Tranmere Rovers, Huddersfield Town and Brentford FC, what do all these clubs have in common?
This trio of clubs have recently closed or restructured their youth academies due to several different factors affecting clubs across the country, from the livelihoods of employees to the potential future of the English game.
In May 2016 the West London based club made the decision to completely restructure their youth system, by only focusing on players aged 17 - 21 in a new 'Development Squad'. This meant the club cutting their full Academy system from Under-eight through to Under-21 level.
The club has said this will create the "most effective pathway into the first team of all English clubs”, with Brentford focusing on this development squad it means the club are saving £2m a year which will mean budgets can be refocused, giving themselves the biggest possible chance to achieve their ultimate objective of promotion to the Premier League.
Premier League newcomers Huddersfield Town have looked to recategorise its academy from the existing category 2 setup to a category 4 under the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), with the club only focusing on elite football and cutting the Under-8 to Under-16 groups.
On this decision, the Terriers Chairman Dean Hoyle said, "This is a vital area to the long-term success of this Club and we must make every effort to get this right". However, with Premier League clubs now making this step could this see the closure of even more academies across the country, especially throughout the lower leagues?
Potentially the most damming of all is Tranmere Rovers decision to no longer run teams for those under 16-years-old to 'protect the club' ensuring it does not go out of business. The decision was not taken lightly by supporters, but with the academy costing the club £300,000 a season and having lost over £500,00 of central funding over the last two years for its academy operations, it's clear to see why the decision was made. It's believed that the EPPP system was to blame for this, with Mark Palios former FA Chief Executive saying, "The system is well intentioned but it favours the larger clubs, it needs to be re-looked at".
The EPPP, which is Premier League led, essentially ranks football clubs into academy categories, with category one academies such as Manchester United and Chelsea receiving the most, compared to lower league category three and four academies. Therefore, potentially seeing the end of players such as Aaron Cresswell, Jason Koumas and former Newcastle defender Ryan Taylor, whom were all a product of Tranmere's youth system.
It is becoming harder and harder for lower league clubs to compete for academy funding and with many former Premier League clubs such as Sunderland and Hull City receiving parachute payments of £40m, which intern helps towards the running of their academy operations, something which many lower league clubs do not get.
This has put many academy coaches and scouts out of work, thus increasing unemployment rates and potentially losing out on spotting local footballing talents due to certain clubs not being able to fund their own academies.
Could this be the beginning of the end for academies as we know it, with bigger clubs taking over, potentially impacting the development of young players and possibly the performance of the national team in years to come?