Category One Academy Status: What does its mean and how will it benefit Leeds United?

Three clubs in the last year applied to go from a rank two academy to a rank one academy, Burnley and Crystal Palace have just announced that they have been granted academy one status, so this leaves just one club left waiting to hear if they was successful or not. That club is Leeds United who in the past have applied but failed to meet the many requirements. In England in 2012 the academy system introduced a ranking system called EPPP, which stands for Elite Player Performance Plan with the aim of improving the quality of home grown players. Each academy across the Premier League and the Football league was ranked between 1-4 based on a number of criteria being met (one being the best and four being the worst). 

The key areas include:

  • Productivity rate
  • Training facilities
  • Coaching
  • Education
  • Welfare Provisions

In order to meet each one of the previous areas, clubs must invest a lot of money and time into their academies and continue to do so as only a small number achieve academy one status. Achieving this status is extremely difficult and takes real commitment from the club and their staff. Currently there are 26 clubs that have achieved this status which include the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool. You have to as a club provide the highest level of coaching, education and training facilities and to achieve the status is a show of the quality of these areas. In total, there are no fewer than 27 job roles that need to be filled as part of a category one academy. Some of these jobs include a full time academy manager, head of education who must be a qualified teacher, psychologists, sports scientists and strength and conditioning coaches. It is worth noting that some of these roles can be combined and shared with the first team. In 2012 data released suggested that the cost to run such academy status is between 2 million and 5 million with the figure rising further since then. However, you receive much more funding the higher the rank you are. With Brexit and the current pandemic, producing young players could be vital to a club’s success, whether that be by producing players to sell for big fees or save money on buying players. With all this being said, what does all this really mean for Leeds United if they were to achieve this status? 

Over the past 5 years Leeds United have competed in the Professional Development league north division, which they won last year and went on to win the national final against Birmingham City. They’ve been playing against other category two academies in what is the “league one” of the league system. If you are a status one academy then you play in Premier League 2 where there are two divisions with promotion and relegation each year (sort of like the premier league and the  championship). This means that Leeds United would go from playing the likes of Crewe, Barnsley and Hull City to playing against Manchester United, West Ham and Newcastle United. The quality of the opposition that Leeds would face every week would be significantly better, thus improving the overall standard of the academy and provide much more competitive football matches. This is important as currently the level gap between PDL under 23 football and first team football is massive, where as premier league 2 football and first team is much closer. There is still a massive gap between the two but our academy sides would be playing at the highest level possible in the country. It will also massively help when it comes to recruitment at academy level and keeping hold of them. Leeds would become the only team in Yorkshire to be cat one academy meaning that scouting player within this region and convincing them and their parents to join Leeds United would become easier. Due to the pathway to the first team at Leeds, this is something as a club we’ve been able to do achieve quite well anyway, as seen by some of the talents we’ve produced over the years. Whilst we’ve seen a good production level at Thorpe Arch, there have been many players that have left the club at under 14 level and below to join cat one academies over the years and us becoming one ourselves massively reduces the risk of it continuing to happen.

To put it in simple terms, the coaching will be better, the eduction will be better, the competition will be better and all of these should result in Leeds producing better quality players and people in thee future. With a new training hub on the way in the city centre near Elland Road, upgrades to the stadium planned and the club fighting for promotion, its all coming together nicely for Leeds United to have a stable and successful future. 

Written By Thomas Wilson

Image from: https://playerscout.co.uk/football-academies/football-academy-categories/

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