According to The PKF Football Industry survey only one in four Championship clubs would consider their finances to be “very healthy”, with just one in five making a similar claim in League One. According to PKF “most finance directors in the Premier League, the Championship and League One say that they have financial concerns over the future of their club because of the difficult economic climate.”
A few days before this survey came out, it was reported that The Premier League is considering the introduction of financial rewards to clubs who develop more Britons as part of its Elite Player Performance Plan.
British under-21 players made 4% of the league’s total appearances last season and only 34% of the top flight’s players are homegrown compared to 52% in Germany and 72% in Spain.
These two reports reminded me a chat I had with Andy Roxburgh, UEFA technical director from 1994 to 2012.
He told me that “difficult economic times could actually help youth systems around Europe in the sense that a club might not have enough money to buy players – so It will give its academy graduates more chances”.
According to Roxburgh England should have a great advantage during those “hard economic times” because ”there is great infrastructure for youth players”. However, because coaches are under pressure to get results “they take very little chances with young players”.
However, most clubs in England – in the name of “depth” will rather have a “ready-made” professional on their bench than an academy graduate. Some players would rather spend £3m on a squad player, when Bayern Munich and Arsenal, clubs with great academies, invest €3m per season in their youth teams.
If Premier League and Championship coaches are “afraid” to take chances it’s only because they feel that the young players are not good enough. So, how can academy graduates get better? Well… It’s all about the money.
Ajax create great players by investing €6m per season in their Academy and Barcelona invests even more - €10m per season.
Regulation that makes clubs invest a certain amount (let’s say at least £3m per season) in their academies may convince more coaches to promote from within rather than buying a player to function as a squad player.
“A great academy costs a lot of money” said Roxburgh, “but it’s a great investment with a great return”. The authorities should make clubs make this “great investment”.
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