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Iain Russell, a 30-year old professional footballer of Scottish First Division club Livingston, addresses the importance of education in his blog for the Professional Footballers Association of Scotland.


‘All I ever wanted to do when I grew up was to be a footballer.  The last thing on my mind in school was trying my best to get a good education.’


‘I had signed an S form with Glasgow Rangers at the age of 14 and as soon as I finished school I was going to move to Glasgow and play full time football and be paid for the privilege. Although my parents and coaches at Rangers encouraged me to achieve good grades in my final year at school, in all honesty I didn’t care.  In hindsight it was a poor attitude, but can you truly blame me?’


‘Even when I went full time I hardly ever gave a second thought as to another career as despite having next to no money I was having the time of my life. Walking into Ibrox Stadium everyday, rubbing shoulders with my heroes and playing the game I loved, I felt close to my dream of one day playing with these stars on the famous Ibrox pitch.’


‘This is exactly what it is like for the majority of young players in Scotland who enter the world of full time football.  Even before they finish school they have already agreed to join their chosen football club. Young lads are going straight from the classroom to the football pitch and it is so appealing for kids at school when given this choice.’


‘On this basis, it can be wrong for some people to make quick judgments on young footballers, as how often do you hear or read that football players are not the most intelligent. But if any of these people were given the opportunity to leave school early in the hope of fulfilling their dream, would they turn it down?  Instead of the prospect of another four of five years of study trying to further your education at university, or having to work long hours in the office you are given the opportunity to play football instead.’


‘The most common phrase I have heard in my time as a professional is that “footballers have never experienced the real world.” Criticism like this is narrow minded and far from the truth as being a professional footballer can at times be a harsh and brutal industry.’


‘Despite the promise of the big time the truth is that once you have stepped through the doors of the training ground it means nothing. Competing against so many other boys, it is usually likely that only one, or at times none, will actually go on and make a living in the game without having to worry about another job.’


‘I have been released twice in my career and told by a few managers that I am not good enough. It can leave a player feeling very isolated and worthless and I have witnessed on many occasions players simply chucking football at the first stage of rejection.’


‘From having their dream of playing football shattered by just one person’s opinion some young lads opt to try and find another job often without any appropriate qualifications.’


‘The other possibility is to follow a path like my own, where I have managed to play full time football until my later years but now have to think seriously about another career as my playing career is precarious.’


‘I was lucky that I managed to complete my Higher exams despite my carefree attitude towards them. If I hadn’t obtained some qualifications then I would not have been able to attend university during my part time stints at Dumbarton and Brechin, and achieve a degree in Quantity Surveying.’


‘Despite this I was always desperate to return to full time football, and having experienced several other jobs, I feel people out of the game have the wrong perspective on how players graft from day to day. In most cases players have to fight very hard for a contract, and if they don’t they can very quickly find themselves on the soccer scrapheap.’


‘In recent years I have had to give serious consideration as to what I would like to do when I stop playing. With this in mind I attended one of the PFA Scotland Careers Day at Hampden last year and since then I have received so much help and support from PFA Scotland it has been incredible.’


‘From the moment I spoke with PFA Scotland’s Craig Flannigan and Jack Ross they made me more relaxed about the situation and the daunting prospect of learning for a new job seemed that bit easier. It is not a nice thought for many players and it is easy to say “I will be okay” or “I will cross that bridge when I come to it” but by going to one of the careers events or just phoning PFA Scotland for advice, Craig and Jack will put your mind at ease and think of the best strategy for each individual.’


‘With my own situation, both were immediately helpful in finding what be the best plan for me and started in trying to make it happen. Craig worked non stop, continually setting up meetings and only two weeks after the careers day I began a Sports Development course at the University of the West of Scotland in Hamilton on the basis of reaching my goal of becoming a PE teacher (or next Manchester United manager!)’


'I can’t thank PFA Scotland enough, and in particular Craig and Jack for all their help and advice. I have encouraged other members of the playing staff at Livingston to get in contact with them and indeed two other senior members of the squad have enrolled in University courses and are really enjoying them.’


‘I know it is  a daunting prospect and it may seem that you are at a stage of your career where you don’t have to worry about career planning but even an informal chat with Craig or Jack is a start. It is hard work studying whilst playing full time but it can benefit you further down the line or maybe even sooner!’




FIFPro Online Academy

FIFPro invites all professional footballers (EU citizens only) who are interested in the FIFPro Online Academy to apply to their national professional footballers’ association. For more information they can visit the FIFPro Online Academy website, or contact Suzanne Bakker at the FIFPro office ( or Jesper Thorup ( at the office of Spillerforeningen, the Danish players union.