FEATURES INTERVIEWS

TALKING TO STEPHEN GANAVAS, ONE OF THE MEN BEHIND SCOUTED FOOTBALL

We spoke to Stephen Ganavas, one of the men behind the famous Scouted Football who passionately provide updates on the best of the game's under-23s.

If there’s any platform that symbolises the youth football culture and the niche it has in football coverage currently, it’s Scouted Football. Established in 2014, they have grown from strength to strength. A yearly Scouted Football Handbook was launched as a free e-book in 2016, and they’d made it to the next stage in 2019: a print handbook, divided into quarterly issues of 25 players spread across the year.

One look at the magazine should easily convince even the casual football fan (or hipster) to get their hands on the book: the artwork is lovely (see Federico Manasse’s Diego Lainez cover), the design carries the signature Scouted touch, and there are plenty of established writers involved.

It’s not just their handbook, however. What sets them ahead of the pack is their social media content: tweets are concise, informative and clean; this is complemented by the use of easy to grasp statistics. Their usage of emoticons adds to the modern look, and yet they don’t overdo it. This is a platform that has their brand nailed on; with such a clear outlook, their success is no surprise.

Rahul Warrier spoke to Stephen Ganavas, Scouted Football’s “Boss Man”, on his project, their success and more.

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Tell us a bit about your love of football and how you grew up with the sport.

I was a bit of a late adopter when I turned around 12 or 13 and learned how to access illegal streams on my computer. I had been a Juventus fan since my youth, with Italian heritage on my mother’s side of the family, but access to anything other than two Champions League games a week and summer tournaments was only possible through pay TV in Australia, which I never had at home.

STEPHEN IS A KEEN JUVENTUS SUPPPORTER
What sparked your interest in youth players? How did you decide to launch Scouted Football?

I’m not really sure. I just like watching youth games when I get the chance. The youth World Cups are especially fascinating, and UEFA have done a great job with the Youth League in recent years. Watching young players come through in the professional scene is just an awesome thing to see, and then being able to follow them into their career and see how they end up is interesting.

As far as Scouted is concerned. I technically did not launch it – that was Tom Curren.

In a market where plenty cover youth football to some extent, how have you managed to stay innovative and ahead of the game?

I like to think we were an early adopter to the trend of dedicating an account to youth players. I think we were fairly pioneering in that aspect and I’m pretty proud of it. Something I see accounts doing a lot is putting players age in brackets after their name, which is a trend I think – although, I might be wrong – we started.

We put a lot of work into tweeting. A lot of discussions go into style and consistency and look. But the content is genuine too. We can be stats heavy, but where possible we do our best to try to inform with the best analysis we can provide.

For starters, I’m a fan of Scouted Football’s social media aesthetic: crisp, to the point, with plenty of emoticons.

As mentioned, we put a lot of work into tweeting. There are some mornings I’m sitting at my desk at work here in Australia after Champions League games, and my WhatsApp is exploding with discussions and arguments over the layout of a tweet.

It does sound ridiculous, but it shows how passionate we all are about the brand and about the way it is perceived. Emojis are something that are particularly contentious; we have toned them down a lot over the last 12 months. They are a great way of engaging but can be distracting, almost to the point of ridiculousness.

We are always working on formulas and styles to make better tweets, but it is also important to mix them with off-the-cuff analysis; honest, authentic insight.

RISING STARS LIKE JADON SANCHO ARE THE PLAYERS SCOUTED FOOTBALL PAY PARTICULAR ATTENTION TO
What’s been your proudest achievement with Scouted so far? Any famous interviews?

Honestly, just meeting a lot of awesome people. Twitter can get a bad rep for fostering hatred – and often it does – but I have met so many wonderful friends through Scouted.

The other great achievement is also the longevity of it. We’ve been doing this for five years now; normally independent things like this do not last that long because it is hard to be consistent when juggling full-time work, or university, etc. But consistency and longevity pays off; especially in terms of trying to foster a unique brand.

The latest Handbook, Volume 1, ensures you’ve gone where no one else covering this niche has gone before. What’s next for Scouted?

Just keep grinding. All of us study at university or work full-time so it can be a bit of a crunch. We do not want to expand our horizons and be unable to dedicate ourselves to it, which was part of the reason behind splitting the book we had done annually into four quarterly parts. I think burnout is something a lot of people on Twitter that work or study in their daily lives experience, it can be so hard to juggle it all. It is even more difficult for people in Asian and Australian time zones that must stay up into the early hours of the morning to watch live games.

You also covered Australia at the Asian Cup for the Guardian. How was that experience?

Yeah, it was truly awesome. A bit stressful too, considering I had never really done match reports before. But it is an experience that I will never forget; wheeling around the UAE, meeting other journalists, asking questions at press conferences, speaking to players in the mixed zone.

I think getting out of your comfort zone is really important though. I used to be quite an anxious person in my teens, but as I’ve travelled, broadened my horizons and become more independent as an adult, I’ve grown out of it a fair bit. That’s been important for me because things can be hard, but stress, anxiety, and nervousness only make them harder.

THE GUARDIAN GAVE STEPHEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO COVER AUSTRALIA’S RUN AT THE 2019 ASIAN CUP IN THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Do you have any thoughts about the state of football journalism and/or media, and where we’re heading in the next few years?

People can be very doom and gloom about the state and future of journalism and the media, but I try to be a bit more positive. I think the enormous variety and ease of access to a range of excellent sources compared to ten years ago is a massive positive. I think things will continue to improve as organisations continue to develop revenue streams outside of click advertisement – I will even give #sponsoredcontent a pass, as it is easily avoided.

Independence of journalistic thought and the impact of the needs and wants of owners of media organisations will continue to be a problem, but it always has been.

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Given their rapid progress over the past few years, it’s going to be interesting to see how Scouted continue to evolve and diversify moving forward. The niche is well and truly theirs now – and they have no plans of relinquishing it.

Scouted Football Handbook 2019: Volume 1 can be purchased via their website, the first of four planned for release in 2019.

BY RAHUL WARRIER