The ‘Elite Player Performance Plan’ Will Kill Our Game

On Thursday the 23rd of October, the 72 Football League clubs voted in favour of the ‘Elite Player Performance Plan’ (EPPP), a radical new overhaul of the current national youth system. The changes include the scrapping of the current tribunal system, which previously determined the fee a club would have to pay another for a youth player who is out of contract when no agreement between the two could be reached, and the implementation of a ‘tier’ rating for each club’s youth system, ranging from tier 1 to tier 4.

Instead of the tribunal system, there will now be a fixed tariff in place to determine the fee a club must pay for a youth player. It is £3,000 per year for a player aged between 9 and 11’s development, with the fee from 12 to 16 ranging between £12,500 and £40,000, dependent on a club’s youth system tier category.

Regarding the new tier formulation, clubs’ youth systems are now ranked according to how much staff they employ and how much they spend on their youth development. To be rated as tier 1, the club’s academy must have an annual budget exceeding £2.3m, at least 18 full-time employees, excellent training facilities as well as school places. What a tier 1 ranking gets you is the pick of pretty much all youth players in the country, considering the 90-minute rule has now been abolished. Contact time with youth players will also be increased with tier 1 academies. At the other end of the scale will be the tier 4 academies, acting as a ‘safety net’ and only allowed to pick up previously failed youth players at the age of 16. Tier 3 academies will have no contact with youth players until the age of 12. As it stands, the only academies in the country who will be rated as tier 1 when the EPPP is implemented at the start of the 2012-13 season are Southampton’s, Chelsea’s, and Manchester City’s, but you can expect Manchester United’s, Arsenal’s, and Liverpool’s to have reached this ‘prestigious’ status by that time.

The vote passed with 46 votes in favour, 22 against, 3 no-shows and 1 abstention. What is startling about these figures is that 3 clubs didn’t even bother to turn up to the vote of one of the most significant changes to English football, but more importantly, the fact that only 23 clubs had the  courage to stand up to the monstrous machine that is the Premier League. All are a credit to the Football League, with the ones who voted in favour a shameful symbol of how our game is being killed off.

The EPPP is an attempt to replicate Barcelona’s ‘La Masia’ academy system, leading to increased contact time with youth players

The EPPP is a plan drawn up by both the FA and the Premier League, and both these parties, along with several Premier League clubs, are hopeful it will be a success and achieve its aim (which, apparently, is to have all the best young players reaching their potential at all the best academies, thus strengthening the national side). A Premier League spokesman said of the EPP: “The new plan is a great example of English football working together to raise standards across the board.”

The questions that have to be asked are, that if the plan is bound to be so successful for English football as a whole, why did the Premier League have to threaten to withdraw the £5m funding they currently provide Football League clubs per annum if they voted against it? This is blackmail in its most blatant form, and is proof as to how flawed the plan actually is that it is required to force it through. More so, is this new scheme really centred on just strengthening the national team? No. It is simply about the big teams hoovering up all the talent in the country. Do you really think that Manchester United, owned by the American Glazers, Manchester City, owned by the Abu Dhabi Sheikhs, or Chelsea, owned by the Russian Abramovich, care one iota for the success of the national team? Of course they don’t, and once again the shortcomings that foreign ownership brings are highlighted.

I referred to an academy having a tier 1 status as ‘prestigious’ earlier. Under the new rules, Chelsea would have a tier 1 status, whereas a club like Crystal Palace would have tier 2 status, and thus Chelsea would have the pick of all Crystal Palace’s youth players, as well as increased contact time. But is an academy that currently has 2 home-grown players in its first team squad really ‘better’ than an academy that currently has 11 home-grown players in its first team squad and in fact more graduates playing Premier League football? The EPPP has in part been arranged so that apparent ‘better’ academies can have the best young players in the country. But this ranking system is flawed, and is accordant to the finance of academies rather than assessing just how effective they are at young players fulfilling their potential.

In my mind at least, the EPPP is frankly scandalous, and it is an outrage that it has been passed with so little reaction. What it means is that the days of going to watch local players play for your local team will soon be gone (it is estimated that between 30-40 youth systems in the Football League will now be scrapped, such is the pure worthlessness of having such systems with this scheme in place). It means that the rich will be getting richer, and whilst Premier League chief pigs such as Robert Scudamore can jolly it up discussing the ‘39th game’ over their prawn sandwiches, those silly little clubs in the Football League will be fighting to stay afloat, now that a great sum of their income has been removed. What the EPPP is doing is ripping the heart out of our game, the lifeblood of our clubs and it says it all that they had to extort the Football League clubs to make this ridiculous plan pass.

Most, if not all, of the Football League clubs who voted in favour are not actually in favour of the EPPP; the vote made for it is a direct result of the threat of the withdrawal of the £5m per annum the Premier League currently grants Football League clubs, money which without, they would find it hard to survive. Barry Fry, Peterborough’s Director of Football, has spoken of how the Premier League’s threat felt like blackmail, whilst co-owner of Crystal Palace Steve Parish has expressed his fury at the agreement, claiming that Football League clubs ‘took their 30 pieces of silver’, and condemned last Thursday as a ‘dreadful day for football’.

If you agree with how ridiculous the EPPP is (and I would hope you do; having non-football fans reading this is not something I planned for), I would also hope you agree with the fact that we cannot just sit there at let this happen. We cannot just treat this ruthless action with a vast degree of apathy and accept that our game is dying, and there is nothing we can do.

There is a movement, under the heading ‘The 72 Unite’, designed to combat this overhaul of the English game and the disgusting actions of the Premier League. They have made a statement (which I will post in a separate article) and the first course of action is a proposed boycott of the first five minutes of every league game in English football on the weekend of the 29th October, in order to draw attention to how we, the loyal supporters upon which our clubs thrive upon, feel about the prospective changes. This will not be the only event, with more being planned, and it is true that one 5 minute boycott will change nothing, but it is a start and brings a platform for us to voice our disdain.

Along with participating in the boycott, we ought to do our part and start circulating not only the group and its plans, but also just how shady and destructive the EPPP is. Something I have been astounded by is how little people know of it, or how many people do not even know of its existence. Football fans up and down the country must be made aware that our game is at risk from the greed of the Premier League; and consequently, the Premier League must be made aware that we are not going to allow this to happen without serious opposition.

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About James Gross

17 year old aspiring journalist.
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6 Responses to The ‘Elite Player Performance Plan’ Will Kill Our Game

  1. Richard Down says:

    Congratulations on this piece. As a Palace fan I am up in arms about this. We had 3 academy “graduates” starting at Ipswich with another teenager coming on in the second half, a lad (Jon Williams) who I think will soon be a fixture in the Welsh midfield alongside Ramsey and Bale.. Two more are now integral to the Wigan side. What is most objectionable is the assumption that only Premier league academies can produce top class players. Ask Dario Gradi about David Platt,. I throw out one other thought. Victor Moses left us for 2 million to help keep us afoat. ost considered that to nbe barely half his true value. I guess we’d be bust now if the EPPP were in place Is that what the FA want. I say the FA as its blatantly obvious the EPL couldn’t care less.

  2. Michael DRozario says:

    This whole thing stinks and has been passed in the most underhanded way with financial pressure and blackmail by the Premier League. It is time for the Football League clubs of this country to unite and fight back our own Football Leauge board are firmly in the pockets of the Premiership and have sold its members down the river again. This will be the death of football the death of our football league clubs and all because of the greed of the Premiership. The money they get from TV rights, sponsorship etc…. and they still want more and they are happy to kill the football league as their greed continues…. We need to make a stand NOW….. sign the petition on line to get his raised in parliment join the demo’s make our voices heard….. we are the real football fans of this country and we have a powerful voice….. contact your MP, target Premier League sponsors ring football chat shows get this out there…..

  3. Peter Clarke says:

    I too am outraged by these proposals. What is worrying is the lack of interest from fans of PL clubs, even those recently promoted. Until fans of all clubs unite against the legalised pillage of talent by the biggest clubs I fear that the game we live will be irreparably damaged, if not killed off altogether. Do we really want a country where there are 5 or 6 ‘mega clubs’ playing in euroleague, which is what we’ll end up with, or do we want a vibrant football community spread about the country where we can all experience the highs and ( in my case frequent) lows of following your team. Its about time premier league clubs and fans stood up to the Premier league big guns, as these are self evidently the principle beneficiaries of this shameful idea

  4. Lisa Butler says:

    As a Palace fan, I am completely enraged by the Football league selling their souls to the Premier Dictatorship and agree with the responses above. I’m exiled Palace fan, now living in Devon, I look around at the “smaller” clubs in the southwest. They would be classed, I suspect, as category 3/4. What then happens to the talented south west 8-plus year olds? Where will they go? Be taken from their families? Force families to move? Or just never get the coaching they deserve? This will be echoed in other areas in the country. This stinks on all counts.

    I would like to know what the FA is going to do about this? It states it backs “grass roots football”, but I fear it has no backbone. So far it’s never stepped in to save the game from the many terminal symptoms that exists today. It’ll probably do sweet FA!

  5. Fred Olly says:

    Lisa poses a very good question about the pressure/effect on the boys and their families.
    With that said there are some 10000 boys in the current Pro club Youth development system and that is way too many.
    Something needed to be done about that as it is obvious that even half that number will not get anywhere near playing League footy.
    I believe no boys should be signed by any Pro club before they start senior school (year 7)
    They should be encouraged to play their matches for local teams but receive high quality coaching at the nearest Pro club until they reach that age.
    I have a son at a Non EPL Pro club in his third year and the distances we are expected to travel on Sundays for matches are frankly crazy.
    We are fortunate that training x2 per week is 30mins away but still puts us to a challenge to balance with education etc….so how are people going to cope without the 90 min rule if a bigger club wants your boy?
    The answer is to buckle to ridiculous travel schedules and abandon all effort to support the childs education OR send your loved one to a Football Boarding School with all the long term risk that brings…OR say no , and show loyalty to the club who has invested in your lad already.
    The FA lacks the teeth to bite the EPL , and that is a fundamental problem as it would naturally be that body who would be able to enforce restrictions to protect the boys and their families.
    What I can say is that the club we are with are making strides to do their best in the circumstances that they are in but I fear they may lose some of the best boys within the next 2 years.

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