Chasing the "Big-Time" : football apprenticeship in the 1990s
This qualitative study of Youth Training (YT) is centred specifically around the experiences of trainee professional footballers. Presenting a case-study analysis of one professional English Football League club, it utilizes those methods of sociological enquiry traditionally associated with ethnography (i.e. participant observation, unstructured interviews, and documentary analysis) in order to explore the day-to-day lives of the individuals concerned. The study depicts the way in which YT recruits are socialized into professional football club culture and how their career expectations and aspirations are subsequently shaped by the detailed complexities of institutional experience. In turn, it looks at how trainees learn to adapt to their chosen occupational position, and uncovers their attitudes towards such diverse topics as educational attendance, inter-personal relations and masculine construction. Set against the historical development of football apprenticeship within England, the work examines the impact of new vocational policy upon the football industry as a whole and portrays the role of the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) - and its subsidiary body The Footballers' Further Education and Vocational Training Society (FFE & VTS) - in relation to the implementation of YT provision. To this end, it attempts to determine the extent to which modern-day forms of football traineeship differ from those methods of indenture employed in previous years. At the same time, the study provides insight into the personal and social lives of the trainees in question. Notably issues of class, sexuality and gender are raised in terms of individual experience and interpretation. Furthermore, the influence of club officials is also considered in relation to the pressures, pitfalls and constraints of trainee development.