Manchester City’s Academy has been granted Category One status under the new Elite Players Performance Plan (EPPP), making it one of the first Premier League clubs to be awarded the top level Category status.
It is a momentous achievement for the club and recognition of the hard work undertaken by Head of Academy Mark Allen and his team based at Platt Lane, as well as the substantial investment that has been put into the Academy to secure its status as one of the country’s best.
Allen believes that City’s categorisation is vitally important to the future well-being of the football club. Speaking about the achievement he said,
“You only have to look at the club’s business plan to see that part of the long-term strategy is to build a sustainable football club and that’s where the Academy comes in by providing young footballers, so I think this classification is critical for the club.
“The development plan that we’ve been working on was actually born before the advent of the EPPP, so it fit hand and glove with Manchester City as we were already some way down the line towards the offering we have now.”
Brian Marwood, Chief Football Operations Officer, underlined the significance of the categorisation and the commitment City have made to youth development.
“The club has a proud history of producing talent in-house and being granted EPPP Category One status is a testament to how seriously we take youth development," Marwood said.
“As part of our academy development plan, we’ve invested money, time and expertise into ensuring that Manchester City can provide young players who are not only not only talented footballers but also well-rounded young men who will prove to be ambassadors for the club in the coming years”
With work under way on the new Manchester City Football Academy located adjacent to the Etihad Stadium, there will be state-of-the-art facilities including a 7,000 capacity stadium for all youth games to take place in.
“The forthcoming integration of the Academy into the first-team environment can only be a good thing for our young players to continue their footballing educations alongside some of the best footballers in the world at such close quarters,” said Allen.
The EPPP is backed by the FA and the football league and replaces the Academy and Centre of Excellence structure that has been in existence since 1998 and see clubs independently audited and awarded a Category Status of One to Four.
“The old system of clubs having either a Centre of Excellence or an Academy has been established since 1998 and I think the Premier League felt that it was time for a review,” stated Allen.
The audit was conducted by an organisation that carries out a similar role in German professional football and considered all elements of the club’s youth development work including productivity, quality of facilities, quality of coaching and education and welfare provisions.
Before the EPPP, rules dictated that clubs could only recruit players under the age of 16 who lived no more than 90 minutes travelling time from their home cities but Category One clubs will be permitted to recruit nationally in the 12-16 age groups.
The EPPP was brought in by the Premier League to improve standards of Academy football across all 92 league clubs with the follow six fundamental principles:
- Increase the number and quality of Home Grown Players gaining professional contracts in the clubs and playing first-team football at the highest level
- Create more time for players to play and be coached
- Improve coaching provision
- Implement a system of effective measurement and quality assurance
- Positively influence strategic investment into the Academy System, demonstrating value for money
- Seek to implement significant gains in every aspect of player development
The team at City’s Platt Lane Academy graded themselves on a self-assessment “audit tool” to decide which of the four tiers the club should be in.
An independent auditor then visited the club for four days in May 2012 and conducted extensive interviews and inspections to ensure that City met the Category One status standards.
Allen believes that no-one at the Academy is standing still despite the three-year license and that the club can get even better at developing young talent.
“There is an innate drive and a vision that we all share in the work we undertake at Platt Lane, which we can’t wait to bring to the Etihad Campus,” said Allen.
“It clearly demonstrates the intent of the Academy and the club and means that we can show parents of boys looking for a club that our intentions are clear: we have invested a lot of expertise, money and time into providing the best football education that we possibly can.