secure a contract with a new club for the 2013/14 season and in the coming weeks, each player union team will be remaining together and playing friendly matches against various domestic teams, giving each individual another opportunity to impress.

However, having spent a year playing overseas, Duric is keen on continuing his career abroad and wants to firmly establish himself as a key player for a new club and secure his place for the foreseeable future.

"I am a professional and my job is football, so I do not see myself doing anything else," he stresses.

“Ideally I would like to continue my career abroad and my priority is to find a team playing in the top flight."

"Once I find a club, I hope that I will be able to put in good performances throughout the year."

For the last couple of years, Scout7 have been helping FIFPro support the likes of Duric and other disengaged players by trying to improve their visibility to professional clubs.

As a result, two members of our team were on site in Nyon and we have since published full player, squad and match teamsheets from the tournament within our global database, which are available to over 130 clubs currently using the Intelligent Sports Framework and ProScout7.

We also have full match video from every game, so if a club was unable to attend the tournament they can still watch all the players in action retrospectively and cross-reference their tournament performance with their career history statistics.

Scout7 will also be supporting a similar competition being organised by FIFPro this weekend, which is taking place in Rijnsburg on Saturday and Sunday.

This tournament is being organised using the same format as the competition in Nyon and will feature teams made up of out-of-work players from the Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Denmark.

As well as covering the tournament in full across our range of applications, we are also going to be providing career biographies for all the players in the official tournament programme.

FIFPro are also offering to cover the cost of hotel accommodation on the Saturday night for professional club scouts interested in attending on a first-come first-served basis, so if you are interested in covering the competition please get in touch with us and we will be able to coordinate this with FIFPro on your behalf.

Based on the previous editions, what is guaranteed is that there will be a wide range of different players, of varying age and experience, taking part and eager to make a positive impression.

So if monitoring the free agent market is a key facet of your existing recruitment operation, it may be worthwhile checking out both of these FIFPro competitions to see if there are any players participating that fit your immediate requirements.

Highlights of the Final of the 2014 FIFPro Tournament Central Europe between Team SPF of Serbia (in blue) and Team HUNS of Croatia (red)

by Andy Cooper PR & Project Manager

Published 14 July 2014