Blues handed category two EPPP status
Blues have been handed a 'category two' status under the FA's new Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP).
The plan, which is designed to improve the quality of home-grown players, means that clubs with the highest category rating receive more funding than ever before in their youth development schemes and consequently, the national team will apparently benefit.
The rankings are given on a scale of 1-4, with 1 being the best, the elite, the pinnacle. Clubs such as Wolves and Sunderland have already announced they have been given a category one rating, whilst it is inevitable the majority of Premier League clubs will be awarded a similar rating.
Clubs are judged on their youth facilities and are accredited categories dependant on those facilities.
For example, Stoke City have recently spent £6m on an expansion to their training ground in order to gain category one status - something Blues are in no financial position to replicate.
However, to many, including Crystal Palace co-chairman Steve Parish, this is just a: "brazen attempt by the Premier League's wealthy elite to cherry-pick the best youngsters from Football League clubs so they can comply with UEFA's new regulations over how many home-grown players should be in their first-team squads." Meanwhile, Simon Jordan went as far as to claim the Football League has been 'blackmailed' by the Premier League into accepting this.
The Premier League statement on the EPPP does little to dispel this accusation - their words on the matter say benefits include: "clubs that have earned a top category grading to recruit young talent from further afield than is permitted under the current rules".
When the vote to implement EPPP was announced, it coincided with the Football League receiving a lot of benefits from the Premier League. For example, parachute payments have increased, whilst clubs were given a thinly-veiled threat that future funding would be rescinded if they voted against EPPP.
However, under the new EPPP plans, clubs such as Crystal Palace and Crewe Alexandra, who have long relied on their youth prospects to generate crucial funds, face the possibility of losing their best young players to higher-rated academies for low tribunal fees.
At St. Andrew's, it is disappointing to see that we could potentially some of our future prospects, especially as our youth academy seems to be coming to fruition. For years, Blues' biggest academy graduates were the likes of Andrew Johnson and Darren Carter, yet recently, the youth set-up has nurtured the likes of Nathan Redmond and Jack Butland, whilst Mitch Hancox, Akwasi Asante, Jack Deaman and Will Packwood have all performed admirably so far during pre-season.
Blues have said they are waiting to iron out a few minor details regarding the EPPP before making an official statement, but without significant investment, the club could lag behind the category one teams and potentially lose some of our better young players in years to come.
The FA EPPP:
Stoke's £6m training ground investment: