The United Mates Keitel and Joe are joined by Hugo Scheckter to discuss player care within professional football. Hugo is the former Team Liaison Officer for Southampton FC, as well as being the ex-Head of Player Care at West Ham United; currently, Hugo is the Founder and Managing Director of The Player Care Group.
The group reveals their favorite savory/sweet food combinations!
On Hugo’s Journey:
Hugo reflects on the path that lead him to Player Care. He began coaching in school and continued to coach and manage sports teams and governing bodies within sports throughout his time at college in the states too. At George Washington University, Hugo earned a degree in Sports Management, all the while keeping himself busy with sporting extra-curriculars.
As far as coaching vs. player care, Hugo was intent on carving out a career in sports one way or another and after a spell as the Team Operations Manager for the Indy Eleven soccer club, Hugo now had his foot in the door to the world of Player Care.
In terms of the industry Hugo would be entering upon taking a job at Southampton and returning to England, the world of Player Care is (and very much was at the time especially) a developing industry. Hugo was west Ham United’s first ever Head of Player Care and between his time at the Olympic Stadium and at St Mary’s he’s helped to lay the foundation for what exemplary player care in English football should look like.
Who Are Ya?!:
The group plays “Who Are Ya?!”, the guessing game where a mystery player is revealed based on clues. In this edition the players are West Ham United and Southampton FC related.
1. This English footballer played for Southampton during Hugo’s time there. Who are they?
2. This South American player was at West Ham while Hugo was there, but he’s also played for another Premier League club with a very similar kit. Who are they?
3. This player doesn’t know Hugo, but this English born Scotsman played for both West Ham and Southampton. Who are they?
On Player Care in General:
Hugo gives us the rundown on the state of Player Care affairs in the Premier League. Two clubs are without formal Player Care departments and then from there the standard and approach to Player Care between the different clubs varies greatly.
Hugo breaks down player care from multiple perspectives; from a human standpoint it’s important to help these players settle and enjoy life at a club and from the club’s perspective, a happy footballer is a greater asset than a miserable one. When you consider the huge investment made on these players and the potential success that they can help bring to a club, it only makes sense to do what it takes to keep a squad content.
It can be difficult to draw a line between a professional relationship and a friendship in the world of Player Care. Hugo walks us through that dynamic and tells a few anecdotes about times that relationship was tested.
On the potentially more negative side of Player Care, men with more money than you could hope for are almost reliant at a childlike level upon the hospitality and support of their respective Player Care departments. This doesn’t bother Hugo who knows when to draw the line but also genuinely wants to help the players; if it’s important to them, it’s important to him.
Role Reversal/Hugo care:
Hugo is the man the players call when they need help, but we wanted to know which players Hugo would call on to perform the following tasks!
Walk the dog? – Ryan Fredericks
Cook you a meal? – Graziano Pellè
Be your chauffeur? – José Fonte
DJ at a party? – James Ward-Prowse
Who is your wingman? – Charlie Austin
Do the gardening? – Stuart Taylor
Be your travel agent? – Graziano Pellè
Be your accountant? – Fraser Forster
Sing karaoke with? – Maya Yoshida
Who’s your podcast co-host? – Mark Noble
Who would make a suitable head of player care? – Oriol Romeu
On Homophobia in Football:
Hugo thinks it’s just a matter of time before a high profile footballer comes out as openly gay and beyond that he’s not worried that the news will poorly received by and large. If anything, this player stands to make a huge amount of money from their story and will be backed by his club, the league and the vast majority of football fans in England too.
The Player Care Group:
The Player Care Group is the UK’s first consultancy group focused on Player Care, Team Operations and Player Wellbeing within sporting environments across the world. Hugo fills us on on what the early days of The Player Care Group have looked like so far and shares his ambitions for the company for 2021!