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Academy

Change of Academy Categorisation Further Details

14 May 2024

Academy

Change of Academy Categorisation Further Details

14 May 2024

Change of Academy Categorisation

As stated, under current Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) rules, any club relegated from The EFL can only operate an Academy for a maximum of two seasons outside of The EFL. After the first season is completed, funding under EPPP is automatically reduced by 50% for any club wishing to continue operating its Academy for a second season. At present levels, for a club operating a Category 3 Academy such as us, this is a reduction in funding of £249,500 per season.
Coupled with the current minimum club contribution of £154,000 per season required to draw down EPPP funding, we know the cost to the club to maintain a Category 3 Academy in 2024/25 to be at least £403,500, in order to maintain 2023/24 spending levels, which were the minimum club contribution of £154,000, plus EPPP funding of £499,000, for a total spend of £653,000.
 
This figure of £403,500 is a conservative one, with the true figure likely to be significantly higher due to a wide range of factors such as inflationary pressure on the rental price of training facilities, and statutory wage increases for staff and players. It should also be noted the parachute payments from The EFL (£635,000 in 2023/24) will be reduced by 50%, another huge drop in funding for the club to try and make up elsewhere.
 
We found ourselves in the unenviable position this season of being unable to offer Scholarship deals to the most talented players in our U16 age group. Under present rules, there was no available mechanism to retain U16 players. This situation would only have worsened should we have made the decision to continue at Category 3 next season, and then not been promoted back to the EFL. The most talented players in each age group would have been cherry picked by other clubs in the surrounding area even more frequently.
 
With only limited contractual protection for players, and with only 12 months of Academy status guaranteed, the club has made the decision that a bill of over £400,000 for 2024/25 regrettably cannot be justified.
 
For next season, youth development at the club will consist of our Category 4 Academy, and a series of U9-U16 development centres, run in conjunction with Rochdale AFC Community Trust. If we remain in The National League in 2025/26, the youth development arm of the club will need to become self-funding. At this stage, it is envisaged that a BTEC programme for 16–19-year-olds will replace Category 4 provision, with this team to compete in The National Leagues NLFA North Division at U19 level, rather than The EFL Youth Alliance, which we would no longer be eligible to join. We also envisage RAFC teams from U12-U16 competing in the JPL, with teams from U7-U11 playing up to 10 fixture per season in school holidays against local Academy sides, whilst remaining registered with their grassroots teams.
 
Should we regain EFL status for 2025/26 or at any stage beyond that, it is likely that the above youth development system would remain, but with an elite strand consisting of a Category 3/4 Academy alongside.
 
The commitment of our new ownership group to secure a Community Sports Hub will certainly aid youth development in the immediate future, as all teams associated with the club will have a permanent home. We certainly hope this will help us to attract and retain talented players within the local area. 
 
2023/24 saw a total of 3198 competitive first team minutes played by Academy graduates, with debuts for Bradley Kelly, Luke Mann, Corey Edwards, and Isaac Burgess. We remain committed to building on this in future seasons.

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