New regulations for youth development that allow top teams to snap up lower league talent for a compensatory fee have been denounced by domestic figures in football
A number of academy figures and top level officials believe the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) has been poorly conceived and could threaten youth development rather than achieve its aim of producing youngsters of the calibre to rival Spain and Germany.
Under the new guidelines, Premier League clubs can sign the top talent in the country for a compensatory fee determined by the length of time the player has spent at the selling club.
“The Premier League wants everything and they want it for nothing,” Barry Fry, the Peterborough United director of football, told The Times.
Aston Villa have become one of the forerunners of the academy system with a number of their youth team players appearing for the first team in the last few seasons. Their academy manager Bryan Jones believes the EPPP could be beneficial but it will not be if there is an insufficient amount of quality coaches available.
“I’m all for placing the best alongside the best,” he said.
“But how are we to find the increased number of age-specific coaches when the courses can’t be delivered quickly enough, because the FA can’t find enough tutors?
“If each of 20 academies need 10 coaches up to the top-level youth award, that’ll take years, not months.
“I do think this system will raise standards - eventually. But will it be sufficient to provide England with world-class international teams?
“There’s not enough quality players to fill the academies at the moment.
“Grassroots sport is dead and buried in this country until the government invest enough into the state education system to put full-time PE teachers into all the primary schools.
“Those children are our clients. Until then, all this will have negligible difference.”
There is a vote in February between the Premier League clubs to decide on the introduction of the EPPP but the debate surrounding the scheme indicates that acceptance may not be a foregone conclusion.
An unnamed top-flight chief executive at the Premier League shareholders’ general meeting commented: “We have concerns of our own.
“It’s a good thing, fundamentally, and anyone watching England at the last World Cup would acknowledge we need to produce more and better young players capable of establishing themselves in the Premier League.
“But the devil’s in the detail.
“For one, how can we get everything done in time? I think everyone agrees with the principles of excellence for youth development, of getting more and better coaches working with our kids, but it’s got to be done in the right order.
“The Premier League clubs vote on the proposals in February and nothing has yet been definitively accepted.”
The EPPP compensation issue is expected to cause problems and is calculated based on pre-defined conditions, whilst the plan will also divide clubs into one of four categories. These are based on the history and capability of their youth academies which in turn causes an issue as recruiting clubs will not know their categorisation until the spring.
With the plan aiming to increase the amount of contact hours youngsters receive, clubs will endure problems recruiting the necessary number of coaches.
As contact hours increase, schooling at the clubs is expected to increase. But one Championship academy manager said: “But what message does this send to the player we’re trying to develop as a human being as well as a footballer?
“We know that 90 per cent of scholars don’t make it as professionals but in trying to keep our best young players out of the hands of Premier League clubs, he’s starting to believe he’s ‘got it made’ and doesn’t need to worry about his education.”
“People talk about 10,000 hours’ practice to reach the top in the Royal Ballet School,” the Championship academy manager added.
“But football is a contact sport. There’s welfare issues here. In addition, if kids are getting coached three hours a day, they’ll be burnt out and bored by the age of 16.
“They’ll be falling out of love with the game before they’ve really got started.”
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