The “story” is that whilst our much loved cousins at Sunderland Association Football Club, and also from Championship Middlesbrough, seem to be nailed on to acheive the highest “Category One” status in the Premier League’s new “Elite Player Performance Plan” (EPPP) for football academies, Newcastle United have allegedly been told they haven’t have made the grade after an audit of the club in March, and will probably only be awarded “Category Two” status. The independent auditors who carried out the inspections, “Foot Pass England” judged clubs on ten factors, these factors being:
1. Vision and strategy
2. Leadership and management
3. Coaching and developmemt programme
4. Education and welfare provision
5. Games programme
6. Athletic development programme
7. Player development programme
8. Talent indentification, recruitment and registration
10. Corporate and financial stability,
Speaking on the issue back in February, Newcastle United’s Academy Director, Joe Joyce, said:
“We need to make sure as a club we have our local area tied up – that we do not lose players.”
Well this would undoubetedly make a difference to those plans if it comes to pass, and the club could find itself being bullied over the best young players in the region and elsewhere by superior Category One academies, including on Wearside and Teesside.
Some of the major differences will be:
Although a Category One club will have to guarantee a annual budget £2.325 million (against £969 thousand for C2), the funding from the Premier League will be higher for Category One Academies.
Category One clubs would be able sign players from the age of four, whereas Category Two clubs will only be able to coach them at this age, having to wait until they are nine years old before actually signing them, which will undoubtedly give the Category One clubs, expecially our local rivals, an advantage.
If Newcastle United is only designated as a Category Two club, they could find themselves in a position where they must allow higher ranking clubs to take highly rated young prospects from under their noses for very low fees under the new compensation standard which does away with tribunals for Academy players. From now on, they will follow a very low standard scale which disadvantages lower ranking clubs, and gives an absolutely huge advantage to higher ranking ones under the new system. After all, this was a scheme devised by the Premier League, and his hence heavily biased towards giving the elite clubs a huge advantage. The scale will be as follows:
For each year spent in an academy between the ages of 9 and 11 – £3,000
For each year spent in a Category 3 academy between the ages of 12 and 16 – £12,500
For each year spent in a Category 2 academy between the ages of 12 and 16: £25,000
For each year spent in a Category 1 academy between the ages of 12 and 16: £40,000
This means that clubs would only receive a maximum of £169,000 upfront for a young player, though there may be the potential for the selling club to receive up an extra £1.3 million, dependent on how many Premier League appearances the player makes up to a limit of 100.
There will be a sell on fee of 20%, plus 5% for every future transfer. Good though this may sound, this will still be significantly lower than most clubs have received for nurturing top players of the future under the current tribunal system, with smaller clubs still struggling under the outgoing system of compensation.
One thing which both categories will have in common, however, is that they will no longer have to abide by the “90 minute rule” where young players may only be drawn from an area which is within ninety minutes travelling distance of the club.
Also, one thing which has been passed over by most articles looking at the new scheme is that clubs will no longer have the abilty to deny scouts from other clubs access into their academies to watch their best youngsters and potentially cherry pick them.
Having written this though, if I inject a personal note, I do find the idea of having four year old children under a contract, not to mention uprooting them from their home environments to live at a club which could be at the other end of the country, something should be dealt with extreme care, especially so when such powerful commercial interests are involved. It’s hard to believe, I know, but some things really are more important than football, and the psycholgical development of children at such a tender age if they are uprooted from their families and sent into a highly competitive environment is certainly one of them.
But anyway, I do not intend this to be an essay covering every aspect of the EPPP itself (it’s very complicated), and it’s possible effects on the development of very young minds (even more so). So, I will wrap this up with two points.
Firstly, whilst the indications that Newcastle United have had problems measuring up to the criteria for Category One designation under the new EPPP scheme seem to be getting stronger, it is not completely certain at the time of writing, with the results to be officially announced next month. Secondly, with no disrespect to Middlesbrough, if a club with the resources and facilities of Newcastle United have allowed themselves to be outstripped by the likes of a Championship club, then there would be something seriously wrong somewhere. This would be especially embarrasing to Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias after all the bragging about how much time and money the club have been investing in restructuring and improving the youth development side of Newcastle United, and how the youth development road is the allegedly the future rather than readymade big money signings.
Let’s hope that it doesn’t come to pass.