Evans Slams Academy Compensation System
Thursday, 6th Sep 2018 09:00
Town owner Marcus Evans has hit out at the system of compensation for academy players who move on to bigger clubs, the Blues having recently lost highly-rated England U16 international Ben Knight to Manchester City for around an initial £1 million.
Knight, from Reach in Cambridgeshire who had been with the Blues since he was eight, agreed a scholarship with Town several years ago which was due to start in July and also a subsequent professional deal, but the Blues were ultimately powerless to hold on to the highly-rated number 10 when he and his family decided he should join City.
The 16-year-old, the nephew of former England and Essex cricketer Nick, is the third Town academy player to have been poached by a top Premier League side in that manner in recent years with Harry Clarke having departed for Arsenal in 2015 aged 14 and Charlie Brown, then 16, for Chelsea for an initial £600,000 a year later.
In addition, Kundai Benyu, then aged 19, moved on to Celtic having spent a year as a pro with the Blues at the end of his time in the academy in the summer of 2017, Town receiving a nominal fee via FIFA’s training compensation rules.
The Blues also face losing schoolboy Marcelo Flores to Arsenal with talks between the clubs regarding compensation having been ongoing for some months but with the Canadian youngster, whose father Ruben has been coaching at the academy, ultimately appearing certain to move to the Gunners.
Academy right-back Dylan Crowe, 17, who won his first England U18s cap yesterday, is also reported to be a target of Manchester United and other clubs.
“My problem is with the rules, not the clubs. I want to make that clear,” Evans told the club site.
“Ipswich Town and others, including some Premier League clubs, are losing their best young talent before they even join the full-time academy ranks on leaving school and with it, in our case, one of the channels to assist us to progress to the Premier League.
“I continue to remain fully committed to our academy and producing homegrown players. It’s a major part of the club’s strategy, however if in the long term the situation worsens and we lose all of our best talent before they even start in the academy, the strategy is thrown into doubt for us and other clubs.
“We have already seen some clubs [such as Brentford] close their academies and the FA as well as the EFL must do everything they can to protect the current number of academies.
“I’m told we had more players aged under 23 on the pitch last season than any other team in the Championship and we achieved an EPPP [Elite Player Performance Plan] score which was in line with some of the Category One level clubs.
“We also have a number of academy players who are regulars in their respective age groups at international level, proving our ability to develop a quantity of talented players.
“It is frustrating though to be put in a position where we invest in a young player from the age of nine for several years and then are forced to lose him for a fee well below what I would consider to be a true valuation of that potential.
“We fully respect that at the age of 15 a person can’t be bound to a club based solely on their location and if the player wants to move on for valid personal reasons, so be it.
“However, more often than not, these decisions are influenced by money and if it’s about money then the club that has developed the player should be fairly rewarded, as the club taking the player is doing so for their own financial advantage.
“This is where the current rules break down and we have accepted figures that were, in effect, forced upon us based on the most likely outcome of a compensation fee tribunal.
“That’s where - in my opinion – the problem and the potential solution to the problem lies. As long as the compensation figures are high enough then the ‘losing’ club is rewarded.
“At the moment the tribunal valuations for the loss of a talented player to the top Premier League clubs bears no relation to the potential of the player.
“I’ll give you an example. We had no choice but to agree a fee of £600,000 with a Premier League club for one of our young players [Brown] with a possible additional £900,000 but only if he played 100 games for that club in the Premier League.
“If he played 100 games in the Premier League, at current values he’d probably be worth £30 million plus.
“The figures just don’t add up and this is against a background of the league stipulating we must have an academy budget of £2.5 million per annum and we are seeing on average only one in 20 scholars making it to even Championship level and an even smaller percentage to the Premier League. This will drop substantially if we lose the best talent before they become scholars.
“While the initial fee can be kept reasonable, the contingent add-on payments are where the problem lies. If tribunals reflected the true future value, then in my opinion that would go a long way to solving the problem.
“If clubs had confidence in the tribunal system this would ease some of the concerns and I will be encouraging further discussions as to how the compensation levels should be assessed.
“I know from talking to other owners, particularly those in the larger cities, that they are questioning the value of paying for an academy.
“A few have already closed and I would suggest that a dangerous tipping point maybe reached when several clubs follow each other if they keep losing their best players for next to nothing.”
Evans believes an agreement which covers Europe is required as Knight was interesting clubs on the continent, believed to be Borussia Dortmund and Monaco, and had the youngster moved to one of those sides Town would merely have received around £100,000 in compensation.
“It is all worthless if the foreign clubs don’t have to abide by the same rules as us,” he added.
“Otherwise, even with the fairer compensation levels I have suggested between English clubs, this would only provide more opportunities for foreign clubs to 'steal' talent for next to nothing.
“Medium size and smaller football clubs are the lifeblood of football, if everything moves towards those clubs never progressing; it would be short-sighted to think that football will not be affected in the long term.”
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