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Academy football in the modern era

Academy football is advancing more and more each year, with expanded competitions, greater facilities and increased exposure. With the accelerated growth of academy football, many clubs are now putting a stronger focus on their academy systems.

A number of successful academies, including Chelsea FC, Manchester City FC, and Aston Villa FC - Category 1 clubs with big budgets - are notorious for scouting out talent from Category 2 & 3 clubs in the lower divisions, as talent is often available at a low cost. Through offering a scholar or professional contract from the age of 16, these club's seek to acquire the nations best talent, whilst giving them the platform and opportunity to develop, as they begin they journey towards the first-team.

Despite this appearing as a power-play by larger clubs, the decision to transfer academy players is often mutually beneficial for both teams, with transfer fees funding the progression of the club's facilities, as well as a number of lower league clubs being happy to see their players progress at a higher level.

Luton Town Football Club have had a number of talented players progress through their academy, including the likes of Jamal Lewis, Jay Da Silva, Max Aarons, James Justin and Charlie Patino - all of which are now playing at a high level, with Luton profiting over £10 Million in transfer fees, a significant sum to invest into their academy.

Exeter City Football Club have sold Ethan Ampadu and Ben Christene, to Chelsea FC and Aston Villa FC respectively, receiving £8 Million for the pair. While these funds may not be detrimental for Premier League clubs, they are vital for lower league clubs to continue the development of their youth systems.

This season, 13 Category 1 teams offered scholarship contracts to players from clubs in lower leagues, offering better deals and a direct pathway into Premier League and Championship level football. A number of these players originally playing in League 2 or below further emphasising this stance.

Many Under-23 players on the verge of a breakthrough have only been with their current clubs for a short period of time, as the cost of signing talent at the age of 16 is often insignificant in comparison to scouting them at a younger age and developing them for the beginning . Liam Delap made his Premier League debut on the weekend, and although he has been a regular for City’s academy sides, he only joined the club as a scholar at 16 years old from Derby County FC and is just one of the many that have only been with their clubs for a short time period.

This may prove to be a better long-term approach for lower category clubs, as it allows them to focus on scouting and nurturing talent and preparing them for the inevitable move to bigger clubs, which in turn willlead to larger profits and an increased budget to feed back into the facilities, enhancing the cycle.

Author: Abraham Adebayo