This year plans have been announced for the Elite Player Performance Plan, an FA initiative to improve the long term development of homegrown players. Every professional club in the country has had to submit an application, based on which academy category status they feel they should be considered for. (Category 1-4. 1 being the highest.)
The category status a club receives is vital to their set up. It will determine their finances available, the control they have over their players and the academy fixtures they will have.
One vital aspect of the EPPP is that a Category 1 club will be able to take a youth player from a lower Category club for a fixed fee. The current club in which the player belongs to will have no bartering power with that fee and it is likely to be in the region of £30,000. In the past lower clubs have balanced the academy books through selling players to top clubs, but with the fixed fee in place – this will do little for lower teams. For example, only at the turn of the year, MK Dons U14 Seyi Ojo was sold to Liverpool FC for a figure that is likely to rise to £2m. Under the new rules, MK Dons are likely to be given Category 3 status. As a result, in the future they will only receive a small fee if one of their academy players agrees to join a Category 1 club.
Below are some ‘criteria’ that will be assessed when deciding which Category a club should fall in to:
– Indoor/Outside training facilities.
– Classrooms as part of the training ground
– Close links with a local school.
– Separate changing/toilet facilities for players and spectators.
Potential Benefits From EPPP:
– It will allow clubs to have more contact time with their young players. Working towards strategic investment into the Academy system, which demonstrates value for money.
– It will help clubs create links with local schools to bring football and education closer. (Similarly to La Masia Academy – http://wp.me/p2a52G-5E).
– It will allow Category 1 clubs to recruit players from further afield compared to current rules. Aiming to get the best players to the clubs that can offer the best service to these players. Again similarly to Spain where if you are a top player in your age group, the likelihood is you will play for either Barcelona or Real Madrid.
– Lower clubs will have far less power than bigger clubs – in terms of keeping their best players. They are unlikely to receive fair fees for their best young players. Without this income lower clubs are may struggle to maintain their systems.
– Although top clubs can offer better facilities/coaching etc. – It does not mean they are stronger at eventually progressing young players to the first team. For example, Chelsea FC’s Cobham based Academy has arguably the best facilities in England, yet from the current regular 1st team players, only John Terry came through the system.
– Allowing clubs to recruit players from further afield comes with its own potential problems. Increased traveling time has a knock on effect on a players education (leaving school early, late getting home from training etc). With the low %’s of homegrown players currently progressing to professional football, player education cannot be risked. Already too many teenagers, after years of making sacrifices for their football, have been left with no club and no sense of direction.
– Will the new rules ultimately effect the long term competitive nature of our English leagues? In Spain, it is accepted that a season in La Liga will involve a two-horse title race. However the English leagues pride themselves on not only having a highly competitive Premier League but also the Football Leagues below it. With the top English clubs having the best young players/being even more superior financially, this competitive nature may decrease somewhat.
The overall opinion of the EPPP is one that will be debated for a long time. There is no doubt the plan will have positive results, and in the not-to-distant future, but it will also have its drawbacks.
Finally the plan does not look to improve the situation at grass-roots level which, for many young players, is where the game is learnt for many years. In an ideal world every top player in England would be signed to a top club by the age of 9, but we know this is not the case. Yes, countries such as Spain and Holland have more advanced development systems than England, but they also have better quality coaching at the front of youth football, which is within the ranks of grass roots.
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