‘Being’ in the world of football scouting - an exercise in storied and performed data

Lawlor, Craig orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1460-8135 and Palmer, Clive Alan orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-9925-2811 (2023) ‘Being’ in the world of football scouting - an exercise in storied and performed data. Journal of Qualitative Research in Sports Studies, 17 (1). pp. 107-126. ISSN 1754-2375

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For the scout, the heady responsibility for recognising footballing talent in young players is melded with the promise of their potential success, or even greatness in the game. However, implicit of the scout’s role and duty, once talent is spotted, is to pass that talent on to others to nurture, for example, by coaching staff at clubs or academies. This common obligation in scouts for ‘letting go’ characterisestheir existence, often in want of recognition for their claims-to-fame, for success stemming from their wisdom and insight to the game. Therefore, ironically, a scout’s actions seem to be underwritten by a sense of loss, apart from the brief claim that ‘I discovered genius’. This paper reveals aspects of this vicarious lived experience by means of data presented in story and song, collected through a phenomenological lens. The stage is set first by an exposition of the scout’s magical [under]world and working conditions, followed by a methodological synthesis of the phenomenon itself, scouting, with relevant theory. Then the story: Taking in a game: a glimpse through the lens of a Nowhere Man is followed immediately by the song: 40p a Mile and a Sausage Roll. These refined presentations of data invite the reader onto the terraces alongside the researcher, and then to participate in the reflection of ‘being there’, as a researcher engaged in ‘scout-ology’. In conclusion, the paper highlights how from the moment of the highly prized discovery the scout seems committed to live in the shadows, understood only by their own community, to continue their vigil, constantly scoping for talent on the football horizon, for glimmers of hope.

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