Whilst the improvements may in time help our international teams there is a serious fear that several of our smaller clubs could suffer severe damage with the threat of going to the wall. Academies would be graded from one to four with the top academies in theory grabbing the cream of the countries young prospects.
For clubs that have been spending millions on their training facilities this plan would cause very little disturbance in the way of their plans and would actually benefit them. It is estimated that a top graded academy would expect to spend £2.5 per annum.
At present clubs run either an academy or a centre of excellence. The biggest change with the new grading would be that those clubs graded three or four would not be able to have any youngsters under twelve years of age.
Another change is that the current 90 minute rule would be scrapped. The 90 minute rule currently states that academy players must live within one-and-a-half hours drive of the club.This simple change would mean that the top academies would have access to the best youngsters in the country from the age of nine. The children would live in residential homes built for the purpose. Thus allowing each prospect more time with coaches and in a way that didn’t hinder their education.
Many questions will need to be answered before this plan goes ahead. The main one I see as being how the small clubs cope without the expected revenue from home grown sales. With the top two grades having a minimum of 17 full time staff small clubs will no longer be able to compete. Thus meaning the loss of several accessible prospects.
Top graded centres of excellence will also have the opportunity to spend much longer with with the trainees. At present an average of 3,760 hours per youngster is spent with qualified coaches in the years from nine to 21. The aim is to spend up to 10,000 hours per child with he aim of enabling our youngsters to feel much more comfortable with the ball.
Southampton is expected to be one of the clubs that will be given top status when the plan becomes a reality. Great news for us and another example of the forward planning of our chairman. By the time the plan is implemented we will have our facilities ready for use.
For me this is another example of how our club is thinking of ways to compete with the top clubs as we try to rebuild and become a force in our game of football. We will be helped by the fact that the grading of the facilities will not have any thing to do with the club’s status with it’s current first team standard.
I feel that our club is really on the up and heading for a much better future than any Saints fan could have thought possible two years ago.
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