In Focus: The Player Care Group
Taking Player Care To New Levels
The Player Care Group is the UK’s first consultancy group focused on player care, team operations and player wellbeing within sporting environments across the world. fcbusiness spoke to founder Hugo Scheckter to find out more…
Hugo Scheckter started The Player Care Group after leaving West Ham United FC at the end of December 2020, where he had been Head of Player Care since 2018. Prior to that, Hugo was employed as Team Operations Manager at Indy Eleven, a second division start-up team in the NASL in the US. He arrived back in the UK at Southampton in 2014, as their first Player/Team Liaison Officer, setting up their player care offering and helping to make the Saints a springboard for some of the world’s best footballing talent which included Liverpool’s Champions League and Premier League winning defender, Virgil Van Dijk.
Player care is an often overlooked element within a football club’s many off-field functions but with huge investments being made in players each season, the cost of failure is high and good player care offers the chance to ensure that investment pays off on the pitch.
The Player Liaison Officer is a long established role within football but there is a lack of understanding as to how the role has evolved into a Player Care Department, and how that can operate within the club’s overall structure, something that Scheckter is keen to change.
“Clubs want to do player care and do it right but they often don’t really know what to do or it doesn’t work very well, the wrong appointments are made or they don’t have a department at all,” he said.
The Player Care Group seeks to address these issues by focusing on a number of key areas that will create an environment where athletes can flourish both on and off the pitch, reaching their whole person potential.
Creating a positive experience for athletes will inevitably lead to a growth in player retention, increased buy-in and, in the long-term, lower costs when the athletes and their families find their home in the organisation.
In addition to creating a welcoming environment within a club, The Player Care Group takes a new, qualitative, data-driven approach of tracking athlete happiness and wellbeing that will allow clubs to measure the effectiveness of the player care offering, whilst also getting the athletes to buy-in to and drive the improvement themselves.
“What I’m offering is to go into clubs and look at what they’ve got currently and advise a new strategy or work with the staff that are there already to try and develop new ideas and support them or, if they don’t have anything, to suggest a new structure,” said Scheckter.
“I will look at how it could work or help them recruit the right number of staff, what skill-set they should have in the department and offer advice on what the criteria for success will be.”
The focus on strategy and structure is key to the success of a Player Care Department and understanding the needs of a club in this area is fundamental to The Player Care Group.
“First and foremost it’s about finding out what a club’s focus is,” Scheckter continued. “The one thing I realised at Southampton and West Ham is how very different they were in this area.
“One was very focused on the overall happiness of the players and families to ensure they enjoyed their time at the club; the other placed an emphasis on operational and procedural efficiencies to maximise output. Neither was right or wrong, it was just about finding a way of working within both frameworks.”
These differences in club polices are what The Player Care Group is set up to identify and resolve. For a club, low levels of player engagement with commercial, community and club activities can have a negative impact on revenues and its overall image, whilst difficulty communicating with the athletes or issues with the recruitment and retention of players can also inhibit both on the pitch and the commercial success of a club.
In addition to the impact on the club, the players are often targets of individuals, businesses or services that take advantage of their often unsuspecting nature, something he has seen numerous times at the clubs he’s worked at.
“Trust is something that takes years to gain but can be lost overnight,” Scheckter keenly stressed. “That’s the key to good player care – they come to you with a problem and you find an appropriate solution. It protects the club and is safe for the player.”
Ineffective controls around access to players can have a negative impact on their overall wellbeing and that of the club. The Player Care Group encourages Player Care Departments to work on an edited version of the “project management triangle”, a basic business concept. Explaining to players that compromise is often necessary, finding their priorities from Cost, Quality and Time can help the players find an acceptable solution.
“I often say to players they can have two of these three elements when choosing a business or service. Its basic concepts like that that makes sense to them.
“Good player care is about finding a structure that protects the players but in a way that is appropriate for the club. But it’s not about being a concierge company and doing everything for them.
“Some players want to be independent, but there are players who are not interested in doing all the mundane stuff so it’s about understanding those individual players and unlocking their potential. Ultimately it’s about providing a service for them but trying to help them grow as people whilst protecting the club’s investment in the player.”
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We have developed an accountable, welcoming and transparent system of player care which is tried and tested at Premier League level. We can bring our expertise to your organisation to start a new department, improve or work with your existing set up or provide extra to support where needed.