Milne: Cost Could Force Clubs Out of Academy Category One
Friday, 20th May 2016 11:35
Town managing director Ian Milne says Championship clubs with Category One academies could switch to Category Two as they become more and more expensive to maintain. The Blues missed out on Category One by 0.3 per cent after an audit in the summer of 2014 and are set to stay at that level again next season.
Milne says owner Marcus Evans these days takes a hands-on role at Playford Road: “He’s personally spent a lot more time with the academy, he has regular reviews. We’ve got one coming up shortly.
“He is very much into it, how it’s run and particularly with the EPPP and also with the sports science side and there’s a lot of new things that we have to do in the academy.
“The nutritionist, the educational side which you must do, the sports science side and all the other things, that’s a big investment, but he quite enjoys that side to make training more sophisticated and, of course, also having excellent coaches and producing four England young players [U15 international Dylan Crowe and Andre Dozzell, Ben Morris and Nick Hayes, who were at the European Championships with the U17s] plus the lads we saw in the first team in the last couple of matches.
“He loves to see them come through, and so does [manager] Mick [McCarthy]. Seeing Teddy Bishop back out there as well as Myles [Kenlock], Josh [Emmanuel] and the rest, it was great to see those guys and they played well. And hopefully they will progress during the next season.”
Town are in the process of installing 3G surfaces at Playford Road, as required at Category Two, although the pitches are of Category One standard.
“They’re currently under construction, one outside and a half-size one indoors in the dome,” Milne continued.
“We’re also spending quite a lot on pitches down there, drainage and what have you. Mick was quite impressed with what was going on there.”
Milne says Category One has become harder and harder for Championship clubs to obtain with the goalposts having been moved.
“We don’t want to make a big issue of this because there are no surprises but it's because of this ‘clustering’ issue,” he explained.
“There was a Cat One standard but then they introduced this clustering bit, which completely confounded [academy director] Bryan [Klug] and everyone else.
“It is complicated and I think very nefarious that they’ve put it in. As I understand it, and I’ve been told I’ve got this right, you can get to Cat One status but you may not be categorised as Cat One unless your facilities compete with the other academies out there, Premier League clubs and a few from the Championship.
“So, you’re spending on staff, on grounds, on buildings so they’re ‘five star’, but what they’re saying is that if everybody’s gone up to ‘six stars’ - a lot more staff than you need for Cat One, better facilities, better grounds, all your pitches are in absolutely peak condition, offering more education and what have you - you have to compete with that, which is quite a large bill.
“Don’t take this for gospel, but that seems to be costing a lot of these clubs about £4 million or £5 million more than they are paying at the moment in order to ensure themselves Cat One status.
“We’ve taken the view because it’s a bit of a nefarious type of arrangement or standard that we intend to stay in Cat Two, which is still a very high standard, having paid for a Cat One 3G pitch. We’re not letting go of going Cat One but next [season] I think we will go for Cat Two.
“I think the other point of this is, ‘Does that mean you’ll get a lower output of players?’. The boys at the academy have done the statistics and looked at other clubs and we’re well up with Cat One in terms of players going into the first-team squad.”
Given the spiralling costs of maintaining a Category One academy, Milne wouldn’t be surprised if other clubs follow Bolton’s lead in switching to Category Two, Wanderers having made the move last summer to save around £1 million.
“Bolton came out of Cat One and I see the same sort of thing happening elsewhere,” he added. “An owner’s got to have a balance between what they’re prepared to spend on backing the academy and getting the players through and the money he’s got to give to the manager for the first-team squad.
“This season, on the academy including the pitch, it’s going to cost us about £3.5 million.
“The other thing about this 3G pitch is that it’s really used by those who are 16 and under. Scholars can play on it but it’s primarily for the U16s. Those carpets will last about six or seven, maybe eight years before they’ve got to be replaced and that’s another £100,000.
“Again for Cat Two you’re being asked to have a lot more people involved, a psychologist, a nutritionist, we’re taking on an extra person on the physio side. The coaching side has got to have full-time staff.
“It’s not a case that Cat Two is drifting away from Cat One, it isn’t, and that’s proved by the players that are coming through from both categories to first team squads and beyond.”
Photo: Action Images
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