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Football League fears over plans for new youth system

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Paul Fletcher | 11:19 UK time, Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The Premier League announced ambitious plans on Monday to overhaul their academy system, immediately sparking fears within the Football League that their 72 clubs could be badly damaged.

The aim of the Elite Player Performance Plan is to produce more top-quality homegrown players. The Premier League claims, quite rightly, that this would benefit not only the clubs that produce them but also the England team. Coming in the wake of England's disastrous performance at last year's World Cup that would be a welcome boost.

However, the Football League has expressed concern that 30 to 40 of its clubs could abandon their youth development schemes if the new proposals are not altered to protect the interest of lower-tier clubs.

"We want to be seen as part of the solution and not the problem," said Football League chairman Greg Clarke on Monday. "We want to support the [new plans] but not in a way that puts tens of facilities out of business."

Ashley Young (left) and Darren Bent were on the scoresheet for England against Denmark.

Young (left) and Bent came through at current Football League clubs. Photo: Getty Images

Currently Premier League and Football League sides have either academy or centre of excellence status but under the new scheme the youth systems at all clubs will be graded across four categories.

Top of the pile will be a new hothouse style super academy that will provide intensive training to the best young talent. The 90-minute rule, which currently states that Academy players must live within one-and-a-half hour's drive of their club, will be scrapped, giving the top clubs access to the best young players in the country. They will live in residential facilities and, the theory goes, clubs will link up with local education authorities to integrate coaching into the normal school day.

Contact time with qualified coaches will treble, with the aim of reaching the optimum figure of 10,000 hours by the time that players turn 21. Under the current academy set-up that figure is around 3,760 hours. The theory is to have the best young players coached by some of the best coaches in excellent facilities from an early age.

The Premier League point to the Royal Ballet School and Yehudi Menuhin Music School as good examples of intensive learning, as well as the success of Barcelona's La Masia facility. In England the nearest current example is the link-up Championship club Watford has established with the Harefield Academy school.

The Hornets have 33 students integrated into the Harefield Academy, all of whom have 18 hours of contact time with coaches each week, as opposed to six under the current academy system. Their coaching and academic lessons are integrated into the school day. I recently visited the facility and encountered a mood of cautious optimism that it will give Watford an edge in both attracting and producing players.

The Premier League is keen to stress that the categorisation of youth systems will not be tied to a club's league standing; a League One club could have category one status. However, the cost of funding a category one system is expected to be £2.5m per annum, three times the current academy level and way beyond what is currently spent by Watford.

Category two is based broadly on the current academy model, while category three is similar to the centres of excellence at most Football League clubs and the final category is effectively a late developer safety net that picks up players from the age of 16.

Watford youngsters training at the Harefield Academy.

Education and training are integrated at Watford's Harefield Academy. Photo: Alan Cozzi (Watford FC)

The top two categories will have a minimum of 17 full-time staff and will be beyond the reach of most Football League clubs, who will have category three or four status. Most will end up in category three - and it is here that there is a major sticking point.

Under the new plans, clubs in this category will not be able to sign players until they are 12. At the moment they can sign players from the age of nine and there is a big worry that if that current level is not maintained it will leave them at a big disadvantage. By the time category three schemes start most of the good young players will have already been signed up by clubs with a category one or two system.

In his 10 months in the job Clarke has visited more than 60 Football League chairmen and has concluded that the revenue they gain from their youth investment is vital. Crewe, for example, generate an average of £1m a year from the sale of homegrown players.

"They tell me the first or second issue for them is youth development and some have told me they will not stay in business if it goes," added Clarke of his meetings with chairmen. "We are concerned that 30 to 40 clubs would give up youth development.

"Lets not cut swathes through the development ability of Football League clubs."

Tied in with the overhaul of the youth development system would be a new framework to standardise compensation paid to a lower division side when one of its homegrown players is signed by a bigger club.

Without question, the current transfer tribunal system is flawed. Different people sit on it at different times and it lacks standardisation. There are numerous examples of contentious transfers. For example, former Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan described the £700,000 his club received from Tottenham for John Bostock as "scandalous".

The Premier League has proposed a framework that involves lower up-front payments but significant add-on fees if a player goes on to fulfil his potential. This could involve a youngster progressing to become a first-team player or an international, with each new achievement triggering another payment. The idea is that it will help facilitate a situation where the best young players end up at the finest facilities at an early age, thus improving their chances of succeeding, but the smaller selling club also wins because it will end up handsomely recompensed if a player becomes a success.

Premier League chief Richard Scudamore is adamant that if the initial transfer fee is too high then the top sides will look abroad in search of their talent. But Clarke is insistent that if adequate compensation is not paid then clubs will not have the incentive to continue with their youth development policies - and he will press home this point when he appears before the select committee on football governance on Tuesday.

"Looking at the Deloittes figures into Premier League club accounts, the amounts on compensation are not exactly going to break the bank," said Clarke. "The £50 million Chelsea spent on Fernando Torres is equal to the cost of running all Football League youth development for a year - with £10 million spare."

Currently only Morecambe and Hereford do not have youth development programmes and the Football League is worried that figure will increase under the new proposals.

Thirteen of the 23 in the England squad that took on Denmark last week were at least in part developed by the Football League, which firmly believes that it has a central role to play in the strength of the national team.

It is important to stress that nothing is as yet set in stone. Only one formal meeting has been held between the Premier League and the Football League to discuss the overhaul. More are sure to follow.

The Premier League wants its new system implemented by the start of the 2012-13 season and Clarke is hopeful the new youth system will be "a good example of working together to benefit the national game".

The ultimate aim is to improve the standard of the England team but Clarke wants to make sure his clubs are not damaged in pursuit of that goal.

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  • Comment number 1.

    How about limiting the amount of Foreign youth that can be taken in by any one club, if you look at the Man U, Arsenal, Liverpool etc. acadamies, they are full of U18 players who have been brought in from foreign clubs, if UEFA are going to look at a 6+5 model in the future, why not start this at youth level first up

  • Comment number 2.

    Does anyone really care about what happens to the football league..?
    Life does not exist outside the Premiership and champions league - And lets be honest, no one really gives a monkeys about half of the lower end premier league clubs anyway.

  • Comment number 3.

    How many of all of these thousands of young players become professional players and how many stay in the game after this "hot housing" process?

    Shouldn't young people be allowed to have fun and grow up before they are forced to become a cash cow for their parents and these clubs.

    At the age of 9 they become part of an industry which is seemingly based on being able to cheat better than your opponent, a lack of respect for those around you, including the match officials without whom there wouldn't be many games,and the verbal and sometimes physical abuse of opposition players and spectators. I've been at matches for young players and the verbal abuse from parents, both to their own children and others, is something to behold. Social services should make a visit sometimes, they would have field day.

  • Comment number 4.

    It is just another nail in the coffin of lower league football. The Premier League just want to ensure that the bigger clubs get the chance to cherry pick every promising youngster. Given the choice, would a kid want to go to the Man U or Chelsea academies or would they think that they would get the same chance at Scunthorpe?
    Children should be taught at their local academies, it maintains a home life and contact with home, allows the local club to benefit from work they invest in and more kids will have a footballing life as discards from the high level clubs will just have their illusions and dreams shattered, possibly irrecovably.
    The academy system isn't broke, so why do the Premier League feel the need to interfere, unless they feel that it will benefit them the most.

  • Comment number 5.


    Boom boom..

  • Comment number 6.

    This article has merit in itself and deals with a certain issue.

    However, the bigger issue is what young footballers are being taught, wherever that is being taught.

    The fact that so many footballers can't seem to do the basic's is reminiscent of the school system where so many can't seem to do the basic 3 r's.

    The issue being discussed in this article seems to be a fight over the money in the game rather than for the betterment of the game in this country as a whole.

    Or maybe I'm missing something.

  • Comment number 7.

    p.s. Bring back 606!

  • Comment number 8.

    Its a problem that will have winners and losers there doesn't seem to be a perfect scenario. For Greg Clarkes protests, he hasn't come up with a better option, so its all well and good ciritsising the prem lge's option, but if theres not a better model its worth considering.

    I agree with Richard Scudamore in if Prem league teams are charged too much for buying young players then they will look abroad. But we don't want to risk the football league clubs losing so much money they have to stop developing youth players.

    I have always thought that Prem League clubs should use league clubs as feeder clubs.

    Say Man Utd use Bury as its feeder club. United have the players from 9-16 and coach them. Let them continue their development at Bury 16-21 where they receive specialised coaching from Man Utd coaches at Bury. With the proviso that they have to get guaranteed game time. Provided Bury meet the targets and the player develops sufficiently, Utd can buy him back for a small fee plus add ons for future success. if United dont want him, he signs for Bury where they have a developed player for free or sell him and Utd get a percentage of the fee. Also, if groups of 10 youth players are all sent to bury they play and train together regulary it will make for easier integration should they get to the first team at Utd.

  • Comment number 9.

    totally understand the view of limit the amount of foreign players, NOT 'homegrown'(by what reasoning is fabregas actually homegrown?). but realistically, it is not that simple, it brings into play all sorts of immigration and discrimination issues. Fez, an excellent post, but these are the sad facts of modern football, and to be fair, they are for clubs to alter themselves, the general attitude of the game. also, if you look abroad, the top European clubs are taking young players at even younger ages. as someone who was hooked on football by a combination of my dad and watching fergies fledglings, anything that improves the chance of another batch of young british talent coming into the game in the same era, or even better the same united team, is a good thing.

  • Comment number 10.

    @1 - I would agree with that because then it would force the bigger clubs to look at home grown players but the main problem I see with it is this. When a player is 15/16/17 there is an element of risk taking him on with regards to whether or not he has the skill to cut it at the top level. By the time a player reaches 18/19 clubs have a much clearer idea of what kind of player he will be. So whilst buying a 16 year old may only cost a few hundred thousand pounds, in two year time that player could suddenly be millions. The big clubs are much happier to take small risks in buying them young and seeing how they develop rather than waiting a few years, watching their prices go up and then decide whether or not to take a much bigger risk. For example, a promising youth player at United is Macheda. He was bought to the club for peanuts but now he is worth a few million pounds, yet he is yet to really prove that he has the talent to play at United. So I think because of this the big clubs will block any attempts to restrict them, but I do agree that it would be a good idea.

  • Comment number 11.

    Now then,

    Thanks for your thoughts so far.

    Bad-Mick (post 2) - I'll answer that for you. Yes.

    Fez (post 3) - You make an interesting point. Greg Clarke himself was very big on the issue.

    This is what he said on a system that would take young kids away from home:

    "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."

  • Comment number 12.

    Given that the Premier League is only interested in Football as a means of making profit, they should not be let anywhere near young english potential footballers.
    What will happen when the cash cow runs dry? When those mugs who currently pay (through sky fees, match fees, etc) wise up and find something else to spend their money on? Or consider a club going into liquidation, as is sure to happen?

  • Comment number 13.

    fantastic post.

    i think i agree most with the point about setting tribunal fees into sell-on clauses and fee increments as this way the smaller clubs may get more in the long run anyway and it offsets the initial risk investment with lower fees from the bigger clubs meaning more of the lower half of the table teams in the prem could afford to take some of the brighter talents on earlier and not pay exorbitant fees just because someone is english. (this coming from a saints fan - i am well accustomed to the selling club process!).

    i also think that the amount of time a grade 1/2 club can give a young player would be invaluable and if this replicates a massively successful system like barca and ajax then why shouldnt we follow suit?
    take iniesta for example - not a local lad had to come from albacete but he was able to go to a place where he honed his skills and his mentality by having the ethos of the club built into him - even if he didnt make it wouldnt the values he learnt have given him a good head on his shoulders for outside the game? we need more british youngsters to apply the correct attitude these days.

  • Comment number 14.

    #13 has a point, it's the attitude that needs to be addressed. If you 'hot-house' these potential footballers, that's essentially telling them they have a right to be at the top end of football getting paid thousands of pounds per day. Part of the training has to be bringing them back down to earth. There's a solid chance that some of these guys won't ever get to be professionals, or will be but at a much lower level, League One or Two. They need to be taught a serious work ethic, that playing football for a living is a privilege, not a right, just because they have unusually well-coordinated feet.

    Besides, they're just kids at this point. You need to let them be kids or they'll grow up into a bunch of complete morons. I remember a couple of years ago Cristiano Ronaldo had a high-speed crash in his Ferrari; imagine if that had broken both his legs and left him having to figure out the rest of his life without football. What would he have done?

  • Comment number 15.

    I can't be any bad thing if at least half of the current plethora of professional clubs go out of business. There are far too many clubs for a country this size as it is. At most we need 2 full-time professional leagues and maybe 1 or 2 semi-professional.

    The development of young talent so as to ensure a successful national team in the future and securing the existence of all of the current professional teams are mutually exclusive.

  • Comment number 16.

    Lescigales (12) is absolutely right. The Premier League and professional football generally is on the cusp of a massive financial implosion. Clubs at whatever level should attract from their catchment area only (i.e. half an hour's lift home in the car with Mum or Dad, or a bus ride). These are living children we are talking about, not simple commodities.
    As a long-time Crewe Alexandra fan I have seen some of the best rise to the top - and, sadly, some of those who cannot hack it either stay in the lower or non-leagues or leave the game completely, but they have been given a good and proven chance.

  • Comment number 17.

    yup I agree with you phil.

    But how long do think it will take for us fans to see some actual progress?

  • Comment number 18.

    Im liking Watfords approach.
    If the kids do fail to make the grade then they should still have grades for other choices in life.
    Well done Watford!

  • Comment number 19.

    the comments in some ways reflect a kind of self intrest for the league clubs which fear losing the best young players (even if those players would be best served by trainning and learning at the top level at the prem league club). Though I would think a deal meaning that if the player has not made it into the first team by at set age then the player that let's say stockport finds, goes to united youth setup should automaticlly be loaned out to stockport and then after 12 to 18 months sold to stockport for a set fee if he is not needed by united or a fee is spilt between the two clubs for the sale to a 3rd club.

  • Comment number 20.

    An interesting article and debate.

    First of all I would like to address this comment from Greg Clark:

    "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."

    I completely disagree with this view - I think that if a young player has a chance of making it they would benefit from beign as far away from their mates as possible. Let's be honest - most footballers are from a low socio-economic background. The areas where they live have a wide array of problems - drugs, crime, drinking - that some of their mates will inevitably take up. However, they need to be aware that they will be living a completely different life if they are a footballer. Just look at the problems that (for instance) Steven Gerrard's friends have caused for him. They need to be mixing with other young players in a similar position to them.

    Also, being moved away from home is no barrier either footballing or academic success. Just look at the performance of boarding schools against state schools for evidence of potential academic success. If you want a football example look no further than Pedro at Barca.

    In fact, I would say that it is a good thing that these measures might move talented young footballers away from home. Maybe this will develop a generation of English players that are open to moves to the continent and beyond to develop their skills. How many players take that risk now?

    I think this ranking of academy sounds like a good step. It means that the top young players will end up in the top academies. This is good for England as it means they will get the training and game time needed.

  • Comment number 21.


    Either you are a Man U fan or new to the game or both :-)
    Without the football league the Premier league would die FACT! Local people couldnt support their local clubs as they dont exist and would lose interest in the game and then local boys clubs would die in those areas and then the vast majority of young kids will not be able to play any competitive football, the quality players wont come through, the money ploughed into the Premier league would stop and round and round we go.... Do you think the likes of Lionel Messi just rocked up at Barcelona and said "im really good give me a game". No he was discovered playing for his local boys club.

  • Comment number 22.

    A rule that lets big clubs (those that can invest £2.5m a year in their youth system - that's 1 player on £50k a week for Man Utd, or more than Bury's annual wage bill) have kids at 9, but the rest can only sign them at 12???

    Am I missing something. Preier League are asking for "1st dibs" on child prodigies to be made a law? Of course they are!

    All clubs are only interested in profit. That's what players are to them - commodities. Allowing the biggest businesses to have unfair advantage on gaining these commoditites is not just wrong, it is illegal.

    I played at an academy. I was one of the (only!) bright ones i.e. I took A-levels whilst training and went to uni when I didn't make it as a pro. Of the 50-odd players I played with during my 2 yrs there, only 1 is a pro (Notts County), a few others are playing in the conference, the rest just play for laughs (if at all). Most work in manual labour jobs, but at least the academy gave them the chance to get an GNVQ, so perhaps they could be a physio, or play in America, or do something a bit better than working on the building site.

    Yes, training methods should be approved (more technique, smaller games, etc, etc a la Holland) but this should not be monopolised by the big clubs. Cos they are only interested in their own best interests. So it needs to be led by the FA - that's their job. And the focus has be on the kids.

    Grass routes football is the life blood of the English game. Big clubs are very much part of it, but their individual interest is not the same as the national interest. You only have to look at what has happened to Scott Parker, Wayne Bridge, SWP and now Daniel Sturridge (nothing against Chelsea, just using them as an example) to understand that big clubs having English players does not equate to a successful England team.

  • Comment number 23.

    i also think that the amount of time a grade 1/2 club can give a young player would be invaluable and if this replicates a massively successful system like barca and ajax then why shouldnt we follow suit?
    take iniesta for example - not a local lad had to come from albacete but he was able to go to a place where he honed his skills and his mentality by having the ethos of the club built into him - even if he didnt make it wouldnt the values he learnt have given him a good head on his shoulders for outside the game? we need more british youngsters to apply the correct attitude these days.
    Saint Birds Eye - with the best will in the world, you are simply jumping on a bandwagon here and allowing yourself to be brainwashed by the fact that Barca currently have an excellent team.

    If Southampton were to steal Barca's coaches, and employ all of their methods, it would not result in them having the same standard of team as them in 10 years time.

    In theoretical models, the key phrase is "all other things being equal". Well this is Britain, not Catalonia. There are many other factors at play. And players like Messi and Iniesta are natural born geniuses. You conveniently forget that Barcelona have been digning the best players in the world for the past 30 years to guarentee their success. Even in this "golden age" they've just signed Villa for £50m having previously had Ibrahimovic (for a similar fee) with world starts going all the way back to Ronaldo, Romario, Koeman, Stoichkov and Cruyff. And Steve Archibald!

    Don't believe the hype.

  • Comment number 24.


    If you look at the Man Utd Acadamy players a grand total of 6 out of 29 are from overseas hardly an acadamy full of young overseas players, the vast majority are English and from the north west.

    There has to be a change, of course we have to protect the samll league clubs but also we have to understand that the richer PL clubs can afford the coaches and support staff to help these young players. Now no club will accept a link up with a PL team or help from them because they would be to afraid that the PL club will nick their best young players for free, so a system that consists of a few elite bases and proper compensation for those players that move.

  • Comment number 25.

    Don't want to sound too industrial strife, but how about a tax, let's call it 'academy tax'? Clubs still pay an upfront fee, and thereafter, for the rest of the player's career, whoever he's playing for, have to pay the original feeder club every time he plays for them, standardised and incremented, depending on which team at the club he's playing for, e.g. the youth team, reserves, first team, national team, etc, and at what level, e.g. EPL, Div 2? Along the same lines as a payment after a signed player plays a minimum number of games, or a sell on clause, but compulsory, and an almost guaranteed regular stream of money to the academies for the duration of a player's career. Wouldn't just a small percentage of a club's revenue be sufficient? As Greg Clarke says, the Torres transfer fee would pay for all the youth academies, with change left over.

  • Comment number 26.

    I'll be glad to see the back of the 90 minute rule, which has played it's part in destroying potential. This rule added to the potential costs of buying a good English kid, has led many a top club to look abroad and bring in the talent. It isn't choice that clubs went down that track, but due to the nature of the rules.

    However, in terms of the latest changes, if they are implimented, why don't the Premier League increase the payments to the Football league in some way to compensate for the them driving through idea's. It's them that will benefit in the end.

  • Comment number 27.

    It looks to me as if the PL clubs want to hoover up all the talent they can on the cheap and it really has nothing to do with improving the England team.

    And as already said kid's should be allowed to be kid's and not taken away from their homes and given ridiculous expectations.

  • Comment number 28.

    @playingitbythebook (20)

    "I completely disagree with this view - I think that if a young player has a chance of making it they would benefit from beign as far away from their mates as possible. Let's be honest - most footballers are from a low socio-economic background. The areas where they live have a wide array of problems - drugs, crime, drinking - that some of their mates will inevitably take up."

    Wow what a one-sided view. You've just classed everyone who wants to make it as a pro-football basically as low-life. There's always the potential that some of the kids, being taken away from the mates they already have, will meet new people who are WORSE than those they have left. I'm not saying it's "inevitable" but just that it's possible.

    You also said: "being moved away from home is no barrier either footballing or academic success. Just look at the performance of boarding schools against state schools for evidence of potential academic success."

    Where is your proof that academic success comes from being away from home? Personally I think the class sizes and quality of teaching and selectivity of most boarding schools has a much higher impact than the fact the kids are away from home. Again, I'm not saying that if those boarding school kids were at home, they would have been better, but that's not the reason they are as good as they are.

    Basically what I'm saying is that you can't completely generalise. Some kids will benefit from being away from home, some won't. You can't say "yes those kids HAVE to be away from home" but also I agree that for some of them it will be the best thing for them.

  • Comment number 29.

    The most successfull academy is at Southampton anyway.Why do you think Man Utd etc are prepared to pay 10 MILLION Quid for Oxlade Chaimberlain?
    Just look at thier Track Record!

    What i thinks is unfair getting your academy grade based on how much you spend.No league 1/2 club can afford 2.5 million a year!

    Should be based on how many GOOD players they produce.Saints would be up there with teams like Crewe and Watford in this table!

  • Comment number 30.


    I can see your point. However I would point out that I said 'most' which does not mean all. I've not said anything about them being low-life, I am merely pointing out the realities faced in the areas where most professional footballers come from. Working as a teacher at a school in a deprived area I face these realitiies every day. As for meeting people who are worse - if they are in the priviledged position of having a place at a top football academy there is always the threat of having that placed removed if there are problems with any young player.

    As for your second point - what I meant to say was that being moved away from home is not a barrier to success. I did not say that being away from home is the REASON for success. It seems like a small distinction but what I am saying is that being away from home does not neccessarily cause the huge problems inferred in the original quote. And I would certainly agree with your other points about the different factors involved.

  • Comment number 31.

    Premier League in manipulation to their own ends shocker, who'd have thunk it. Let's sweep up all the young talent by throwing money at it and change the rules to allow nationwide recruitment because it isn't quite the Premier League unless they make it up as they go along.

  • Comment number 32.

    Yet another nail in English football. The premier league is an example of all that is wrong in football today. Greedy clubs, greedy players, greedy chairman & a greedy league. They simply don't care about the "little" clubs in England - including most of their own.

    The Premier League are only interested in the big six - Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool & Tottenham.

    My own club, Crystal Palace, have developed many excellent young players over recent years - many of whom went on to Prem Clubs. And most of those had their promising careers ruined as a result.

    The only way football can be saved in England is if those clubs outside of the "big six" breakaway & form a new league with the rest of the football league clubs - with money etc shared fairly amongst all member clubs.

    Lets see how Sky & the Prem enjoy a 6 team league.

  • Comment number 33.

    I may be being a bit dull, but why don't the Football League just say no if they're so unhappy about this? The Premier League acts as though it has a God given right to implement its various decrees and force them upon everyone (in a sense its financial muscle means that it does), but the FL is a separate organisation and should represent the concerns of its own members.

    Personally I think this is yet another money-grabbing move by the Premier League, who have realised that a poor national team and a lack of homegrown talent in their top clubs is slowly diminishing the appeal and interest in their product. So, rather than tackle the real issues at stake, such as what our kids are being taught at academies and the numbers of coaches and at what standards they operate, Scudamore has decided to simply steal all of the lower league talents because that's a much cheaper and easier quick fix, as well as being one which his paymasters will approve of. One thing is for certain: the people running the PL couldn't care less about the England team. They're businessmen and all they're interested in is profit who only wheel out the old "we're doing it for England" argument when they want to force something through.

    Watford have shown the way forward: their system allows young players to develop locally in tandem with their academic studies, but also to receive the benefits of increased contact time and better facilities. If they follow the FA's new guidelines (smaller games, less focus on competition and more time spent developing technique) then I'm sure their project will be a huge success in the long term. If the big clubs want the best young talent then they should have to pay handsomely for it - that's part of the sacrifice they should have to make in return for the disproportionate income they receive from TV etc. Currently not enough money trickles down to the FL and despite what people like Bad Mick say, without a strong and competitive structure below it the PL's foundations are built on quicksand and will soon collapse. The main problem isn't where we're teaching our youngsters, it's what we're teaching them.

  • Comment number 34.

    #23 i also think that the amount of time a grade 1/2 club can give a young player would be invaluable and if this replicates a massively successful system like barca and ajax then why shouldnt we follow suit?
    take iniesta for example - not a local lad had to come from albacete but he was able to go to a place where he honed his skills and his mentality by having the ethos of the club built into him - even if he didnt make it wouldnt the values he learnt have given him a good head on his shoulders for outside the game? we need more british youngsters to apply the correct attitude these days.
    Saint Birds Eye - with the best will in the world, you are simply jumping on a bandwagon here and allowing yourself to be brainwashed by the fact that Barca currently have an excellent team.

    If Southampton were to steal Barca's coaches, and employ all of their methods, it would not result in them having the same standard of team as them in 10 years time.


    Actually Liverpool did steal some of Barca's youth coaches a year and a half ago. There current youth team just stuffed Southend 9 - 0 in the FA youth cup. Seems to be working so far.

  • Comment number 35.

    Hmm, a bit wet at Watford let me tell you.

    Viches Riches are fit for a King (post 33) - they cannot just say no. If they don't enter into dialogue then I would expect the Premier League to press on regardless. Besides, my understanding is that the FL agreed to enter into negotiations on the revamp as part of the agreement over the new solidarity payments (related to all the TV cash) agreed last year.

    JM (post 29) - it has been suggested that Southampton may well pursue category 1 status. There are nothing if not ambitious.

    A few people have suggested that the Premier League are just out for what they can get. They would argue that improving the quality of homegrown players must be good for the England team.

  • Comment number 36.

    The optimum model for English football would be for the FA to develop centrally the standards, best practices and regulations by which all Premier League and Football League clubs operate their academies. This is what Germany does today. The 36 clubs in the two Bundesliga divisions operate academies that are regulated centrally by the German FA. This way no individual club or group of clubs can skew the process to their advantage. The other key success factor for Germany's academy system is that a minimum of 12 players in each academy's intake MUST BE ELIGIBLE TO PLAY FOR THE GERMAN NATIONAL SIDE. It is this approach to the academy system in Germany, implemented after their Euro 2000 failure, that has resulted in the resurgence of the German team.

    The proposed Premier League youth development plan is designed to achieve one thing and one thing only - increased commercial success for the Premier League. In achieving this goal it will directly lead to the demise of most Football League academies which will have the knock-on effect of causing some lower league clubs that rely on academy player sales revenues to go out of business. Lastly, there is absolutely no guarantee that the the Premier League's new academy model will improve the performance of the England national side. What is more likely to happen is that the 20 resulting "Super Academies" will draw an increased number of youngsters from abroad, more than surpassing the additional number of kids available from the UK with the elimination of the 90-minute rule. The only way a significant positive impact could be achieved for England would be if a similar rule was passed to Germany's of having at least 12 players in each academy's intake be eligible to play for the national side. The Premier League would not agree to this since from their point of view it would unnecessarily restrict the flow of talent materials into their development pipeline.

    From a purely technical viewpoint there is much to commend the EPPP in terms of its process for maximizing coaching contact hours and ultimately producing greater volumes of highly talented footballers. The problem is that the structure of the proposed model is biased totally towards the interests of the Premier League at the expense of the majority of Football League clubs. And the purported benefits to the England national side do not stand up to scrutiny. The only version of the Premier League's plan that would be truly beneficial to the whole of English football would be one that is centrally managed by the FA in such a way that an equal balance was maintained between commercial, community and national game objectives. It's still not too late to make such a model a reality by the way. After all, we do have an inquiry going on....

  • Comment number 37.

    Interesting blog, and some interesting comments.

    i think the benefits of players with potential being given 3 times the amount of coaching are self evident, although it does not obviously guarantee success for those players.

    Surely some fair form of compensation for lower league clubs can be found, and the various forms of 'add-on' payments being mooted are a good starting point.

    I happen to agree with the '90 minute rule' being scrapped. Is it fair to a youngster with potential to be denied access to the 'best' training simply because there are no 'big' clubs within 90 min of their place of residence? As has already been pointed out, being away from home is not necessarilly a hindrance to success. If it means more coachng, and of a higher quality, it is in fact likely to increase the chances of success. Why exactly do so many parents who can afford it send kids to top boarding schools far from home? simply to improve their kids chances of success. Why should football be any different?

    One problem which will not be overcome by the system, (in my opinion) and will always be an issue, is that of spotting the potential early.

    My experience - both as a once young player ( a long time ago) and as someone who as coached the young kids (I am not in England, but the same is an issue everywhere it seems) - is that most "scouts" and youth team coaches automatically opt for the bigger kids. The simple fact that they are more physically developed than their peers may make them appear better, while the more naturally talented and skillful (though physically smaller) kids are often overlooked.

    Possibly this will work to the benefit of the lower category academies, who can pick up these smaller but more gifted players, and end up making money by "selling them on" ?

    Overall though, anything which has the potential to develop more kids, and provide them with up to three times as much coaching, can not be all bad.

  • Comment number 38.

    Um ..... exactly how long am I considered a "new member' and pre-moderated, for goodness sake ?

  • Comment number 39.

    I must be getting numb to the constant inadequate and unfair advances of the Premier League as while I feel some sense of rage, I almost couldn't be bothered to add anything to this article. Good article though it is and I would say, a vitally important one discussing the future of the game back home, the inevitability of the eventual adoption of these plans makes conjecture a little unnecessary. Regardless, here I go:

    The PL is nothing other than a massive Marketing effort which screws every last penny out of _____ (fans/morons/idiots/glory hunters/the Game - choose your favorite and fill in the blank). Since it's inception, it's primary goal, albeit somewhat disguised behind the thin veil of competition, has been on maintaining a league where the biggest clubs from the largest cities prevail and they have for the most part, succeeded. How galling then, but totally expected, that at a time when we just had the craziest January transfer market in history, which sits against the backdrop of the current depressed financial climate, that the PL should decide it is time for them to take the next (and one of the few remaining) commodity available to them and exploit it, namely youth. Note the disguise again (ever-marketing as they are) of placing this against the backdrop of England's sudden failure at Major championships...what short memories, we've been useless at tournaments since 1996, I make that 15years, why now? Simple, money.

    As an ardent Watford fan (My team has just kicked off with 7 of the squad selected for tonight's game from our own academy and almost all of the rest from FL academies) it pains me that we have led the way with foresight and execution in the last couple of years, not too mention sustained financial support during extremely difficult financial times for the club, and created a tier 1 academy only to see that under the PL plans we would likely fall to a tier 2/3 academy over night because we are not United/City/Chelsea/Arsenal/Liverpool etc. It's crass beyond belief but it will happen. The day Manchester United walked out at Bramall Lane in the first PL game, you just knew the game had sold it's soul to the Devil...he currently takes the form of varying PL executives at this time.

    Please don't take this as Watford over England or Football League over England because it is not. I'm just as adamant that England do well and believe that all players should be willing to play for their Country above all else, but this latest PL idea is nothing to do with improving England. How many times have the Football League and the F.A. (another awful organization) asked the Premier League to discuss the future of the National team just to be turned away empty handed? Too many to want to recount is the answer, the difference now, it serves a financial purpose for the PL to put plans forth, they can't have too many more January transfer markets left like the last one, given the current business model of spend, spend, spend, they need cheaper options for their clubs to continue on and that thin veil of competition to appear in tact.

    The end of football? No, that happened years ago.

  • Comment number 40.

    ....and how about clubs consider using a 'signing off fee' - the opposite to a signing on fee. Players who stay loyal to a club until the age of say 22 receive 50% of the eventual transfer fee.

    Players could stay at their local club and turn down big money moves in order to get first team stability knowing in the long run they will still be able to cash in.

    If a Championship or league club held on to it's brightest talent until this age it would still make millions in transfer profits while holding on to it's homegrown talent for longer.

  • Comment number 41.

    Some clubs are missing the point too. Rather than clubs running their own Academies why aren't clubs pooling their resources. For example in my area what's the point in Villa, Birmingham, West Brom and Wolves and Walsall all running their own development projects.

    Even though these clubs are rivals they should run a joint academy to develop the best players in the West Midlands and an independent committee should place the player with the most appropriate club taking into account factors such as club allegience, travelling, position played, player and parental preference.

    Would stop poaching and aggresive scouting policies and be far more cost effective, efficient and in my opinion successful.

  • Comment number 42.

    Don't forget that another source of talent is the discarded players from the top clubs themselves. Plenty of ex-Man United and Arsenal players have joined lower league clubs after their FA Youth cup medals didn't translate to first team action. To say that increasing the amount of English talent will harm the game is silly, so long as this is what truly happens. And as a supporter run on transfer fees, it is HUGELY important that compensation is standardised, fair and sell-on fees make sense. I agree that feeder clubs would make sense, even when a rivalry enters the mix (Bournemouth loaned many players from Southampton and Pompey over the years, this has ceased since they got closer in positions.

  • Comment number 43.

    So lets summarise; the Premier League want to be able to cherry pick the best talent from anywhere in the country for the cheapest possible price to help them improve the image of their product in the longer term. The Football League want to restrict this so their clubs can keep their nose in the trough to ensure they maximise revenue from any players they develop. Its all about money, money, money and definitely not about England FC.

    If all of these clubs and organisations had kids and England FC at heart then they would do the following:-

    1/ Not insist on players moving hundreds of miles to be in their elite acadamy (you cannot tell me that there is not a pool of talent in a city the size of Manchester - you can answer that if you like City or United).
    2/ Create a tiered development structure all the way from local grass roots clubs playing mini-soccer to their first team and share the benefits.
    3/ Look after players beyond, when they decide at the ridiculous age of 16 that they are not going to make it, by investing in Glen Hoddle type acadamies or providing other education and career opportunities. I bet Aston Villa wish they had done this with DJ Cambell!

    Now, go away, bang your heads together and come up with a less selfish proposal - or stick to buying your million pound mercenaries and leave well alone.

  • Comment number 44.

    kids at 9 years old don't have the authority to consent to how the rest of there life is going to pan out the rest of there life, kids may only have 6 hours coach contact but they still play way over that for fun and let's face it if u have to train 18 hours a week you will suck out the fun and kill the enthusiasm for the game, that is what makes great players, a drive and determination to be good at what they love.

  • Comment number 45.

    Great post, thanks.
    Yet another stitch-up by the Premier League (or should I say the big 4).
    As a supporter of a small club, that's very existence is based on developing youth, I find the attitude of the PL rich and famous insulting in the very least.
    It's just greed and I suppose it's a reflection of today's general society.
    I just hope the big clubs start their European Super-League ASAP before it's too late for real football clubs, fans, England and the game in general.

  • Comment number 46.

    I appreciate the comments made regarding the lower league clubs, but the fact is, in most peoples eyes this is a good thing. It basically gives clubs a license to sign the the best kids. Who can argue that the best kids getting the best training & in the best facilities is a bad thing? It is basically designed to tackle a problem head on that this country has been beating ourselves up about for years - the youth system isn't good enough. This will change change things (agreed at a cost!) though surely if it is succesful & we start producing significant numbers of talented English players from the top clubs, the general standard of what is expected rises - which means clubs will have to have a rethink on where they spend their money.

  • Comment number 47.

    Perhaps the fact that "thirteen of the 23 in the England squad that took on Denmark last week were at least in part developed by the Football League" is a large part of the problem with the national team.

    I wonder how many of Spain's world cup winning squad spent a season or two getting kicked by old lads on muddy pitches? Seriously though surely a higher level of coaching and more exposure to that coaching would be a serious aid to these kids' future abilities. It sounds like a logical plan to counteract the lack of qualified coaches in England compared to countries like Spain, Germany and Holland.

  • Comment number 48.

    Whatever our wise football governing bodies decide to do, the rules must be clear and concise from the start. I have some suggestions. I'm all for the grading of academies, but it should not be about how much money is spent, but on what is provided.

    A full time academic education
    Safe & clean living conditions
    access to good quality training facilities
    fully qualified coaching team to say a uefa b licence standard.

    Then the restrictions

    I think the 90 minute rule should stand until a child reaches secondary school age.
    At this point catergory one academies are allowed to offer kids places from all over the country and if a kid is associated with another club then set compensation (e.g 5k) must be paid towards the player development already made.
    The catergory one academies can only take in a maximum number of kids per year (eg 22) to ensure the standard of the coaching is maintained. As already pointed out, it's the samller classes which makes boarding & private schools better performers over state schools.
    This will also prevent the so called vacuming of talent feared by the smaller clubs

  • Comment number 49.

    Paul (post 35)

    The England team should be bottom of the priority list. English football should not be judged by how our national team plays, it should be judged by the success of our football leagues, from the Premiership right down to my part time sunday league team. This new proposal will not benefit the football league clubs, and therefore will not benefit English football.

  • Comment number 50.

    It is not the technical skills that make a player a winner. The England team that failed at the World Cup was, on paper, good enough to win it. Placing teenagers at premier league clubs from a very early age will just breed arrogance and complacency. Player's should be left to be picked up by their local club, wherever that may be. Those that make it to the top will have done so by fusing their talent to hard work; they will have attained a winning mentality. Our national team would surely benefit. As for the financial side i have no idea. I don't care. Football should be about entertainment and passion; not nitpicking over finances.

  • Comment number 51.

    46: At this point in time, we give secondary school kids more training time per week than any club in the country, Champions League clubs included, on a budget of £1m a year. In essence we are already doing precisely what this new proposal suggests, the only differences being that we abide by the 90 minute rule, and that we are doing it on a smaller scale (fewer kids, fewer staff, same staff-to-student ratio as is being proposed).

    I don't have an issue with the big clubs being forced to take youth development seriously. The issue is with penalising clubs who are doing it properly, merely for being small.

  • Comment number 52.

    re my "lack of qualified coaches" statement:

    In case anyone was wondering if I was making it up.

  • Comment number 53.

    To follow-up from my previous comment (posting separately because I realise this bit will be scrutinized more closely), this proposal would not adhere to competition law, unless modified to ensure that smaller clubs are not penalised merely for doing this on a smaller scale.

  • Comment number 54.

    the issue is can the smaller clubs aford top uefa pro quilfied level youth coaches to teach young players? the issue that effects a lot of the coaching in the UK is that youth coaching is seen as means to ends to getting into coaching the senior teams not as a respectable well paid postion.

    Look at liverpool getting coaches from barca than getting them from local league clubs as that level of coaching education in england is maybe the lowest of any of the larger western european nations in football. Just look at the lack of UEFA pro or A level coaches in england compared to Spain (which has 5 million less people but there are almost as many Pro Licence holders in Spain as there are UEFA qualified coaches of any level in England)

  • Comment number 55.

    @32 - you're not the only one!

    The PL has been too big for it's own boots and the effects are cascading down the FL. Parachute money for relegated clubs should not be necessary but it is because of the amount of money needed to survive.
    Promoted clubs are given a choice, they can either mortgage their future and splash out and hope they stay up or they can be modest and accept near-certain relegation.

    Now the PL wants to strip the FL of any remaining assets it may have starting with youth. The argument that it will benefit England is a poor one - the amount of times a top player has been "injured" for England but it fit and well for the league name at the weekend is amazing. If England improve it will be in spite of the PL not because of them.

    I do support a PL club (Villa) but I always try and watch FL because it's far more interesting, just look at the race for 2nd in the Championship and it's much the same in League 1 and 2 the latter where Burton have 7/8 games in hand! If they want to improve England give the funding to the FL instead to let them have the facilities to play and to train youth.

    @41 - the fans wouldn't have it. As a Villa fan I would object to a player we worked hard to train going to Birmingham or West Brom and Birmingham fans wouldn't have the reverse.

  • Comment number 56.

    #23, not to be a total nit pick, but Villa costed Barcelona £34.2m, not £50.

    Also, the point is with Barcelona spending money for players is that they tend to buy one or two to add to the team, as one or two leave, and during times when their next batch of new players arent 100% ready.

    Its called good management. Something Chelsea lack.

  • Comment number 57.

    Here is an about you work with the universities as well so the guys who dont make it have something to fall back on.
    How much I hate to admit it, the americans defo have it right with that one. And even if you do have a superstar in your ranks going to university would still teach the guy a lot of life lessons. We will no longer have kids dropping out of school at 16 thinking they are going to make it and by the time they are 22 they have nothing.
    Im sure there could be a way to incoporate this into a youth football system.

  • Comment number 58.

    Seems to me to be far more about money than the growth of talent.

    The talent of these players is there, its the coaching methods and dross of the 90's/00's generations self promotion to 'world beater' before the age of 20.

    To radically overhaul the system at this time seems ludicrous. It is only now, at this exact time, that we are seeing players come through the ranks of the current youth systems who are capable of playing with their head. The only real one of note in the previous years is Scholes.

    With the likes of Wilshere, who could easily pass for a Brazilian or Spanish international player we have a great play maker, strong and can withstand the pathetic challenges by some players in the Premier League. Yet he is deft and has great vision and will create chances for strikers to no end.

    Add Rodwell/Mceachran/Lansbury/Cleverley to the list of good, ball playing midfielders which has been the sole failure of the English national side for many years.

    We have had the strikers, the defence but the midfield has always been lacking a real creative spark, we dont need a one good goal in 20 rash shots player, who cant open up defences, yet they get all the plaudits.

    The midfield link has always been our problem and we have players comming through now to fill that void.

  • Comment number 59.

    In regards to Bad-Micks ridiculous comments...

    "Does anyone really care about what happens to the football league..?
    Life does not exist outside the Premiership and champions league - And lets be honest, no one really gives a monkeys about half of the lower end premier league clubs anyway."

    It's people like you who really do my head in.

    OF COURSE WE CARE!! We're not all glory supporters who support the team who spends the most and wins the most trophies. Where do you think the majority of our international players and up-and-coming international players start off at?! I'll name a load now:

    Rio Ferdinand, Jermain Defoe, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Glen Johnson and Michael Carrick (West Ham)
    Ashley Young (Watford)
    Tom Huddlestone (Derby)
    Chris Smalling (Maidstone United)
    Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka (Sheff Utd)
    Joe Hart (Shrewsbury)
    Michael Dawson (Forest)
    Joleon Lescott (Wolves)
    Robert Green (Norwich)
    Leighton Baines (Wigan)
    Stewart Downing and Adam Johnson (Middlesbrough)
    James Milner and Aaron Lennon (Leeds United)
    Theo Walcott (Southampton)
    Scott Parker (Charlton)
    Darren Bent (Ipswich) and so on, and so on.

    And I'm not even going to mention the amount of young players from the "big" teams that get loaned out to football league teams and the bottom half of the Prem because they don't get the opportunity to play for their parent clubs. I'll just give one prime example in recent years: Ryan Shawcross. He never got the chance at Man U so he went to Stoke on loan and helped get them promoted to the Prem, then signed for them on a permanent deal. And look at him now, one of the best young defenders in the country who is going to play for England for many, many years to come and it wouldn't suprise me if Fergie tries to bring him back in the near future.

    Us smaller clubs who apparently don't exist give these players the experience they need so they can actually progress and one day have a chance of getting into the international set-up. My point is that without the Football League and the lower Prem teams we would hardly even have an international team, especially with the amount of foreign players coming in increasing season by season.

    But sadly this is the way football is going in this country nowadays, all everyone cares about is money, money, money to get a quick fix to success and there is simply no respect for us smaller clubs, and what the Prem are planning to do is just showing even less respect to the point that there isn't going to be many of us left in the future, and I along with many others are sick to death with it.

  • Comment number 60.

    Low initial transfer fee means the rich clubs have no risk in signing up the best players from other academies. If they don't work out they don't have to pay much.

    This will destroy English football.

  • Comment number 61.

    An interesting blog that has really ignited peoples passions on this subject.

    However, one thing that seems to have been missed in response to improving the England Team and the ridiculus statement of "a Disasterous World Cup" we havent made a major final since 1966, on some occasions we have failed to even reach the finals so making the 2nd Round is hardly disasterous. The facts are that these England teams have always included players from the succesful bigger clubs, how many players have represented England whilst playing for a non-top flight team, very very few. This shows that the development is not a problem, the best English players will always end up in the top flight and at the biggest clubs. Look across the other big leagues in Europe and I reckon it would be similar. The argument that we dont have enough quality coming through is narrow minded and idiotic.

    The real problem with England has been and always will be Underperformance, every one raving on about how great Spain are and we should follow their example forgets until 2008 Spain had no sucess, Holland World Cup Runners Up have never won World Cup and you look at the established clubs in these countries Ajax,PSV, Barcelona, Real Madrid and the world class stars these have produced and until now it never transferred to National success.

    The England team have never been succesful because the players and coaches have failed at International level and it is as simple as that. I would even go as far to say that Semi-Final and Quarter-Final progress shouldnt even be viewed as failure. Are Chelsea Champions League Failures and will never win it because they regulary get through to the Quarter and Semi-Finals and even the Final?

  • Comment number 62.

    Lots of great points, thanks for ensuring that this has become such a high-quality debate, mostly.

    I don't agree with the argument that we have too many clubs and so losing a few as a consequence of this planned overhaul would be a good thing. That is nonsense. Those clubs serve communities, they matter to people, who have a real and proper relationship with them. Losing them would be a bad thing.

  • Comment number 63.

    Whilst i am happy that the FA is addressing the issue of youth development, you just know its doomed to fail. They may have studied other youth programmes in different countries and disciplines, but the people making decisions will still discount half of the necessary parts as they believe they know best, clearly they don't.

    The use of the phrase "hot house" suggests that this will be the same shambles as it is already, where young children are worked hard on fitness and kick and rush football. At La Masia, they only train 1.5 hours a day and do no proper fitness work till they are 16. These are the elements that the FA should be adopting.

    An earlier poster eluded to the fact that a key issue is what they are actually being taught. You can increase their time with a coach but they need to be learning the right things and the coaches need to be high quality.

    Whilst my next statement may not make entire sense, i think it is key to the overhaul in youth development... I have said we need to to look to other countires and adopt their techniques, but we can't copy everything. The key to Germany's success was that they spoke coaches from all around Germany ranging from a under 9's coach right up Joachim ~Low and asked and ask them to state 5 words that they wanted people to describe the style of German football to be, ie they created an identity for their new football style.

    If the FA can get that right, then they can tailor and tweek the academy system, the coachin etc to help achieve this.

  • Comment number 64.

    Sounds to me like another way of helping the big 4 / 5 / 6 get access to the best players in the country, and let the little clubs struggle. Its disgusting!
    Teams like Crewe, Southampton, and Norwich who have very succesful youth systems that work will be no more. The only reason a team like Arsenal have a succesful youth is due to poaching!

  • Comment number 65.

    A further point is why are the Premier League involved anyway? It should be "The FA" who decides what should be done, as they have the best intrest of "The National Team" and The football league.

  • Comment number 66.

    This strikes me as utterly wrong.

    First up, I'm a Watford fan, so I'm particularly annoyed. As others have commented, the proposal would, on the face of it, relegate us from being one of the best clubs for youth players to also-rans, simply because we don't have much money. Where's the justice in that?

    As for the suggestion that these plans are for the benefit of the national team, well, let's just say I consider that naive. Any improvement in the England team would be purely incidental; this proposal is cynically designed to help the big sides get around UEFA's new home-grown quotas and spending rules. As ever, the Premier League is only thinking of itself.

    Regarding the suggested changes to the compensation system, I agree things have to change, in the interests of fairness. But not in this way. Lower up-front fees mean that clubs like Crewe will have serious cash-flow problems: they can't afford to wait five years for the possibility of payment for a youth prospect that actually makes it big. Lower up-front fees also mean that there's less risk for Premier League clubs, who can hoover up talent for little cost and spit out players on an industrial scale, knowing that it won't cost them anything more, given that future payments are conditional on the player's success.

    And, finally, I'm not convinced by these references to Barcelona's system. These proposals will not replicate what goes on there. Players at that academy know that they are part of a unique environment: they focus solely on technique for a long time (much, much longer than in this country, where small children are mostly weeded out by the age of 12) and there is a real community feel. I don't want to eulogise too much, but Barcelona is unique. Further, there is less of a 'chew them up and spit them out' mentality there, in stark contrast to the industrial attitude of top English clubs.

  • Comment number 67.

    Is it not the FA bringing about the restructure of youth development in this country, rather than the Premier League?
    The 1.5 hour rule currently applies to U13s upwards. Below U13 age groups the restriction is 1 hour. The travel time limits are a relatively recent introduction, not a restriction that has always been in place. Removal of the restriction will have very little damning affect on the elite youth game nationally.
    A player who currently lives 1.5 hours from the club currently faces a 3 hour round trip on top of a 2 hour coaching session. That's 5 hours out of an evening. Every additional 0.5 hour to travel to the academy means an extra hour when considering the round trip. Expand this time to three training sessions and a fixture at the weekend and that is a huge commitment in time/cost for parents to transport their kids to and from the academy every week. Practicality will be a limit.
    Clubs already get around the time limits for travelling by using contact addresses for a player's relative within the travel time limit.
    Removal of the restriction will have no affect, just remove rule bending/breaches.
    Players relocating is not new. Players below 16 are already moving to the other end of the country to live with 'foster' families so they can sign for Premier League Academies.
    If a young player with the potential to the next Lionel Messi is living Penzance the current rules mean the opportunity for him to receive the coaching and chance to develop his potential is extremly poor to say the least. There is a restriction on the number of players a club can register at each age group each season, they won't be relocating swathes of young players from all over the the country, just a few.
    Furthermore, if the big club academies were currently that accurate at determining all the talented players at a young age there would already be no point Academies/Centres of Excellence would exist ouitside the top flight.
    Clubs outside the top flight will continue to with their youth programmes. Please stop the senationalist journalism.

  • Comment number 68.

    interesting. i think it is messing too much withe the circle of football life we have in the country. The "smaller" teams bring through these talented players, they sell them if they player wants to go, then he gets developed some more, the small club makes money which makes them better for it (whether they by players of just improve other assets within the club) Look at arsenal buying theo,

    I'm an Arsenal fan, so i can just see a good 50-100 cesc fabregas situations. We got him from barce, he gets good, now they think they have the god given right to buy him. So...Fulham for example sign a youngster from Manchester (eg) then he turns into a world class player, United/City will just look at buying him back and because he is from there he will either just leave because it is his "home" or every football club will turn into the moaning presidents of barcelona fc.

    They are kids aswell, when i was 12 if someone had said to me "your going to leave your freinds and most of your family behind but you MIGHT be a footballer" i think at 12 i would have either laughed or cried. Whereas when its in your area, the academy, life is good. Believe me being a Gooner i can and with the turn over of young players we have i can see how this would go. Would you rather see lower leagues developed from money from sales, or just cut that out completely. When u look how man players have been developed in the lower leagues who in england team, i think that answers that one.

    I dont understand how the FA say "we need to develop youth" then come up with the silly ideas that will damage our countries football. we dont want be the La Liga where there are 5 teams who sign youth and the rest of the teams have got to a point where they can ever challenge them for any titles.

  • Comment number 69.

    These proposals are yet another attempt to give the big clubs even more weight and power at the expense of smaller clubs, as if the dice isn't already loaded in their favour. The most powerful forces in football, the big 4, premier league and Sky, have for years secretly hoped for the demise of lower league clubs who, in the words of ex United chairman Martin Edwards, are a millstone round our necks and should be put to sleep. When the Premiership was formed in 1992, it was solely for the purpose of the clubs in the top flight to make more money from TV income and thereby avoid sharing the revenue with the lower divisions as had been the case under the old agreement with The Football League, hence the breakaway with the FA's blessing at the time. The modern version of football envisioned by the marketing men is of an handful of elite global corporate brands generating enormous revenue and enjoying saturated media coverage whilst smaller clubs just whither on the vine.

  • Comment number 70.

    @Pierredelafranchesca (1)

    8 of the 11 liverpool players that recently won 9-0 in the FA Youth cup were english, 6 of whom were scouse.

  • Comment number 71.

    Bad-Mick is something that rhymes with Mick

  • Comment number 72.

    I'm a Spurs and Shrewsbury fan

    Not impressed at all with these proposals.

    As it is at present comparing my two teams and the England team - Spurs have currently got only Peter Crouch (yes he did) who came through there youth team playing for England. Shrewsbury Town bought through Joe Hart.

    If these proposals are adopted, what are the chances of teams like Shrewsbury paying out so much more for youth development???

    One of the reasons why Shrewsbury - and Crewe - probably have done so well with the youth development - isn't just due to their massive array of coaches and large academies - it's probably more the fact that the young players are so much closer to the first team - they can pick up tips and train with them. Because there's less players they get more attention - more one on one contact with coaches. For example at Shrewsbury Joe Hart had the goalkeeping coach Dave Timmins able to train specially with him, and other two keepers. At Spurs the likes of David Button (england under 19 keeper) have Gomes, Cudicini, Petikosa, Ben Alnwick etc.

    Seems to me that a lot of people are forgetting one other issue - these clubs should have a duty of care for the players - ensuring that the football / education is maintained but also that they're happy in life and able to cope in the real world. As it is rules like getting rid of 90 minutes rule etc aren't concepts i like. I'd also find that restricting the amount of foreign youngsters in out academies would be a far better rule - even today I'm reading about how Chelsea have signed a 15 year old Dutch lad. He may or may not make it, but it could well be that as a consequence of his arrival, an English youngster is going to miss out.

    And as a football fan, I'm sick to death of Richard Scudamore.

  • Comment number 73.

    If some Professional Clubs are having difficulty keeping a Youth Development Scheme open, then trying to set up Town Academies could be really difficult.

    Check out the website below, it has real potential for improving the standards of football across this Country if a Network of Town Academies is set up. It doesn't have to cost much, apart from time and effort from the local football community.

  • Comment number 74.

    the main problem with the overall football league in general is as i am sure we all agree the unbalance of funding between the higher and lower teams, with is fueled by 1. SKY TV 2. the premier league organisation which rewards failure almost as much as success. 3. the amount of people who have never lived in the area or have any link to the area of the football team they support. Listen to 606 any weekend and spot the amount of mancunian accents that call in to comment on Man utd or scouse accents for liverpool or cockneys for chelsea and arsenal who have spent hundred of pounds going to and travelling to the games of "their" teams.
    Maybe just maybe if liam in stockport went to stockport instead of old trafford or bob in lincoln didnt travel 150 miles to go to anfield and went and supported their local club we wouldnt be in this situation in the first place.

    Maybe the youth set up at carlisle would look healthier, the amount of young local talent at chesterfield would increase, and people would then want to watch exiting lower league football and the clubs wouldnt be in contstant threat of administration(apologies to the clubs mentioned it was meant as an example not a judgement) and shin roller rooney woudnt be turned into a god after making a mug of the plastic fans.

    thanks to rupert murdoch the football world is a sad place
    comments please

  • Comment number 75.

    What role is the FA playing in all this? Why aren't they part of the discussions if so much of their mantra is trying to influence and improve grassroots football?

    I think a few folk have caught the wrong end of the stick here. The model proposed seems like it would reward lower league clubs that were involved in the development of excellent young talent. The risk is ensuring no club, or as few clubs as possible, abandon their youth policies because that seriously limits the catchment pool - or more appropriately, the opportunities for youngsters with talent to train with pro-coaches - in local areas affected.

    The negativity about how inherently immoral football is these days just doesn't float with me. Money has flooded into football because people are willing to pay for it and enjoy it. I know I do; this season has been one of the best yet. The narratives of skill, might, drama, deceit, will etc. are just as present as ever and it would be churlish to outright reject attempts to ease the possibility of young boys being involved in that. As long as every clubs rights are protected and no boys education is implicated.

    Maybe if the Premier and Football League offsets earnings by aiding a fall in ticket prices for fans and spectators, everyone can be a winner. But I feel fans need to take up a stronger stance for that to happen.

  • Comment number 76.

    Ok, this will probably get shot down for being overly simplistic, but how’s this for a concept open for tweaking …….

    A total of 48 teams in League's 1&2

    Premier league TV revenue is £1,76 Billion over 3yrs equating to circa £585m per season.

    Why not take £144m from this (leaving £441m, to be shared between Premier clubs), and give each of the 48 teams in League One & Two £3M each every season on the proviso it is invested 100% into the clubs youth set-up. Transparent accounting to ensure this happens – any unused funds returned to the premier league.

    Every player coming from these youth set-ups has a buy-out clause of £1m to Premier League clubs. (making them equally affordable to Blackpool as they are the Man City). This also means players aren’t expensive gambles, thus reducing the appeal of cheap foreigners – obviously the top boys will always be welcome in the premier division, I’m talking cut-price average players here.

    Injury permitting, any premier division side activating the £1m release clause must ensure that the player bought plays in at least 30% of premier league fixtures – i.e. if you aint gonna play him, you can’t buy him! (This stops talent rotting away in the reserves as a result of teams stockpiling players)

    100% of any profit made by a premier league club on selling one of these players in the first two years of a contract goes back to the developing club (reducing the appeal for clubs to adopt a buy-to-sell policy), reducing to 50% for the remainder of the players contract.

    Who wins?

    England: Massive investment into Grass Roots football, generating more quality English players and reducing the need for cheap foreigners. Youngsters playing 1st team football rather than stuck in reserves.

    Premier Division: Reap the rewards from the initial investment by the fact they don’t have to pay silly money for talented young players. All premier league teams in the market for top youngsters rather than just the elite few.

    League clubs: Sell on clause generates revenue. Guaranteed income to invest in developing own players who while may not make the grade for Premier League football, can still do a job for developing club (making clubs self-sufficient), or can be sold elsewhere to generate income.

    Like I said, possibly over-simplistic, but a starting point possibly?

    PS: Maths never been a strong point of mine, so forgive any schoolboys errors on my calculations.

  • Comment number 77.

    It just amazes me that the Youth system is blamed for Englands poor performances.
    We have unearthed some fabulous talent within the current clubs that operate Youth systems.
    Walcott, Bale, Wilshere, are just a few home grown players that have come of age.
    The England Team before the world Cup were boasting a Squad of super stars and yet they failed miserably!
    The manager has a lot to answer for in as much as he could NOT get them playing as a Team and probably less than 50% of heir true potential.
    We have yet to find a manager for many years that can get the best out of our Squad.
    I am pretty convinced that Harry Redknapp or Kenny Dalglish would have certainly raised the passion level to match their egos!
    Kenny Dalglish has only passion according to the experts and yet that passion seems to get results.
    These foreign coaches/managers are rubbish!

  • Comment number 78.

    Why don't we just get rid of all the teams below the top 6 in the EPL?

  • Comment number 79.

    On Paper it's not a terrible idea. It's a bad ides to prevent the most talented players getting the best coaching.

    In reality it has big problems many which have already been mentioned. There needs to be an assurance that youth players will get some game time when they move to a bigger club.

    It's why i think players such as Wickham, Oxlaide-Chamberlain would be foolish to move on too soon. As an Ipswich fan i obviously have a bias for not wanting Wickham to move on but the amount of times younger players get snapped up only to get lost in the reserves. I can just see his career being ruined if Redknapp (who apparently has first refusal) buys him just stop others getting him, and never plays him.

    I also think that England need to do more to improve English talent, not just to rely on premier league clubs to advertise there best crop. It would be awesome to see FL players who are currently in England under 21s given a go, especially against the sides we should be beating easily.

  • Comment number 80.

    If a level one youth academy costs £2.5million per annum, why don't we tax all transfers within the UK, maybe even take a percentage of all four divisions players wages to fund level one academies for each and every professional club?

    We've had the richest league in the world for years now and received none of the benefits for domestic football. £230 million is a lot of money, but Premier League Clubs could afford their owning funding, as could a few Championship Clubs, minus what clubs already pay on youth and with the education side maybe even government subsidy (yeah right). It would take a concerted effort but with sponsorship (Sky/Rupert Murdoch stand up please) taxation and charity, not impossible, when considering the Premier League wage bill alone was £1.3 Billion in 2008/09.

  • Comment number 81.

    This measure would mean that the best youth systems would go to teams able to afford them. That means the top few teams with super-rich owners. The same teams that spend for fun on foreign players, thus keeping out the players they produce. Coaching and facilities or not, players won't mature without first team experience - not getting it produces incomplete players that have sklls but not the foggiest how to use them in a competative match. The FA should be encouraging development of players in the football league and the non-league.

  • Comment number 82.

    Other than Jack Wilshere, are there any English players to have recently come through the academies at Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal, Spurs or Man U that are currently playing key roles in the first team? Wilshere went on loan to Bolton too and did an excellent job. I can't think of a top English player who didn't kick a ball in the football league or lower down in the premier league before making it big.

    The problem is not youth development not being good enough, but first team policy preventing youth from progressing. The ways to rectify the problems are to encourage development lower down and to seriously regulate affairs at the top.

  • Comment number 83.

    Maybe they should introduce independent regional academies where they work with teams from lower league club where they can pick players from lower league young systems to play games against the major academies. This could be called an academy call up and gives the chance for more players to be exposed to different coaching methods.

    This would give players a an incentive to work hard to work for something as many youth team players already think they have made it and it gives them the chance to play against the best young players in the academies.

  • Comment number 84.

    As a Southampton fan, these measures will probably work well for us as we have wealthy owners that are interested in a youth development model. Its a pretty unique situation for Football League sides and I do feel for well-intentioned clubs like Watford who provide high quality coaching on a smaller scale, who would lose out as a result of these reforms.

    The truth is, if the premier league treat the football league as a dumping ground for its rejects, English football won't see a next generation of quality players. For young players over 16 who are prepared physically and mentally for competitive football, the Football League is the perfect system of progressive ranks to the Premier League and the national side. However good they are, no player is going to play much football for a top 4/5 side aged 16 or 17.

    I'm in favour of financial fair play measures and a cap on players not eligible for England or Wales. Cheaper tikets, more home players to aspire to, more flowing football, stronger National side. Its wins all round for the average fan.

  • Comment number 85.

    This is another ill thought out scheme. It assumes that the big clubs provide better coaching when in fact the likes of Chelsea and Spurs are the worst at producing young talent. In effect they are saying tghatb throwing money at the problem will produce better players , when in fact what is happening is some of the big clubs simply buy 'talent'.

    Tell me how many young 'talent' have Chelsea brought through then compare this with the 'phenomenom' that is Crewe and the likes of Rob Jones, Danny Murphy, David Platt, Rob Hulse, Dean Ashton et al.

    Or Leeds - Paul Robinson, Jonathon Woodgate, Alan Smith, James Milner, Aaron Lennon, Kewell, Harte, etc. I declare an interest here as through our well documented fall from grace we have also had Woods and Taiwo pinched by Chelsea, Danny Rose (pinched by Spurs) Gordon and Garbutt (both England under 17 left backs) poached by the Premier League. 2 More went to Man City and another
    to Bolton Reserves.

    Taiwo is a case in point never played for Chelsea and finds himself at Carlisle. No disrespect to Carlisle but if he had stayed at Leeds he'd probably have got a chance in our first team like Johny Howson, Fabian Delph (£6million to Villa) and Ben Parker.

    Then take a look at Man U. Much as it pains me to say, look at the players they have brought through in the last 15 years.

    Whilst i agree with allowing more intensive coaching both in terms of time and quality, giving clowns like Chelsea carte blanche to 'pinch' talent they don't know what to do with (remember football idol) the need is for better coaching and an end to the 'moneyed' clubs buying ready made talent for £50 or £40million, forcing the likes of Bolton and Wigan to buy ready made second rate Europeans and Africans for £10-15m and leaving them in the situation where falling from the premier league spells finacial doom.

    There's cso much money slushing about that the game faces serious financial problems should the value of contracts such as TV money don't contiually rise. This programme just requires more money to be spent.

  • Comment number 86.

    Re Bad-Mick's comments - "Does anyone really care about what happens to the football league..?
    Life does not exist outside the Premiership and champions league - And lets be honest, no one really gives a monkeys about half of the lower end premier league clubs anyway"

    This is the sort of attitude that has been generated by the SKY financed Premier League and the SKY Sport watching generation. I suppose it means nothing to them that their local team may not be in the Premier League, as they probably haven't a clue where their local club is, in any case. So, somehow these people seem to think they have some sort of tangible association with the likes of Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, etc... Forget Liverpool, they're so yesterday. And there you are, waving your scarf in front of the telly, supporting a team that has absolutely nothing to do with you. They are playing football and you are watching. You might as well watch a film for all the difference you're making. Make a difference and support your local team, whether or not they are in the top four of the Premier League. Who cares about the Football League..? Well surprisingly, most football supporters. More than just the Premier League watchers.


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