There’s enough rubbish out there. Don’t add to it.
If you want to write better football (soccer) stories you’ll find no end of advice. It will come from all sorts of places. Lots of it will be superficially compelling, most of it counterproductive. Some of it crazy.
Here’s my tuppence worth. I offer it as someone lucky enough to have had a foot in both camps as a former journalist and now a scout working with professional clubs.
The first thing to consider is what do you have to communicate and is it genuinely worth saying? In a beautiful game drowning in a sea of comment, will your observations add clarity? Or, like the musings of a bar room bore, will your contribution merely swell the overwhelming information imbalance between signal and noise?
Are your thoughts a product of bias or flawed perception?
Do you have anything new to say or are you merely regurgitating someone else’s hackneyed old guff as original thought?
If you can’t answer these three questions appropriately (1) signal, 2) no, 3) yes) then don’t waste your readers’ time.
There’s enough polemic, enough indefensible opinion out there to last a lifetime. Don’t add to it.
Also, don’t make the ‘fans with typewriters’ error of writing on a topic just because you’re interested in it.
I am interested in all sorts of subjects but when I put fingers to keyboard I make a distinction between what I know and what I enjoy. I want expertise and insight as a reader and assume that responsibility as a writer whether I am presenting a feature or producing a scouting report on a team or player.
On a technical point of view every football answer has to define your terms of reference right at the outset. And the following questions will give you a checklist and a structure to tell your story:
1. Who was involved — what’s the story?
2. What happened — what has taken place?
3. When did it take place — key dates and times?
4. Where did it take place?
5. Why did it happen the way it did — what’s the context for the action?
6. How did it happen — how have the events played out?
On a psychological level you have to do one really important thing: develop your own eye, your own knowledge and your own feel for the game.
Watch games in a stadium, in all conditions. If you can’t watch games in a stadium then watch pictures with the sound turned off and take notes on the teams and players.
If you are writing a feature I want to see your working, to know what you think. So it better be based on something of substance. Otherwise you demean us both by revealing yourself to be a fool who is wasting your readers’ time. And that is the worst kind of sin for a writer — any writer. To lure a reader in under false pretences and fail to deliver them what the headline and standfirst promised.
And this isn’t a responsibility that should be taken up lightly. Sure, you have a right to your self-expression but there’s more than an implied responsibility to your subjects and audience to be fair, accurate, relevant and professional.
Why professional? Fair question. After all, it is just a game after all. Sport shouldn’t be a matter of deadly seriousness, like politics, business or news. And yet it is. It means the world to the people that love and play it and specifically so when it comes to football, the world’s game. A diversion it may be but it is a diversion that means a lot to a lot of people, a diversion with a lot of hopes, dreams, careers and money riding on it. A serious business.
So, before you share the benefit of your wisdom absorb this lesson: your opinions when spoken or written down have consequences. With the rights of free expression there are also responsibilities. Your words have the power to shape narratives, halt and promote careers, effect people you don’t know and in ways you can’t imagine. Use them wisely.
The last thing I’d say is be constructive and be respectful.
Accept the fact that you are always dealing with imperfect information and situations with specifics that you, as an outsider, are likely not privy to. This is the rules of the road in football. Don’t be the person that knows nothing yet shouts the loudest.
Always put your love of the game first, ahead of your own interests. If you don’t feel it, if you are just clogging up the page, airwaves or internet with mindless prattle then move on, there’s nothing to see or do here.
Write for us at How To Watch Football
As part of our ambitious expansion plans, How To Watch Football are looking to bring some additional writers on board.
The bad news is we’re a start-up with no cash but what we can offer is support to the right people, help with writing, researching and pitching stories based on a collective 25 years of top level industry experience. And for writers looking to make their way in journalism or sports it is a genuine quid pro quo, an opportunity to really develop your skills, ideas and connections.
The intention of course, is to pay you at the earliest opportunity, taking you with us as we grow. What we don’t want to do is offer a meaningless internship placement which exists solely to promote a shameless commercial agenda, at your expense.
What we’re looking for:
What we want to see is talent, raw or otherwise, writers with a feel for the game, its issues and its people.
What we don’t want is fans with typewriters. The internet is choked with endless Ronaldo v Messi comparisons and there are any number of sites out there that will fill that need and drape ads around it. What we want is your eyes as well as your words and ideas because that is How To Watch Football.
If we like you, we’ll support you and we’ll take you with us as we grow as a project.
In the first instance get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, tell us about yourself and we’ll do the same.