Open letter to our readers
OK – this last 24 hours has not been the 24 hours that was expected, and this open letter is going to be an attempt to explain the points and questions that have been raised during this time.
The reason that I am writing this now and not earlier is because I would like to clear as many things up as possible in one go.
Questions have been asked about how we’ve run things at TFA and as the founder of the site, understandably, most of those questions are directed at me – so I will attempt to answer as many of them honestly and openly.
I’ll try and hit the main questions head on.
Do we pay all our writers? No, we don’t. Right now, across the ‘analysis’ side of what we do we have 153 active collaborators. These great people are anything from a hobbiest who just wants to write a weekly piece of analysis through to people passionate about making it into the pro game.
Of these 153 people, at this exact moment, 53 three of them are paid (34.6%). Everyone that is paid is freelance, everybody is paid via invoice – seven people currently do full-time hours and are paid at an agreed rate.
The remaining 100 are currently in our ‘development programme’ and the vast majority of them do not write for TFA – they are on one of the sister sites which do not require a subscription whilst we work closely with them to develop their analysis skills. They are not currently paid a freelance rate, but we do try and reward in many other ways in the meantime (training, development, exposure, being part of a community)- but once they get to a certain level in the development path, and providing we have the budget, they become a freelancer and get paid. They know this and they choose to be part of the programme.
The freelance rate is the same across the board depending on the level that someone is at. Their freelance rate goes up at each promotion point.
There is complete clarity each month with people on where they are at in their development thanks to the structure we have in place.
Have we ever ‘not paid’ someone? No – as far as I am aware, there are no writers or analysts who have been offered paid work who have not been paid. Have we ever guaranteed that we would pay XYZ at an exact point? No. Have we started moving people into freelance positions the first moment we could afford to? Yes, 100%.
Has it always been as watertight as this? No, absolutely not. Did someone who joined and left over six months ago get the same experience as people who join us now do? No, they may not have – however, we have over 60 people now who have been with us over nine months – which we are very proud of, hopefully a testament to the fact that we are doing some things well internally.
Do we make it clear what is expected of people when they contact us saying ‘I’d like to write for you’ – I believe we do. We do have some set principles that are explained at the beginning and people are 100% free to choose whether they want to be involved or not. Everything is explained and each new analyst is assigned a mentor to work with so they settle in as quickly as possible.
We have started providing education for people in 2020. If someone comes to us and says there is a course they’d like to do or they’d like to go on – if we can see the benefit of it in terms of their development, we pay for them to go on it.
We now have a much more structured education programme in place since our recent tie-up with the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.
Has everyone been treated perfectly along the way? No, probably not – I am far from perfect myself and although I try to treat everyone individually and coach the person not the situation, I make mistakes.
Some people were with us back in 2017 and at the time I felt that they weren’t doing what they initially said they would do so I asked them to leave. Was I right I every single case? Absolutely not – there are at least two who I can think of immediately who have gone on to do brilliantly and secure full-time work in football analysis and that had absolutely nothing to do with us. All them, 100% and fair play to them.
And that is not to say that was only back in 2017 – there will have been more since.
However, there are two sides to this as well – of course.
Some of the examples that have been talked about today need clarification.
A former analyst who was being paid freelance – I wanted to reward him for the fact he was going way over and above in terms of his output so I asked him what a good amount of money each month would be for him. He gave a number and we agreed on how much content he would create.
It became quickly clear that original number was too many and several of our more experienced people, including myself, advised him to do less – not for less money, but that was what he was adamant he wanted to do for his own reasons. We were concerned about burnout, our advice was ignored and the analyst ended up leaving, of his own choice.
Long conversations were had with the analyst about how we valued him and what he did etc, trying to explain that it didn’t matter if he wrote one piece a month as he had invested so much time and energy into us.
We heard via Twitter the following morning he had left – no direct message to either myself or anyone else, just announced via socials.
That happens – we see people at various points in their life come and join us, some leave in certain ways, not all perfectly.
Around the subject of the site being behind a paywall therefore everyone who contributes to it should be paid – in an ideal world, 100% agree. And I would like to think that we move closer to that ideal world each month given that we have doubled our freelance budget in the last 12 weeks and that will continue to be the case the more members and clients we attract.
Everyone started writing for free – including myself – and we have grown together and my philosophy of rewarding the people who have been with us through the hard times is valid. I haven’t accepted freelancers from outside our group as that would be unfair to those who have worked so hard to help us grow from within. Recently, we have made two external appointments who are important for us to continue to grow and our team, in general are excited to have them with us.
Finally, the way we promote people – there are clear goals for people to achieve to be promoted. They are the same each time so it is fair. Does everyone achieve them first-time? No. Is every application for promotion considered, discussed and then celebrated when they achieve it – yes, very much so.
Folks, I know a lot of people will still have their opinion of me and the way we run things. I also know that a lot of people who know me know the person and it has been amazing to hear of the positive experiences people have had.
If anyone has not had the perfect experience with us I apologise if anything was completely on our side of the fence – that is not good enough and we will strive to be better.
I’ll leave with this – I screwed up yesterday by shouting too much about some of our recent success, of which I am very proud as it means some of my team are getting to work on projects that were not possible just four months ago.
I accept my part in that – I cannot categorically say that it was not ego-driven and I have learned from that, big-time, today.
However, anyone who joins us – I just want them to become the best version of themselves and I truly believe we enable that more often than some of the disappointing stories that have come up today.