In the latest round of audits for Academy promotion, four out of the six teams that applied have been successful. Burnley, Crystal Palace and Leeds have all been promoted to Category One status, while Mansfield has been promoted to Category Three. The other two applicants, Bournemouth and Luton are still awaiting their decision, although decisions are expected by the end of the month.
The announcement means that there are now 27 Category One Academies.
Promotion to Category One means that that the academies will receive increased funding and players will benefit from an elite games programmes, with the Under-23s competing in Premier League 2 and the Under-18s in the Under-18 Premier League North or South. Teams will also be eligible for the EFL Trophy and UEFA Youth League in future years.
In 2012, The Premier League introduced a youth development scheme known as the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP). The intention of the EPPP is to improve the quality and quantity of home-grown players produced by top English clubs. The EPPP is a result of consultation between the Premier League, its clubs, representatives of the Football League, the Football Association and other key football stakeholders. As such, every academy across English football is ranked between One and Four based on the criteria they meet. Clubs are assessed on the level of investment, facilities, resources, staffing and productivity.
The three teams that have met requirements for the Category One status, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Leeds, have all either had increased funding in key areas or are planning to.
Burnley’s move to a newly developed training ground at Barnfield Training Centre at the end of 2016/17 has been said to have been the key to their successful application, while the Leeds United Academy has been the fourth most productive system in English football in the past six years in terms of producing players to compete for first team football.
Meanwhile, Crystal Palace have secured a long-term lease in December 2018 on a site close to its first-team training ground on Copers Cope Road in Beckenham and plan to use this opportunity to build and new £20 million Academy complex. Palace has a strong and highly viewed academy in terms of producing world-class talent. 36 players have come through to the first team within the last 15 years and making over 1,000 appearances between them for Crystal Palace.
Crystal Palace Chairman Steve Parish said in a club statement: "Achieving Category One status is the culmination of an immense amount of hard work from our staff, and it is an incredible achievement in such a short space of time since securing the land and planning permission.”
"Our ambition is to have one of the country’s leading football academies to capitalise on the hotbed of footballing talent in south London. The investment in the playing facilities, education offering, and player care provision will enable us to attract and develop the next generation of Wilfried Zahas and Aaron Wan-Bissakas.”
"Furthermore, we are committed to having a transformational impact on the lives of the wider community and especially the 200 plus boys that are directly in our care at any one time, whether they make it to the professional ranks or not.”
"I would finally like to take this opportunity to thank the thousands of our supporters who have already generously committed to becoming Academy Founder Members, helping us further enhance this magnificent project for the benefit of our young players for years to come."
In contrast, Mansfield opened a new £2.5 million Academy in late 2018 and upon meeting the criteria for Category Three, new age groups will now enter, in line with EPPP, from Under-19s to Under-16s
Bournemouth and Luton have applied to move up from Category Three to Two. Both clubs are planning revamps of their training complexes, but the work has not yet started.
Author: Bradleigh Amis