A lot of people still misunderstand EPPP, they think that any player not signed to a professional contract comes under it. No. It is only players who are aged under 16 who have not signed a scholarship contract or a pre scholarship contract. The majority of players at clubs currently are offered scholarship deals at the age of 15 or 16, to take them through to age 18 where clubs decide whether to offer a professional contract or not. At Palace, a lot of the youth players are on scholarships at the age of 14, or at least they have agreed pre-scholarship deals. Under EPPP this would mean that they were just subject to the current transfer system, as opposed to the fixed compensation applied with EPPP. The thing is, I would argue that maybe it won't actually affect that many clubs in terms of compensation at least. That is because "any youngster signed to a pre-scholarship agreement at 14 is outside the new EPPP compensation system." Once the compensation system gets scrapped (which it will when a big club gets a kid taken for peanuts) then EPPP will benefit clubs in the main.
|Crystal Palace fans hold up a banner to protest against the new proposals.|
The trouble with it is that the lower graded academies will not be allowed to pick up players at younger ages and so many players will be lost forever. If certain aspects of it were changed then EPPP would be the best thing introduced to English football possibly ever, but certainly in decades, because it would enable a far more rounded footballing education than is currently in place.
What are the good aspects of the EPPP?
Firstly, EPPP will increase the amount of time that youth players are able to spend at academies closer to the (supposedly magic) 10,000 hours of teaching between the ages of 9-21. This will also be high quality teaching, in high quality educational settings (due to the requirements laid out by EPPP) with all category 1 clubs being required to either have a school on site, or send all of their youth players to a school whereby their education is tailored to fit around their football, not the other way round as it currently stands. This extra time with players is crucial, absolutely crucial to developing better players. They get more contact time, more time to learn the skills that they need to, the tactics and to learn from their mistakes.
Furthermore, the teaching will allow them to learn more through theory, which hopefully will be transferred into practice when the players step out onto the pitch. A further positive aspect of the EPPP is that some funding will be provided by the Premier League: "the Premier League will pay a proportion of core funding for each academy, according to its level. This will range from £775,000 per year (one-third of the cost of a Category One academy) down to an £100,000 for a Category Four academy (two-thirds of the running costs). These subsidies will increase gradually over the four year life of this EPPP agreement."
EPPP will remove the current "90 minute rule" whereby clubs are not allowed to sign players if the player cannot reach their training ground within an hour and a half. This is good in that it increases the pool of talent available to all clubs, and not just the bigger clubs, but on the other hand, it enables the richer clubs to set up scouting systems to compete for the signing of academy players in smaller areas where a smaller club may have a very good chance of signing the player currently, but under EPPP this likelihood will be significantly reduced.
|The current '90 minute rule' will be scrapped under the EPPP.|
What is wrong with this?
Here are the figures for compensation that clubs will receive if their youth team player decides to move to another club:
For each year in an academy between ages 9-11: £3,000
For each year in a Category 3 academy between ages 12-16: £12,500
For each year in a Category 2 academy between ages 12-16: £25,000
For each year in a Category 1 academy between ages 12-16: £40,000
These fees are strikingly low, considering that players could be the best in their age group and have interest from the most successful clubs in the world, but the club would only receive a maximum of £169,000 up front, with the potential for up an extra £1.3m depending on how many Premier League appearances the player makes (up to 100). Furthermore, there will be a sell on fee of 20%, plus 5% for every future transfer. This is still significantly lower than the amount that clubs will currently receive, although there is no set fee in place. So, despite the pittance offered up front, clubs could receive a relatively large fee for the player due to the sell on fee. However, this is still not acceptable, and once a large, category 1 team loses a youth player to another category 1 team and finds that the compensation offered is relatively meaningless, I am sure there will be a change to the system.
HOWEVER if a player is offered a pre-scholarship contract at the age of 14, and signs, then they are removed from the system of EPPP. This is an excellent way to get around the ridiculous compensation that is offered, and to continue the development of players. What is not clear, however, is what compensation is in place if a player moves despite having a scholarship contract, or indeed whether they are eligible to do so. One might presume that it means the player will move into the same transfer system that currently operates for youth players, meaning if the two clubs cannot agree a fee then it will go to a tribunal which will set the fee. Surely this is a far better option than the compensation under EPPP?
The thing which negates this advantage is that some clubs may not decide to run a youth system at all. A Category 1 academy will cost £2.5m a year to run, a huge amount of money, whilst a category 2 academy will cost just shy of £1m. A Category 3 academy will cost £315k whilst a Category 4 academy is £100k.
Will a category 3 club want to risk spending this money on an academy and a 14 year old turning around to them and saying "I don't want to sign a pre-scholarship contract" then 2 years later being courted by a category 1 club, joining them and the category 4 club receiving a maximum of £37,500 in compensation? In addition, there are limits as to at what age academies can sign youth players. A category 1 academy is able to sign and train players from the age of 4, whilst a category 2 academy is able to do so from the age of 9, a category 3 academy from age 12, and a category 4 academy from age 16, i.e those who have been rejected by the other clubs. This is rather difficult to fathom. If the idea is to increase the amount of time spent with and the quality of players then surely it would make sense to allow clubs to take players from any age? One suspects it is designed to advantage the larger, richer clubs.
|Crystal Palace co-chairman Steve Parish has spoken out against the execution of the EPPP|
whilst suggesting that the concept is good.
Playing time is the most important thing, how many 16 year olds make their debut in the Premier League? Maybe 5 in a decade. Of course it is good that the most talented get trained with the best quality facilities, but it has been evidenced time and time again that there is only so much use that training can provide compared to match experience. The thing with EPPP is that fundamentally they've got a brilliant idea. The trouble is, they've managed to execute it in the most horrific manner possible, and there is no doubt that it is intended to benefit the top teams, not the England national team.
Why, then have I entitled this 'Why EPPP Is Not All Bad'? Here is why:
The majority of clubs in the football league will probably be category 2 and 3. This means that they will still be able to pick up players from the age of 12, providing a chance of debut at an early age, thus maximising their playing time. There is a get out of jail free clause when a player reaches the age of 14, whereby they are allowed to sign a pre-scholarship contract to enable them to be removed from the system of EPPP and any transfer from there on in will take place (presumably) under the current transfer system for youth players. Therefore preventing players from leaving under paltry transfer fees. Overall, it increases the contact time that clubs are able to have with youth team players, which in turn is likely to improve them as footballers and benefit clubs and the English game as a whole. The facilities at some clubs will have to be improved as clubs strive to get the best category they can possibly afford, thereby enhancing the potential for developing greater players.
As noted previously, the EPPP is an idea that gets the best youth players the best facilities and the most contact time with coaches, which fundamentally is a brilliant idea. However, little thought has been given to the execution of the plan, because there is a potential for it to go horribly wrong in that it may cause even fewer players to make their way up through the leagues, and some players may fall away from football altogether, casting away those late developers. EPPP does not need to be scrapped, it needs to be taken back to the drawing board and altered drastically. The evidence points to the EPPP being a scheme that is supposed to help youth development for the richer clubs, the bigger, more successful clubs, with little consideration for those who cannot afford £1m a year on an academy. Ultimately, until the idea that players can only be signed at later ages by the lower category academies, and the pathetic compensation scheme are both scrapped, EPPP will be a terrible mistake for the future of the English game.
To summarise, Crystal Palace co-chairman Steve Parish said the following about EPPP:
"There is so much that is good about EPPP, I just wish they had taken the time to get the rest of it right".
Therein lies the problem. They did not bother to take the time to get the rest of it right, and it remains to be seen as to the effect this will have on youth academies, and English football in general.
|Some argue that the Premier League effectively held a gun to the head of Football League clubs to pass EPPP by threatening to withdraw its £5m of yearly funding for academies if the proposal was not passed.|