Youth overhaul has potential dangers for Pompey

Joel Ward, a product of Pompey's youth set-up, helps the next generation
Joel Ward, a product of Pompey's youth set-up, helps the next generation
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Football has a problem which needs remedying.

But plans to overhaul the current Academy system could end up wrecking the youth set-up at clubs like Pompey and the hopes of more Joel Wards making the grade.

The Premier League recently announced their Elite Player Performance Plan – a grandiose highfalutin scheme which has the stated intention of producing more top-class homegrown players.

England’s cause is one that needs drastic attention, of course.

It’s just that under the proposals, to be introduced for the start of the 2012-13 campaign, Football League outfits may feel they are part of the problem and not the solution.

In fact, perhaps the likes of Pompey could be forgiven for thinking this is a plan hatched for the rich to get richer, and those who rely on young players to generate income to survive to waste away.

As it stands, the current draft of the scheme has plans to grade youth systems at all clubs.

The all-singing, all dancing residential set-ups, where players can combine their football development with their education, would top the pile and become the domain of the big boys.

Current Academies – where the Blues sit – would be next on the list.

But it’s the guarantees needed to be given that status that see concerns start to emerge.

The plan would require clubs in the top-two categories to fill a minimum of 17 roles.

Pompey’s Academy currently employ seven staff.

The 90-minute rule would also go out of the window, where players have to be affiliated to a club within that travelling time frame of their home.

There are two other issues which are perhaps of greater concern, however.

One of those is the restricting of clubs outside of the top two categories to signing a player until they are 12.

That would mean clubs in category three (effectively Centre of Excellence level) losing out, while those at the top could sign talents from the age of nine.

The other major issue at play would be a standardising of compensation to clubs when their young players move elsewhere.

An upfront payment with add-ons when a player makes it to first-team or even international level is the idea at play here.

This, given the problems we’ve seen in the past with controversial tribunal outcomes, sounds a sensible policy.

That’s until it becomes clear the figures would be weighted to a low down payment, with bigger cash to come along the line.

This then could create major problems for those who exist on revenue from developing and selling talent.

There is also a potential issue for clubs like Pompey, who arrange their budgets between first-team and Academy levels.

A fear would be the big bucks when the player makes the grade would go into senior-level budgets, starving the youth set-up of finance.

Clubs like Pompey would argue it’s in their interests to negotiate with clubs themselves if any player was to move on.

A continuing consultation period will now take place and the hope, lower down the scale, is sense will be seen on a number of these fronts.

The very clear and present danger would be these outfits giving up the ghost on youth development altogether. That would be a potential Doomsday scenario for clubs like Pompey and the game as we know it.