5 July 2023
If your child is particularly talented at football, you may be wondering what age they have to be in order to be signed up as a professional footballer. Clubs can offer a signed contract to a child of 17 years and over. Children need to have developed skills and physical abilities over many years, however - 17 is rare for a professional contract. Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshire were exceptions. It is more likely to happen when you are 18 and then only to exceptional players.
In England, you can join a football academy from the age of 9 years. These are run by the top clubs to develop talent from an early age. They are interested in nurturing local players through rigorous training. Children must continue their academic studies alongside many hours dedicated to the theory and practice of football. They are selected at trial matches. They are given one-year school contracts but are not paid.
Children of 16 and 17 have schoolboy or schoolgirl contracts with academies and can be offered scholarships that enable them to get paid from the age of 15. This is a full-time contract that lasts for 2 years like an apprenticeship. It is in the interests of clubs to retain talent rather than letting them go to other clubs. The best players progress from the Academy matches to the reserve teams in this period.
In Scotland clubs can sign a child with a professional youth contract from the age of 10. They can sign a professional contract for 3 years at 15.
At 16, footballers can sign with an agent who will negotiate their contracts and where they play. They offer guidance and support to players advising them on what options are available to them.
Scouts hunt for players with a lot of experience in their position. They go looking at the best teams so you need to reach out to those ones and play with them to get seen. Try to ensure your team is in Showcase Tournaments where scouts go.
Scouts select players who stand out every time they play. They will have a particular skill which might be scoring but also making the best passes, beating defenders or making assists and creating chances. The right temperament and attitude are very important to coaches and they will look at this as well as your child’s skills and technique. They need to maintain a good demeanour off the pitch and be utterly dedicated in training. Discipline is everything. There is no place for arrogance amongst teammates. Instead encouraging others on the field and giving good advice during play counts. So a level of maturity is required as well as their age on paper.
It has to be noted that being signed with an academy does not mean eventual selection for the professional team. It has to be understood that the benefits of participating in the rigours of training are important in their own right, not just the hope of selection. A youngster who has a true passion for the game will continue to enjoy playing for a team in a lower league than the major ones.