Town Opt for Category Two Friday, 30th Mar 2012 06:01
Chief executive Simon Clegg has confirmed that the Blues will not be applying for Academy Category One status for next season. Town have opted for Category Two in the Elite Player Performance Programme (EPPP) reorganisation of youth football which comes into effect this summer, but as reported by TWTD earlier in the month, could look to upgrade after promotion to the Premier League.
Clegg is aware that the news that the Blues won't be applying for Category One before the end of the month deadline won’t be universally welcomed, but feels it’s the right decision for the club at this point in time: “It is a very emotive subject, I recognise that, but I think the most important thing is that we do the right thing for this football club and that has driven the entire process.
“I’ve spent a lot of time on this, it has been right at the top of my agenda for the last three or four months and we’ve employed another full-time member of staff and a part-time consultant to lead on this area.
“The manager is fully in the loop and is fully supportive of what we’re doing and where we’re going, as are the Academy staff.
“We believe that this is the right decision for this football club and I’m confident that through this process what we’re delivering can only be enhanced."
He admits that Category One would be the ideal but says it’s beyond Town at present at £2.35 million per annum - including a Premier League grant of £750,000 - and rising by £50,000 a season. Category Two costs at least £960,000 per season, including a grant of £480,000.
“Of course we would aspire to Category One but it’s just not viable at this moment in time,” he said. “I think we will also need to see what happens through the process of those clubs who are applying for Category One; how many get it, particularly how many clubs – if indeed any – from outside the Premier League.
“It’ll also be interesting to see how many Premier League clubs are not applying for Category One status.
“But all of that is a bit of a distraction because the entire process here has been driven by what is right for this football club and I’m convinced that going for Category Two at this moment in time is the right thing to do."
Clegg says that although spending on the club's Academy is outside the new Financial Fair Play rules, it still has an impact on Town's overall expenditure: “Marcus Evans is an incredibly generous individual in terms of the way that he supports this club, but he hasn’t got bottomless pockets.
“What we had to do was make the right decision for this football club and balance up the money that is available in terms of how we want to spend it and where youth development fits within the rest of the club and particularly where it fits against first team expenditure.”
Clegg says that Town, who voted against the EPPP reorganisation in October, can reassess their position and would consider doing so if they are promoted to the Premier League, although not necessarily in the first season: “If you want to apply for recategorisation, you can.
“But be very clear, we don’t have anywhere near some of the residential facilities that would be required for Category One. That would require massive extra additional investment on the part of the club.
“But if we got to the Premier League and thought we could justify an application, then we can make an application and clubs can be recategorised, both upwards and downwards.”
The chief executive says that even though the Blues will be applying for Category Two – that deadline is the end of next month - more money will be spent on the Academy than is the case at the moment with the Premier League minimum figures unrealistic: “Net, [the current annual cost is] about £900,000. I think there will be an increase in expenditure on a like-for-like basis, which is significantly more than [the figures quoted above].
“The additional staffing element is the first thing, but we’re still working that through because one of the frustrating things is that the goalposts have been changing through this entire process, which is why it’s taken us so long to get to a position where we’re announcing what we’re doing.
“Even the games programme isn’t sorted. It won’t be sorted until Thursday when there’s a meeting of the Premier League clubs to decide what it will be.”
The number of extra staff isn’t yet set but Clegg gave a rough idea: “I don’t want to split them down between full-time and part-time at the moment, but somewhere between six and eight. The current total of full-time staff is nine or 10.”
He says it’s not been decided whether current Academy manager Sammy Morgan will be in a similar position in the new set-up: “We’re still working through the entire staffing structure of the Academy. The staff are aware that we’re going to have a structure there that is right to support Category Two.
“People are excited about the opportunities and expecting people to move over into new positions, but it will be a new structure that will be in place and we’re yet to see where we’re going to get to on that.”
One of the major expenses and the challenge over the summer will be to get Playford Road up to Category Two standard, currently it's at Category Three level: “We are going to need another two classrooms up at the training ground. We’ll need additional offices to accommodate the additional staff.
“We’ll certainly need an analysts’ suite, we’ll need two analysts for working through all the video technology. We’ll require a head of sports science, a team meeting room and additional changing rooms as well.
“We will look to be as creative as we can, but the bottom line is that we are going to have to have additional facilities.”
With Norwich City and various London clubs having announced that they’re opting for Category One, there are fears that youngsters could decide to join those higher status set-ups rather than Town’s.
Clegg says he doesn’t feel this will be a problem with those based locally: “I’m sure that those players who come from our natural catchment area are still going to gravitate towards Ipswich Town.
“It would be a massive decision for any young aspiring footballer to effectively up sticks, lock, stock and barrel and move up to the North-East or the North-West or wherever.
“I think that we will continue to attract and compete for overseas players and I’m absolutely convinced that the wonderful set-up that we’ve got here at the training ground, coupled with the way that we can demonstrate our track record in developing talent and giving people first team football opportunities, will entice the right players to this club.”
Over the years, Town's Academy has brought in players from slightly further afield – Darren Bent, for example, was from Cambridge – who are a similar distance from other clubs and Clegg admits that the Blues might now be at a disadvantage in attracting players in that position: “If we find individuals on the cusp, who could be pulled in two directions, we’re going to have to work even harder to demonstrate why the set-up and the people that we’ve got at Ipswich and our track record gives their young son the best chance of making it as a professional footballer.”
Category One clubs are able to poach players from Category Two and below, which the former British Olympic Association chief says is a concern, although intimating that similar situations are not unknown under the current system anyway: “That’s always a danger.
“Obviously they can’t do that at the moment and part of the this new youth development system is that Category One clubs will be able to scout and potentially poach on a nationwide basis and those developing clubs will get lower levels of compensation than they are entitled to currently.
“But at the moment, let’s just say that it’s not been unknown for things to happen unofficially that involve players moving from one place to another.”
Those players who could potentially be poached are those who are yet to sign a full-time scholarship. Therefore someone such as 16-year-old Byron Lawrence, who has already put pen to paper to commit to spending the next two seasons at Playford Road, would not be subject to the somewhat less than generous new compensation scheme if wanted by a Category One club.
Despite being frustrated by changes which appear designed purely to benefit established Premier League clubs, the gradual drip feeding of information over the last six months, the hammer-to-crack-a-nut nature of the auditing tool and the process of writing a performance plan which will be more than 200 pages long by the time it's finished, Clegg is confident that there are good times ahead for the Blues’ youth set-up: “I’m very excited about the future for the Academy.
"I think this process is going to take us forward because through it we’re going to have to make an even greater investment in youth development.
“I remain convinced that the excellent track record that we’ve got of developing young footballers, and in particular giving them first team opportunities at a very early stage - we had Connor Wickham playing first team football a couple of years ago at 16 years and 11 days and we’ve got other people coming through the pipeline at the moment - will only be further enhanced by the additional investment that we’re going to have to make.“
I am sure Mr Clegg will get the usual unwarranted stick for this but deep down I think we all expected category two. There is no doubt in my mind that an awful lot of time and effort has gone into this project and the decision will not have been taken lightly and although we may be disappointed I fully respect and understand the stance taken by the Club. My greatest concern is that everything at the moment is tipped heavily in favour of Premier League Clubs not just on this subject but on parachute money which is ever increasing and creating a very uneven playing field. I suppose I would feel differently if we were in the Premiership but the dream of that happening gets more difficult every season.
I understand the decision. I don't think the club have much choice, and even Category Two is more than we could afford without Marcus Evans. The effect though is that regionally youngsters are going to be more attracted to Norwich as a Category One, and as a supporter since the mid 1960's I find it incredibly disappointing that we are now clearly second best to our regional rivals in every respect. Since I've supported ITFC we have always been the "bigger" club, but sadly this is no longer the case. Oh well, at least we still have our great history...
I am not a fan of Clegg's by any means but I believe he has made the right decision. Any dissatisfaction at this decision should be aimed at the Premier League and the appaling way it is run. The Premier League, more than anything else, is causing the continued disillusion with the game within match-going supporters.
Have to say I have changed my mind on this. ITFC have made the correct decision. The whole thing is geared up to being a Premier League Club with a Cat 1 Academy. What resources ITFC have should go on the first team with a view to a proper promotion push and then think about Cat 1. This is all so new taking a backseat and seeing how it progresses ain`t a bad thing either.
What a load of old tosh, any decent player that comes through the system gets sold anyway as soon as the pound signs are seen flashing. In return Towns loyal fans are given some tired old journeyman in his thirties to watch.
While I agree with this based only on financial grounds, I do find it amusing that commentators are now agreeing with Clegg based on the evidence he's sensibly outlined in the story above. Perhaps he's not such a bad CEO after all!
Firstly I'd like to point out that the combined transfer fees of priskin and leadboots would be two and a half years of category one status, not to mention their wages. And secondly what is the point in an academy at all if any decent youngster is just going to be snapped up by norwich or some other prem club?
Think the real problem is the cost of the infrastructure. Under these new (Stupid) rules with all that ITFC have already we need to spend another £million just to get up to Cat 2 standard,lord knows what the cost would be for Cat 1. The priority for any youngster will still be, what`s my chances of getting a first team chance?, and our record remains excellent at this.
Itfc1981 I am getting more and more tired of your posts, you show little knowledge in running a business or indeed a football club and seem to think we have a big pot of money that is never ending. Your views show no balance and just moan for the sake of it. I too am disappointed but glad the club is being run in such a way that we are not going to be doing a Portsmouth anytime soon. I suggest you speak to Mr Clegg directly, you may be rather suprised at what you hear, he isn't all out to destroy this club as you seem to believe. I too want to be in the Prem, I also think we have made some wrong decisions over recent years, this however isn't one of them.
What's not to understand about the fact that the money would have to come from someone's personal pockets and we have no god-given right to expect anyone to constantly dip in to their own money to placate brainless morons.
As for Norwich, they're investing a lot in this and, in my opinion, taking a risk. One good season doesn't establish you in the Premier League, as we all know. I'd be surprised to see Lambert there much longer, and it could all so easily unravel. I actually wouldn't relish that (wouldn't it be great for both clubs to be there?) but we've seen it time and time again with clubs of a similar size. Look at Charlton, Derby, Forest, Leicester, Sheffield Weds & Utd...us....
itfc1981....you are the most boring poster on this page. You're so miserable and so defeatist it's unreal! Why don't you bore off and go and support The Nodge up the road....they seem to be your favourite and perfect team.
So, and at the risk of feeding the troll, I take it the right answer always has to be based on your own personal view, regardless of the amount of time and research spent on the subject by others, and regardless of their experience and business acumen?