Academy commitment as Rovers face rising Category One cost

·3-min read
Prospect Ash Phillips with head coach Jon Dahl Tomasson
Prospect Ash Phillips with head coach Jon Dahl Tomasson

Rovers will continue to back the ‘jewel in the crown’ that is their Category One Academy despite the anticipated prospect of rising costs.

The club passed their on-site Premier League audit to extend their Category One licence for a further three years.

A record 28 clubs held Category One status last season, with Premier League 2 extended to 14 teams in each division. Birmingham City and Burnley will both be demoted, while conditions have been attached to the licences of Nottingham Forest and West Bromwich Albion.

Club contributions are anticipated to increase by £1m over the next three years, with rises of £150,000, £350,000 and £500,000 expected in the next three years. That will take the required funding of a Category One Academy to over £3m, with additional grant funding on top.

It is viewed as a ‘squeeze’ by the Premier League on other clubs, with Rovers set to be the only club outside of the top flight to be competing in the top division of Academy football next season.

That is despite the Premier League stating it has no plans on capping the number of academies awarded Category One status, with the number rising from 22 in 2012 when the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) was introduced.

Category One status which brings benefits such as grant funding, the age of which players can be signed, the games programme available and greater protection over keeping hold of players.

The funding of the Academy, which is around £2m a year with a further £1m in grants, also isn’t factored in to any Financial Fair Play calculations.

Outlining their demotion to Category Two, Birmingham City outlined that ‘costs have been significantly higher than anticipated’ which had ‘presented a sizeable obstacle’ in their quest to meet the Category One criteria.

Rovers have a licence through to the end of the 2024/25 season, but even with the expected increased in costs, the club are committed to funding their Academy that has produced a host of talent for the first-team.

The club are approaching 600 consecutive league matches with at least one Academy, while almost half of the 28 players currently at the pre-season training camp in Portugal are homegrown.

The appointment of Gregg Broughton as director of football will strengthen Rovers’ focus on the Academy, with producing players for the first-team now a key part of the club’s model.

Outlining the benefits of Category One status, head of Academy Stuart Jones said: “It’s massively important to us and that’s where the owners have been really supportive and we’re really thankful for that.

“It’s really important because it’s a competitive environment that we’re in, with the big Premier League clubs, and it’s not just Category One, it’s the games programme that goes with it and I think that’s been a massive part of their development.

“From a recruitment perspective it’s important.

“What we do is sell a pathway to young players, so all of things put together, I think we’re reaping the rewards of that now.

“We often talk to young players throughout the season, we have to use those players to inspire the next crop coming through.”

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