Talent Identification and Elite Player Recruitment in ‘Network Football’ – A critical case study from inside the Premier League

Talent Identification and Elite Player Recruitment in ‘Network Football’ – A critical case study from inside the Premier League

Wednesday 10th February 2010 at 6pm

Medawar Lankaster Lecture Theatre (University College London),
Malet Place, (off Torrington Place),
London WC1

(For directions please see the pdf map).

Given by:

Dr Jonathan Magee

Senior Lecturer in the School of Sport, Tourism and the Outdoors, University of Central Lancashire


The global development of the professional football world has increased the rate, scale, and destinations of professional football labour migrants.  A key conduit behind such increases has been the legislative changes to labour legislation whereby contractual freedom has greatly facilitated professional players to cross national and international borders for occupational purposes.  In the last two decades the FA Premier League has experienced significant in-migration of foreign talent, some highly regarded world stars and others less so.  So far academic research on this subject has focused predominantly on patterns, rates and destinations of professional football players (of which there are many), the experiences of elite football labour migrants, the occupational conditions as applied to football labour as well as what (or whom) constitutes ‘network football’ and the ensuing political economy power struggles that subsequently shape and re-shape the world game.  Global player migration, and in particular the movement of elite players, is a central component of ‘network football’ but little is known about what lies behind the recruitment of elite players.

Following over a decade of academic research into the football labour market the author secured a Consultancy Post in 2008 at an elite level English professional club where he established and then managed a Player Recruitment System.  The position lasted for 18 months and provided the author with critical experiences of the inner dealings of player recruitment and talent identification within the Premier League.  With the approval of the football club, this paper focuses on critical issues regarding talent identification and player recruitment with particular emphasis on player profiling, tracking and filtering, electronic and technical support databases and systems, and the power struggles involved in recruiting elite level players.


  • Lanfranchi, P. and Taylor, M. (2001) Moving with the ball: the migration of professional footballers, Oxford: Berg
  • Magee, J. (2006) ‘When is a Contract More than a Contract? Professional Football Contracts and the Pendulum of Power’ in Entertainment and Sports Law, Special Edition, Vol. 4, No. 2, ISSN 1748-944X
  • Magee, J. (2002) ‘Shifting balances of power in the new football economy’ in John Sugden and Alan Tomlinson (Eds), Power Games: Theory and Method for the Critical Sociology of Sport, Routledge, London, pp.216-239
  • Magee, J. and Sugden, J. (2002) ‘“The world at their feet”: Professional football and international labour migration’ in Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 26, 4, November, pp.421-437
  • Sugden J (2002) ‘Network Football’ in Sugden J and Tomlinson A (Eds) Power Games: A Critical Sociology of Sport, London: Routledge
  • Sugden J and Tomlinson A (1998) FIFA and the contest for world football: who rules the people’s game?, Oxford: Polity Press
  • Sugden J and Tomlinson A Jennings A (1999) Great balls of fire: how big money is hi-jacking world football, Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing


Dr Jonathan Magee is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Sport, Tourism and the Outdoors at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) and has recently returned to the university following an 18 month consultancy period within professional football.  He has published on sports labour migration, the tradition-modernity interplay in sport, the football labour market, sport and community in Northern Ireland, the use of sport to re-engage homeless people with society, coursing and Irish sports history and the methodological approach of conducting insider research in the sports context.  Jonathan has also studied the role of sports and youth clubs in encouraging young people to access further education and a return to employment, the role of professional football clubs in encouraging people from ethnic minority populations to participate in football and the experiences of elite partially sighted footballers.  He has also undertaken a number of evaluation projects in sport, most recently for the Football Association of Zambia where he examined the development of women’s and girls’ football and provided a strategy for future policy in this area. He has also undertaken evaluation work for the Football Foundation at their Stage 3 Evaluation Level of several community projects as well as for Burnley Football Club in an examination of their ethnic diversity policy on their community and leisure programmes and Centre of Excellence scheme.

Contact Details

Birkbeck Sport Business Seminar Series Contact Details

For further details on the seminar series contact:

Sean Hamil
Department of Management
Birkbeck College
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HX

Tel: 020-7631 6763


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