Former League One side Wycombe Wanderers, who were relegated from the third tier at the end of the 2011-12 season, have announced that they are to close their Centre of Excellence with immediate effect. The Chairboys have followed Yeovil Town in making the decision to dissolve their youth set-up, following the introduction of the new Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) scheme.
Wanderers have had a fairly successful CoE system running, having seen the likes of Jordon Ibe (Liverpool), Kadeem Harris (Cardiff City), Matt Phillips (Blackpool) and Roger Johnson (Wolverhampton Wanderers) graduate through their ranks, whilst current squad members Matt McClure, Jesse Kewley-Graham, Anthony Stewart, Josh Scowen and Charles Dunne are all home grown players. However, the wording of their statement would imply that they will not even run with an Under-18 side next season - a move that will lead to 10 full time employees and 25 part time coaches being shown the door.
Wycombe's situation is a little bit more complex than Yeovil's, and their decision to get rid of a scheme that has been highly successful for them shouldn't be entirely blamed upon EPPP. A month before the season ended, Wycombe were hit by a transfer embargo due to their failure to lodge their accounts with Companies House. At the time, a statement issued by their club claimed that "the matter will be resolved in the coming weeks" they are still in the same situation two and a half months later.
Last month it transpired that owner Steve Hayes was in negotiations with Wycombe's Supporters Trust to sell the club - in addition to his plans to relinquish control of rugby side London Wasps. With Hayes having bankrolled the club to a significant degree, the Trust are now looking to bring expenditure under control, meaning that this may have been on the cards anyway. However, they state that EPPP was a strong factor:
"Due to the club's financial limitations, together with the increased demands of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) for the forthcoming season, the club and the Trust - who are finalising a deal to take over the club - feel it will no longer be able to sustain youth development at any age level going forward. Whilst the current Centre of Excellence structure requires significant backing to operate each year, the new EPPP rules would demand increased investment to meet new criteria.
"Wanderers were opposed to the EPPP from the outset, voting against the proposal at a meeting alongside fellow Football League clubs in October. However, the ruling was passed and the club believes it is certain to change the way in which Football League clubs are able to operate at youth level. The long-term stability of the club is the number one priority and all resources are going towards ensuring the club is financially secure."
As yet, Wycombe are the only Football League club, apart from Yeovil Town, to make the decision to curtail their Centre of Excellence structure, although the expectation was that others would be following. The BBC Sport website believes that six of last season's Championship sides have applied for EPPP Category One status, although three of those teams have just been promoted into the Premier League. They state that around 20 Football League clubs have applied for Category Two status, with the 'vast majority' of other clubs applying for Category Three. Yeovil Town will be applying for Category Four, which will see the club only field an Under-18s side.
In addition to the EPPP changes which will come in for the 2012-13 season, the Premier League are looking to set up new Reserve Leagues for Under-18 and Under-21 sides, in addition to the existing senior Reserve Team structures. According to The Independent, they aim to play Under-21 fixtures over weekends, with the aim of scheduling them after their club's first team fixtures, meaning that those younger players who may currently be sent out on loan or be used to pad out benches, could be kept within their parent clubs, getting more regular football within their own set-up.
The move appears to be a reaction to the Football League bouncing fairly fanciful suggestions that Premier League sides could field 'B' teams in League One or League Two and helps deal with current concerns that English players are getting 'lost' once they graduate from their club's Under-18s side, leading to a number ending up failing to make the grade. The Independent believe that these changes will be introduced for the 2013-14 season, although this is not set in stone. The revamp of the Under-18s league, which would lead to the existing Premier Academy League being scrapped, is believed to be a move to align with clubs that reach EPPP Category One status.
Obviously, where Yeovil Town have made heavy use of the loan system, taking players from Premier League sides in recent years, the introduction of an Under-21 Reserve League could have a significant impact upon the availability of players. The FIFA-imposed restiction on emergency and youth loans, which will be imposed at the start of the 2014-15 season, will put further controls on when young players can go out to gain experience with Football League clubs.
Comment on this News Item on Facebook
or Go back to Top of Page