Football Journalism: How to Succeed

To the vast majority, football journalism is easy. It’s the question of getting an ‘A’ in English, and BANG! The Guardian has just offered you become their football editor. Unfortunately, the aspiring football journalists who believe this are remarkably confused. Any freelance writer covering the Beautiful Game will quite firmly tell you that football journalism is far from being simple by Tomos Knox.

Twitter is home to a vast amount of aspiring football journalists, the majority of whom are still teenagers. While some of these are excellent writers, albeit with a few rough edges, it is clear that others will not make it beyond the doors of the select club of successful football writers. Despite the global demand for football, the age in which a particularly well written blog or article could warrant an email from giants like Four-Four-Two and World Soccer is all but over.

However, the gateway to being featured in one of these magazines seems shut, so where should the aspirers head to?

Many successful writers penned their first articles for their local newspaper, reporting on amateur leagues, as oppose to the Premier League, or the La Liga. They gradually ascended up to the level of national football journalism, after spending years toiling away to achieve their reward. Understandably, not everybody feels compelled to do that; after all, writing for a local paper guarantees nothing but low pay, and the standard of writing is usually rather poor.

The problem is, with the aspiring journalists, that none of them write anything that comes across as unique. Instead, the majority write match reports and player profiles. Instead of focusing on the more philosophical side of football, the aspiring writer community all write about the same matches, the same players, the same everything. Football journalism’s future generation is almost totally devoid of any individuality.

It is impossible not  to cite the example of World Soccer, When Saturday Comes and Play the Game contributor Steve Menary, whose excellent articles focus on a range of subjects, most noticeably non-FIFA football. It was with his critically acclaimed ‘Outcasts! The Lands that FIFA Forgot’ that the world learned of the national football teams playing outside the auspices of FIFA, and shed light on the fact that FIFA had admitted non contentious places, such as the British Virgin Islands, but was turning places such as Zanzibar, Greenland and Jersey away. It was a stunning piece of journalism.

Menary’s writing bears relation to another fantastic journalist, James Montague. The author of ‘When Friday Comes’, and ‘Thirty One Nil’, he also writes for World Soccer, and contributes to a number of different podcasts, websites and magazines.

The answer is, that football journalists should develop an idol, somebody to look up to. Football journalism is not an easy job, and when people come out of university, looking for writing opportunities, there won’t be many. The fact that football journalism is growing makes it all the more difficult for the aspirers in their late teens and early twenties, who have been writing on a voluntary basis for years. Due to the new-found competition for work, they will find themselves scrapping for any job in sight.

The opportunities in existence for football journalists do not nearly match the amount of aspiring writers. Which is why, if aspiring football journalists are looking for a successful career, they’ll have to write articles that are thought-provoking, and unique.

Tomos Knox

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