Performance Analysis Internship Discussion

Posted on 09 September 2012 by Darrell Cobner

Yesterday, an impromptu and organic conversation escalated whilst most analysts were deep within match day. As CPA director (with a Lead, Enable, Develop mantra), I felt obligated to contribute in the early discussion, and committed to monitor its activity to assist in compiling a Whitepaper with other key stakeholders incorporating your feedback. Thank you to all of you that have already emailed and sent me direct messages.

Here is an aggregation of the conversation from yesterday for record and reflection.

If you want to contribute through Twitter, please include #papp to capture your comment in the conversation. This live conversation can be tracked at here.

If you have a longer contribution that you want to be public, register into VPA and put it in a comment below.

If you have private communication you want to share, you can email your thoughts to

I will keep you posted of the next steps after the weekend… A change in culture is not always possible, unfortunately; but a communal voice is necessary and timely. Hopefully, this will represent a positive challenge.

Please, think wisely before you post anything up publicly

Apologies for the mix up in setting up the conversation platform. A true novice social networker in action! 😉

Darrell Cobner


8 Comments For This Post

  1. David Fulcher Says:

    My personal opinion on the unpaid internship topic to further discussion:

    I feel it downgrades the profession when people with degrees and masters within the discipline of Performance Analysis are made to apply for full time work for no pay and long hours while not really getting anything beneficial out of it, apart from maybe some new kit and a pat on the back on most occasions.

    Most ‘unpaid internships’ you hear about or I have experienced put you in situations where you are either a ‘coding monkey’ or glorified camera man and don’t give you a lot of freedom to learn, help innovate or even improve the process because of fear of change or even job loss. This is not to say that every unpaid internship posted is like this, I am sure there are some that are putting into place or already have good development structures for students and will look after your well being. But these are few and far between for the increasing amounts of analysts out there, we need to move away from these unregulated unpaid internships which in my opinion are undermining and diluting the role a Sports Scientist/Performance Analyst should have within sports clubs.

    But I understand where newly qualified students are coming from, they believe that it’s a stepping stone where from they can potentially move forward and I applaud them for being brave enough to do it as I once did. I know people who have uprooted for no pay to take these internships and have given up a lot, but it can come at a great cost to them personally, financially and even hinder their development as a practitioner. This can be too much of a risk for most people and shouldn’t be happening within any profession.

    These unpaid internships can and should be beneficial to all students by setting up the correct development structure interlinked with university’s, which can then be regulated while supplying both parties with benefits;

    Sport/club has qualified professionals working, innovating and developing sport/club processes to ultimately improve performance.
    Graduate/university has access to elite sports clubs and players to study while regulating students working hours, facilities and their professional development so they come out having learnt the right experiences and processes within a safe environment.

    I really have come to understand the need for continuous practitioner development within our profession since working for the English Institute of Sport on their internship program. Our profession relies on innovation to keep ahead of the field and we should be making sure that unpaid internships allow and encourage us as practitioners to progress, improve and innovate and not stagnate doing the same old processes day in day out. This regrettably is what most unpaid internships that you see posted these days involve.


    David Fulcher

  2. Will Oldham Says:

    Some really interesting points are raised here by David, notably the potential for beneficial links between sports clubs and educational institutions.

    This would allow students with a strong support network and facilities beyond those likely to be available to them in the recent years following graduation to develop whilst working alongside clubs in a professional environment.

    As a post graduate student who spent the final 12 months of undergraduate study working only for expenses and continuing to do so, I find myself in the incredibly privileged position of having the best of both worlds as described above, but I do question why this should be so privileged as opposed to common practice.

    What is holding the profession back from initiating and developing such relationships? How can these barriers, if they do exist, be broken down?


    Will Oldham

  3. Charlie Barwis Says:

    Observing the initial advert and conversation, it strikes me that some teams remain unconvinced of the power and value that PA could play in their sport. I think this is reflected in the lack of a more experienced mentor and no financial support for an up-and-coming analyst. I myself feel, that without the right support, it’s hard to develop a legitimate understanding of the industry, it’s workings and it’s practices to progress further. I was also under the impression that lower league/academy teams could access funds in the new academy EPPP set-up (through a tier system)? Therefore if correct, this begs the question why have there not been more paid roles advertised recently?

    Earlier this evening I finished filming and coding for the WRU bureau for this weekends premiership action. I am lucky enough as an undergraduate student to be in an environment where I am able to develop and further my skills as an analyst, along with being paid for my services. If this can be done at semi-professional rugby, then why not at lower league professional football?

  4. Daniel Milton Says:

    At Cardiff Met RFC we have over the last 5 years offered internships for our students to develop. We have had varying success in setting up effective relationships between analyst and coaches (We feel we are getting better!!!). In reality we have offered no more than expenses and kit over the season. A couple of thoughts on this interesting issue.

    1. As soon as money is involved this can become a limiting factor in developing analysts. It is a time consuming business – when the work being undertaken is for money it can lead to an environment where the development of the analyst becomes secondary to coding and filming. When there is a learning based environment set up between analyst, coaches and players this is far more important than any payment that is earned during the internship.

    2. Would it be better to educate the analysts that ultimately are going out into the real world so that when they are in the roles of employing interns they understand the importance that development and learning is a huge part of the intern process – not just being a coding monkey.

    3. In the current economic climate work based learning will become common in all professions not just PA. As it is already common in this industry It is up to us to create the best type of learning environments and embrace the role of the intern so PA can be leading other professions in developing a comprehensive program for internships making learning and education a huge part of the process.

    Many thanks.

  5. Hai-Binh Ly Says:

    As a PA early into his career, I am willing to take an unpaid (football) internship. This is clearly with the view that it will lead to a paid job (that is the purpose of an internship). I would like for it to be paid or at least expenses paid but I know this is not reality. I can go with a good mentor or no mentor as I can make the role my own (although David Fulcher has said otherwise).

    I am in no position to give an informed argument to the current debate. However, I would like to know whether the internships is worth it. That is, would it lead to a paid job? The reason I have asked this question is because I have seen numerous football internships for the upcoming season and I wander what happened to last season’s interns at those clubs? Did they all move on to get paid jobs? Were they released? I would be an abuse to the system if football clubs gets new interns every season so they can get free work.

  6. Alexis Lebedew Says:

    The idea of interns is an interesting discussion and one that I used to regularly have in my previous job. My view has always been that if you allow people to accept that the work done has no value, then you can never go back (convince someone to pay for it later).

    The problem is that ‘Performance Analysis’ has such a broad range of definitions, and the reality is that for some of those definitions there is no requirement for a high level of skills (ie: coding monkey). Having said that I constantly under-estimate the skill required do to basic computing tasks, as I think I assume everyone who works in sport is comfortable with computers.

    Ultimately I don’t see a problem with internship. My recommendation for anyone choosing this pathway is to fully investigate the organisation you are planning to join, and ensure that there is strong mentorship available. I was fortunate to have two incredible mentors over my professional career and it was that situation which helped my development, not the organisation within which i worked.

  7. Jason Lear Says:

    I had emailed Darrell via linkedin with this response to a very interesting debate…

    Gaining valuable experience or being exploited? Very interesting and emotive topic this one. I think when discussing such an issue we have to carefully set context.

    In most cases I assume the intern sees the opportunity of unpaid work experience as a route to getting a job. Many employers/clubs know graduates and unemployed trainees are so desperate to get their dream job that they are clearly using this to their advantage.
    Having said that, there has to be a balance found that creates the next generation of innovators in the labour market with the need for workers to be compensated fairly for their contribution to that industry.

    The question for me always has to be around the motivations of the would be ‘employer’. Are they taking on an intern to perform a junior assistant position displacing what would be a ‘regular’ employee? Do they have any intention of giving a job to the intern at the end of their work experience? Are they saying, why pay someone when we can get somebody to do it for free? These sorts of organisations will have to reflect on their motivations and practice and consider the long term damage they are doing to our industry.

    There are then those organisations that see the desperation of these graduates and others and although they are not in the recruitment cycle themselves feel they can at least give someone valuable experience for them to enhance the CV and help them evolve into the labour market as someone seen as employable.

    I hope my own approach falls into the later. I do source opportunities for valuable ‘real world’ experience but oversee and mentor the application of them plying their skills at grass roots, intermediate levels where the coaching staff are in most cases volunteers themselves. While they gain valuable experience they also give back to the development of sport. I would not encourage anyone seeking advice from me to work for ‘free’ at clubs or organisations that generate significant revenues unless they can establish the long term opportunities. Are they just going to be part of a vicious cycle whereby an unpaid intern/trainee just fills what would be in normal circumstances a junior post year on year in the same organistion or club?

    I think this topic goes back to an early issue I raised ( and constantly go back to about an industry professional body to set standards, lobby and provide development opportunities. A credible body could seek to establish an industry agreed code of practice around this issue.

  8. Emyr Humphreys Says:

    Interesting discussion. As annoying as it is, I think these unpaid internships are unavoidable. It is going to be very hard for clubs to justify paying “interns” when hundreds of people would be willing to do the same job for nothing. I would suggest that these type of internships should be made available to students sooner in their career- so maybe at undergraduate level (sandwich course type scenario) rather than after completing 3 or 4 years of uni and collecting the associated debts. In my experience, people would learn far more relevant information in just a few months at a professional club than during a whole 3 year university course. This way it may also be easier for the person to fund the internship if they could use their student loans to cover it.

    I definitely think there is value in doing an unpaid internship, especially in football as getting a foot in the door is one of the most difficult things. From there, if the person is good enough, a paid job shouldn’t be too far away!

    From the employers point of view, I think that when choosing interns, clubs should pay far more attention to the “person” they are employing rather than the experience or qualifications the person has. I have already worked with a couple of interns that struggle to build any rapport with coaches or players so find it very difficult to work with them and ultimately get rejected by the coaches so their opportunity to get a paid job is wasted. I believe that job related skills can be picked up relatively quickly but it can be very hard to change the way that you interact and communicate with people. If employers thought more about how an intern will fit into their club environment rather than how good they look on paper, the internship would be far more valuable for everyone involved.


    Emyr Humphreys

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