Ever wondered how to become a sports analyst or data expert within football? These types of roles have become increasingly common during the past few decades as football continues to expand and grow. Most professional football clubs have in-house analysts whose job it is to study the opposition, watch back their own team's performances, identify strengths and weaknesses, and formulate plans in response. Outside of the clubs themselves, various other analytical roles also exist at journalistic outlets or research organisations.
Sports analyst roles can vary hugely, but generally speaking, these jobs are all about using strong analytical and communication skills to research and report on sports-based events either for a media outlet or for a sports club directly. Many analysts also work freelance, gathering stories independently and working for multiple organisations as opposed to just one.
So, how do you become a sports analyst? In this article, we'll explore everything you need to know about becoming a sports analyst, from the skills you'll require to the experience and type of qualifications needed. To make things as simple as possible, we're going to boil it down to 7 useful tips to help you advance your career within sports analytics. But before we get into that list, we're going to quickly run over some of the key skills needed within this line of work.
A number of different skills are needed for anyone who is looking to become a successful sports analyst. Below are a few of the most vital ones.
Remember: don't worry if you don't already have this mega arsenal of skills and experiences. As you read the tips below for becoming a football analyst, you'll realise that there will be plenty of opportunities to learn and grow along the way.
Below are some handy bits of advice that will help you pursue a career in this ever-growing aspect of the beautiful game.
The requirements needed for a sports analyst role can vary a lot between employers. Sometimes, extensive experience coupled with strong evidence to back up that experience can be an acceptable substitute for educational requirements. However, that's generally rare — it's typically standard for candidates for an analyst role to hold an undergraduate degree prior to submitting an application. Some employers will want degrees in specific subjects, such as broadcasting, communications, mathematics, or statistics — ultimately, this depends on what type of role is being advertised.
Bachelor's degrees aren't the only way to acquire knowledge and gain the certification to prove it. In the last few years, as remote work has become more and more popular, the number of educational courses available online has grown significantly. A huge variety of programmes exist, from ones focused on building up practical skills (such as computer software abilities) and helping you achieve certain qualifications, to courses that focus more on soft skills that will allow you to perform better within a sports analyst role, for instance public speaking, content marketing, or public relations courses. Just google "online sports analyst courses" and see what pops up!
Well soon be discussing the role that internships play within the world of football data and analytics; however, before we do, it's worth noting that the competition for these types of roles is massive. That's why sometimes even just to get onto a respected internship programme, it can be extremely useful for budding analysts to gain experience in other, slightly less formal ways. For instance, you could join your school or college newspaper or help produce a radio or news show at your university. In these types of roles, you can build your interpersonal, communicational, and research skills and give your CV a real boost. Getting involved in sports in a playing or coaching capacity can also help grow your understanding of the game and give you new connections with fellow football lovers.
This is the next step — because as difficult as this reality may seem, the truth is that in order to get a job in a competitive professional field, having some decent work experience is pretty much a necessity. Unfortunately, work experience is often unpaid, which can make it difficult for some people to find the time to pursue their passion.
When it comes to jobs in football, unpaid internships are the norm; our 2022 Football Club Internships Survey explored this issue in depth by asking a series of work-related questions to hundreds of people who had completed or were hoping to complete an internship at a football club. The survey found that an overwhelming 72.8% of internships were unpaid, with the most common level of pay sitting at £250-500 per month. So, if you're considering a career as a sports analyst, just be aware that it's likely you may have to complete some work experience with little or no pay.
Finding work experience can be difficult, but there are plenty of routes to go down. If you're studying at an educational facility, there will often be internship programmes linked to the institution — just ask your professor, lecturer, or another member of staff. Alternatively, many work experience and internship opportunities are advertised online, for instance on our Jobs page. Gaining work experience can help your CV stand out; if you can show your employer that you've demonstrated crucial skills related to sports analytics in a formal work environment, they're far more likely to give you a paid opportunity.
Whether you're in a creative field such as graphic design or illustration or a more scientific area of work like sports data analysis, a portfolio plays an important role in boosting your profile. It's all about getting your name out there and showing people in your chosen field that you're someone who's worth employing. Every time you complete a piece of work that you're proud of, whether that's a blog post, a Twitter thread analysing moments within a football match, an article in a newspaper or magazine, or simply an Excel spreadsheet you've made, show the world! There are several great websites that allow you to create portfolios and advertise your work for free. Wordpress, Contently, Medium, and Squarespace are some of the most popular sites when it comes to creating an online portfolio.
In the same vein as the portfolio advice, make sure that as you build your career you also create and regularly update a CV. You'll need this document for any job application, and it's the primary way that you highlight your main skills and relevant experience, whether that's internships, volunteer work, student programmes, or hobbies and interests. Use your CV to detail the responsibilities that you've had in each position you've been involved with, and remember to be as clear and concise as possible — most of the time, CVs are scanned and judged within just a few seconds. Whether you want to highlight your communication skills, mention your passion for sports media or detail the wide array of different sporting events you've used to develop and showcase your analytical skills, an updated CV is the way to do it. If you feel a bit lost when it comes to this area of career development, head over to our CV Writing Service for some useful advice on how to make yours as strong as possible.
If you don't have your finger on the pulse, it's highly possible that your dream job will become available and you'll never even see the advertisement! This is where careers newsletters and subscriptions come in: there are tons of regular email lists and newsletters that you can subscribe to that will hit you up with relevant job opportunities as soon as they become available. Some of these require a small fee, but many of them are totally free, and if you sign up for a newsletter that specifically advertises jobs in data, analytics, or another aspect of the industry that interests you, you'll get regular updates on all sorts of sports-related opportunities that might interest you.
We've already discussed how difficult it can be securing a role in the football industry. One simple thing you can do to improve your chances of getting a job that suits you is to filter your searches so that you're only going for entry-level positions. There's no use applying for more senior roles when you don't have the experience and foundational skills to back it up, so focus on starting out at a lower position in order to make that later transition a little easier. Approach job searching with an open mind, because sometimes there will be value within certain opportunities that at first you won't necessarily identify.
Keeping these 7 simple steps in mind will make your search for a sports analyst job more focused and effective. While it may seem like there's a mountain to climb, try not to be put off by the level of competition that exists in this line of work. Ultimately, if you have the passion and will to succeed, it's worth the effort. The idea of working in football is a dream to most people who love the game, so if you believe you're cut out to perform well in a football analyst role, why not try and make that a reality?
We've got lots of other written content on this subject on our blog. For a quick guide to how you can expand your knowledge in your own time, check out our list of 10 great sports analytics books for all levels. Or for another targeted piece about gaining employment within football, take a look at our article on 7 easy steps to get started in football data and analytics.
Fred Garratt-Stanley is a freelance football writer, Norwich City fan, and amateur footballer for South London side AFC Oldsmiths. For Jobs in Football, he's covered subjects including the rise of set-piece coaching, the role of xG in football, and the growth of tactical ideas like gegenpressing and zonal marking. He's also written about football for publications such as British GQ, VICE, FanSided, Football League World, and more.