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Home » Sport » Football

League attacks Premier plans

The Football League has attacked the Premier League's proposals to overhaul the structure of youth football in England.

The Premier League has been looking at the structure of the Academy system which emanated form Howard Wilkinson's original Charter which was introduced in 1997.

This had led to new plans - called the Elite Player Performance Plan - being unveiled.

The plan is the mastermind of the Premier League's head of youth Jed Roddy, who has worked closely with the Football Association - who have embarked on their own Youth Development Plan.

The FA's own plans, which emerged after their Future of the Game document was released, are seen as a coaching strategy for the national game which should dove-tail with the Premier League's plans for the Academy structure.

Clubs and coaches alike have been waiting to see the details of the Elite Player Performance Plan and now the Premier League has released further details for the scheme it hopes will be ratified at the end of the season.

It is basically looking for youth systems at every club to be put into one of four new categories starting from 2012.

The Premier League feels young players need more coaching, and as such feels residential centres at the training ground or with nearby schools is the way to achieve this, in theory giving young players more time to spend with coaches.

Any club meeting the criteria will have to include a minimum of 17 full-time members of staff, along with the appropriate medical support and appropriate facilities.


The expected cost for a Category 1 centre would be £2.5million per year, although Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore admits that nobody currently hits that level.

"We are so committed to adopting such a high level that none of the clubs meet a Category 1," said Scudamore.

Category 2 would be similar to 1, but they would have less time with the boys as they would not have to meet as stringent requirements on their education. But like Category 1 they would be allowed to take in boys and train them from the age of four and sign them at nine.

Category 3 academies, unlike 1 and 2, would not be allowed to get hold of young players until 11, whilst a Category 4 academy would be seen as a safety net picking up released players or late developers aged 16.

The basic principle for the scheme has emanated from Holland and Spain, with the Ajax and Barcelona systems seen as shining lights within the game and the Premier League is keen to take on these models.

And youth supremo Roddy feels the proposals he wants to implement are very much the way forward.

"It's been a privilege to work with some of the clubs. It was Brian McClair from the Manchester United academy who went away, looked at the criteria and realised they would not meet that standard," said Roddy.

"A lot of clubs have already taken points on board, shown a determination to implement them on things like access time and investing in age specific coaches.

"Our boys are disadvantaged compared to European boys, where they have full-time, well-paid coaches.

"We've made it very easy for managers to resource their clubs from abroad."

As part of the proposals, the Premier League also wants to abolish the current ruling which means young players must live within 90 minutes of the club they sign for.

It also wants to adopt Fifa's compensation formula, instead of the current situation of a FA tribunal deciding on a compensation package if the two clubs cannot agree terms over a young player.



The Football League has reacted with dismay at the categorisation proposal, as well as the plans to scrap the 90-minute rule.

"This isn't in the best interests of English football," Football League chairman Greg Clarke warned.

"For many clubs it will become uneconomic to run the academies. Many will close and that cannot be good for the game.

"We mustn't screw up kids' lives.

"One minute they think they are going to be the next Wayne Rooney, the next they are being released by a Premier League club and dumped back on their council estate. Let's develop the hell out of our kids but let's not sacrifice them on the altar of football efficiency.

"If you have given up your whole life to move 200 miles away and you haven't got any mates or extended family, that's an issue that needs addressing. Because being dumped back on your council estate at 16 or 17, knowing nobody and having no career - that's a terrible thing to happen.

"There's a big risk for England if we get cut away," added Clarke.

"They tell me the No.1 or No.2 issue is youth development and some say they can't stay in business if it goes.

"We are concerned that 30 to 40 clubs would give up youth development.

"It's sabre rattling but Macclesfield and Hereford no longer have academies and if 25 more clubs go like that in two years' time then we will really have screwed up.

"Looking at the Deloittes figures into Premier League club accounts, the amountsare not exactly going to break the bank.

"The £50million Chelsea spent on Fernando Torres is equal to the cost of running all Football League youth development for a year - with £10million spare."

Clarke attends the Culture, Media and Sport select committee inquiry into football governance on Wednesday and he is expected to use the occasion to voice his concerns.

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