As predicted, Ken Bates touched upon the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) in this week’s Yorkshire Radio interview and did nothing to alter my view that the current system is fundamentally flawed and that the Premier League were right to enforce change.

Whilst I totally agree the Premier League should not be using Football League subsidies to force clubs into voting through their plans, the underlying problem our chairman has is clearly a monetary one.

On the Premier League’s threat to revoke League subsidies;

“This could be worth £2.5m to Championship clubs and 3, 4, 5, £600,000 to a League Two club, which is very valuable and very significant amount of money.”

On the new rules;

“What happens now is you run your academy, find a kid, Premiership club comes along and nicks one and pays you nothing for it. It’s all back-handed. They say, if he does this and if he does that and if he does the other, we’ll pay you more but the Premiership clubs have got so much money they should put their money where their mouth is.”

On Taiwo and Woods’ move to Chelsea;

“…they quite illegally took them down, showed them around the training ground and put them in a hotel, took them to a European league match and then the kids walked out and signed. After a lot of arguing, we got £4million, having been offered £200,000.”

On the alternative;

“It’s sometimes easier for them to come out on top by staying at their local clubs and develop. I won’t say develop properly because if they have got what it takes, they’ll still get to the top and clubs will come and buy them. Meanwhile, we also get a decent fee for the clubs that do all the hard work bringing them up.”

It’s not that I don’t understand people’s concerns on this subject, but Ken Bates’ views are typical of so many Football League chairmen whose only problem seems to be the loss of their cash dispensing academies. The development of players is almost a non-issue.

This has been reflected in the press too. Take Phil Hay’s argument for the Yorkshire Evening Post as an example, which was similarly focused on the financial loss Football League clubs will incur, rather than the beneficial/detrimental effect this will have on players.

What the Premier League has done reminds me of a line from Nineteen Eighty-Four, the George Orwell classic: “One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”

No one can deny that the Premier League are trying to consolidate their power, creating a dictatorship reign over the rest of the football pyramid.

But in doing so their focus is also on producing exceptional talent by means of almost infinite resources. The Football League’s alternative is to snatch kids up at a young age, hope they turn out to be world-beaters and auction them off to the highest bidder once they turn professional – or claim massive sums of compensation when snatched beforehand.

Ken Bates is not the virtuous hero of this saga. He hasn’t conjured up some altruistic vision of an exceptional youth set up. In fact, he hasn’t even offered an alternative to what the entire footballing community agree, was a flawed academy system.

The truth is, altruism is not present in the Premier League’s plans either, but what they proposed is better for the kids – and that’s all that matters here. The Premier League will be investing hundreds of millions in their academies to qualify for elite status, whilst the Championship would have continued to run there’s on a shoestring, ensuring they maximise profits.

I agree that neither system is perfect. But the one that ensures players get more coaching from an increased number of trained professionals, and that the facilities are second to none is better than what the Football League is willing/able to offer.

The fact is, that in 5-10 years from now a Premier League Leeds United will probably have an elite academy of their own. We could do it now if Ken was willing to invest around £900,000 a year (18 coaches x £50,000 each), we have the facilities after all.

But, like the rest of the Football League, Bates is too busy complaining about the pot of gold the Premier League has stolen from the end of his Thorp Arch rainbow. This has never been about what’s best for the players, and it never will be while money is involved. That’s why I support the EPPP – not because it’s perfect and not because I’m some elitist moron who spouts “dog eat dog world” clichés, but because the old system was never about player development – it was all about potential goldmines.

  • Tom

    I don’t understand how the new set up is best for the kids. Using YEP’s example, Garbutt to Everton made us £600,000. Under the new rules, Everton would be able to buy 5 Garbutt’s for the same investment. How does that help his development?

    It means the top clubs will hoard players even more than they already do, and the young players will have far more competition – first team experience will be rarer and rarer, with loans to lower division sides becoming more and more common.

    It will produce a better national team and make youth development more efficient for the top clubs. Those are the only benefits. A lot of youth will suffer from being hoarded at a top club with few first team opportunities, but plenty more cash to speculate on youth.

    And, yes, the vast majority of clubs will suffer by seeing their youth taken for a nominal fee – before being returned on loan.

    • TSS

      “It means the top clubs will hoard players even more than they already do, and the young players will have far more competition – first team experience will be rarer and rarer, with loans to lower division sides becoming more and more common.”

      You’ve contradicted your own argument. You hit the nail on the head, the players will be loaned down the divisions – thus giving Football League clubs a free pool of players to use, and the youth players the experience they’d perhaps not get at the top.

      Since the players end up playing for Football League clubs, clearly the only difference is money. That, and they benefit from a well-funded academy with more coaches, more training and better facilities.

      It’s a win-win for the players. The Football League clubs suffer a drop in revenues, sure, but that’s the only problem with this plan – and the only reason it’s so controversial in my opinion.

      • number1inyorkshire

        there is also the fact that players under a certain age do not count towards the 25 man squads ..
        footballers are getting younger thats another fact so it may mean that the football league ends up with the older players noone wants any more

  • number1inyorkshire

    this has a more important question at its heart and on ei have been asking for year now ..

    That question is just who is running English football
    a/ THE PREMIER LEAGUE
    b/THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE
    c/THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION
    as far as i am aware the answer should be c ,but where are they when rules are been made ..
    it seems that the premier league are running English football it needs to stop ,the FA and the football league are spineless ..
    The reason the premier league want this rule is so when the home grown players rule comes more into force , they can go cherry pick, at will those best young English players from the football league for nothing compared to the old system ..

    The football league and its chairman are blinkered in their thinking ,that if they do not vote for the premier league proposals they will not get into premier league ,when in reality it should have no baring because 80%of football league clubs no matter what the dream is will never ever get there ..

    pick the best young English talent

  • Colin

    I see both sides, but I fear EPPP more. It’s not about the kids. Is it only me that thinks that EPPP is a way for the Money Baron Fat Cat owners of some clubs to appease UEFA when they bring in their Financial Fair Play Rules? The investment can be setup as an ‘asset’ a la Etihad Campus. And when UEFA start getting tough, then I expect the clubs to throw the kids into the firing line and say to UEFA “If you stop us spending, you’re hurting the children and their development. Platini, what a bastard – he hates children.”

    I’ve got another concern as well. We’re part of Europe, and if you’ve got an EU passport, you can go anywhere in Europe and settle there and take advantage of their setup. What’s to stop a French child prodigy “deciding” that the best player development academy is at Manchester City, and he and his family moving to Manchester and letting their child join the City Academy? Nothing. Can you stop him doing it? No, that’s illegal under EU law.

    Therefore, how can this help to develop English youth players? It won’t, but it will mean that the new Academies can open their doors and take talent from across Europe. Not sure too many French kids would have opted to come across to join Crewe Alexandria’s Youth Academy?

    Alternatively, the current setup at Elland Road doesn’t work either. Ken’s talking shit again. Ken’s got some bottle talking about it affecting Leeds United. Under his ownership, his shining beacon of the Youth Academy setup, and LUFC Young Player of the Year, Jonathan Howson, will be available in June for £0.00p, because Ken can’t afford to offer him a decent contract (he can really, but he pretends he can’t). Sure, we’ve had the benefit of 200 games from Howson, but we won’t be getting any cash for him. If he leaves, we’ve spent all that time and effort and money on developing a top class player, now in his prime, for a competitor club, FOR FREE!!! What’s the point of having a youth system if you’re not willing to offer them a contract when they’re good and can play at the highest level and lose them for free. Under the current system, the only ones we can keep are the mediocre ones or the injured ones (think Ben Parker).

  • Matt

    TSS, fair play for standing by your opinions (and good blog by the way); I’ll do the same as I disagree quite strongly both with your arguments and the logic behind them. I’ve already covered a few parts of your case in the last article’s comments, including the way you confused an academy that offers a service for a fee (eg acting school), and an academy (as in football) which utilises raw materials- young footballers- to create an asset/product for themselves.

    A few points on the above article- damn right prem teams are trying to widen the equality gap between them and the ‘lower’ leagues. This is extremely undesirable in itself- and saying that it’s ok-ish as we’ll benefit from it when we’re back in the Prem is a poor defence.

    That this may end up producing a few better quality players for the national team (as if PL CEOs give a monkeys), and that this is a ‘good thing’ in general is fine, but it does not justify the means. Nor are the desired results guaranteed as people have been saying.

    That lower league clubs are running their academies ‘on a shoestring’ tells you more about the increasingly unequal landscape the PL has created since 1992 than anything else. To imply that it’s all purely ‘to maximise profits’ is both stating the obvious (football is a business, as we all know) and missing the point- they maximise profits in order to stay in existence (which the fans would probably prefer for one thing), not because the CEO is eyeing up a new Rolls Royce whilst poor Oliver is sent packing, ball in hand, for daring to ask for one more training session.

    It’s also something of a circular ‘status quo’ argument to call for a reinforcement of these inequalities (in the name of the players or not) by saying that the existing reality makes it the logical choice to centralise academy resources at the richest clubs.

    No one is saying that Bates’ motivations are any less capitalistic than Man City’s, or that the current system is in the least bit perfect, but changing it in this way is a backward step. This new system is not really about player development either as you seem to think. And to force a vote whilst holding a financial gun to poor clubs heads is utterly reprehensible behaviour, even in business terms.

    Your argument that it’s better to have young players at a smaller number of super academies with unlimited resources, because it will produce better England internationals, is akin to FTSE 100 chiefs saying they should be paid more and taxed less because it encourages enterprise, leading to more jobs and wider economic benefits to the nation. Which, as a fairly neo-con argument, is looking pretty shakey when you consider the increasing divide between the average person’s prosperity, a weak economy that only grew before based on credit anyway, and top exec pay skyrocketing.

    If we’re really serious about player development for it’s own sake / the sake of the national team, then why not develop an academy system independent of clubs that they all fund based on what league they’re in, the PL paying most? No idea if that’s workable in practice, and you can be damn sure the top clubs wouldn’t vote for it if asked, but it might go some way to levelling the playing field and putting the player’s needs first and foremost, which is clearly your main concern, and a good one. Maybe not a workable idea but it’s no worse than the EPPP.

    As posted before, this new deal effectively rigs the market (access to raw materials, ie young players) in the favour of the haves vs the have nots. The player development angle is not why the PL are in favour of it.

    Rant over ;-)

    • TSS

      “A few points on the above article- damn right prem teams are trying to widen the equality gap between them and the ‘lower’ leagues. This is extremely undesirable in itself- and saying that it’s ok-ish as we’ll benefit from it when we’re back in the Prem is a poor defence.”

      That wasn’t my defence in fairness, I was simply stating a likely outcome.

      My entire argument was sympathetic to people’s concerns, but the Championship clubs only care about the cash and the EPPP system is the best alternative I’ve heard. If Ken Bates and the rest of the Football League cared more about player development then they’d be tabling a counter-proposal – the fact they aren’t tells you everything, they like that the current system is a convenient cash cow for them.

      As for lack of equality, I know I said above I don’t wish to come across elitist but that’s life my friend. Why should we handicap the successful clubs, to level the playing field for Oldham and Peterborough? Should we, as a club with huge resources be dividing our income up between those less fortunate too?

      The divide will always exist, regardless of how many crusaders try to handicap the “greedy” (successful) Premier League teams. Running the Premier League must be incredibly tiresome, feeling like you have to apologise for creating one of the countries most lucrative exports.

      If you have the infrastructure and fanbase to sustain yourself in the Premier League, you’ll eventually float to the top. If you don’t, then you’re probably in the right division already.

      Similarly, the level of player you can attract or keep hold of will always be relative to your success. Oldham for example wouldn’t be able to keep hold of Wayne Rooney, and if the only reason he’s there in the first place is because of some restrictions that stop him getting better coaching, then that’s a flawed system.

      But the big question is whether should clubs be compensated – after all, the only thing people actually care about is the cash. I believe they should, but it should be relative to the costs of their training – we shouldn’t be profiting from the potential of kids.

  • Tom

    “You’ve contradicted your own argument. You hit the nail on the head, the players will be loaned down the divisions – thus giving Football League clubs a free pool of players to use, and the youth players the experience they’d perhaps not get at the top.

    Since the players end up playing for Football League clubs, clearly the only difference is money. That, and they benefit from a well-funded academy with more coaches, more training and better facilities.

    It’s a win-win for the players. The Football League clubs suffer a drop in revenues, sure, but that’s the only problem with this plan – and the only reason it’s so controversial in my opinion.”

    A: Difference between owning a player and having him on loan is significant enough to at least merit an acknowledgement. Loaning a player is great until they actually start fulfilling their potential. It isn’t a “free pool of players,” it’s an opportunity to blood someone else’s players! Hardly see how increasing reliance on loan players even further is a good strategy for football league clubs.

    B: I suppose we will have to agree to disagree on the point that youth players will benefit. My feeling is they’ll simply be stockpiled by the clubs that engineered this change – first team opportunities for the club they work for will be tiny. I see many falling by the wayside, many others being loan journeymen.

    The entire thing is a way for the premier league and big clubs to increase efficiency of their youth development, at the expense of the same in clubs of lower status. The national team benefits as a byproduct, hence the FA’s support.

    • TSS

      There is a difference between owning a player and having them on loan, but it’s what that difference means to a Championship club that is my problem. Again, it comes down to cash, not what is best for the player.

      Take Fabian Delph as an example, the player everyone loves citing when they make this argument. He was blooded at Leeds and has since become successful in the Prem because he stayed here for the experience first. In the new situation there’s nothing stopping him getting the same experience in the Championship, the difference is we don’t profit from him and that’s what everyone’s problem is – it has nothing to do with player development.

      If the players are getting the same experience via loan spells and the Football League clubs are still getting a similar amount of games out of them on loan as they would if they had them under contract, then sold them, then the only difference is money. That, and the players benefit from more coaching, more coaches and better facilities. It’s a no-lose for the players, but everyone is looking at this from a financial stand point.

  • chareose

    I dont see how having a few elite acadamies run by filthy rich premiership clubs that basicly hoover up ALL the available talent and then let them rot away on the bench before eventually getting rid, will really help the game in our country……

    The key to sorting our football out is by tackling it at schools through to the age of 18…. Our whole national approach to coaching has to be changed and all coaches forced to adhere to new guidelines. For me its still too much about fitness and not enough about 1 touch football. The brazlians and spanish play “Futsal” at youth level, 5 a side game in smaller spaces to encourage better passing in tight space.

    EPPP is purely about Premiership clubs getting more money and being greedy. Many of the kids that get sucked in by these clubs will never see the light of day. On that Ken is right.

  • paulg

    “It’s not that I don’t understand people’s concerns on this subject, but Ken Bates’ views are typical of so many Football League chairmen whose only problem seems to be the loss of their cash dispensing academies. The development of players is almost a non-issue.”

    I think you’re way off the mark here, TSS ….. and this whole article does have the feel of “Bates says, so it must be wrong ……”

    Putting Leeds to one side for the moment, there are a great many Football League clubs who RELY on the income generated from player sales to keep themselves going. Consider the Crewe’s of this world, well run clubs with tiny resources, who have produced had to sell any half-decent player they have produced – and there have been a lot of them. And it’s not just the Prem clubs who have taken advantage, but other FL clubs as well …..

    What on earth is the incentive to Crewe to go on doing what they have been doing for so many years, when the top clubs can just snap their fingers and walk away with the best ones for a pittance?

    To imply these clubs are greedy, when the top (Premiership) clubs have been sytematically stacking the financial odds in their own favour for the last 20 years seems pretty rich to me ……

    • TSS

      “Putting Leeds to one side for the moment, there are a great many Football League clubs who RELY on the income generated from player sales to keep themselves going.”

      That’s my entire point, it’s a bad system that promotes opening an academy and running it on as little funding as humanly possible, then selling the products of said academy to the highest bidder. Their development comes second to profitability.

      This has nothing to do with Bates, it’s systemic of every Football League academy (as I said multiple times above).

      • Colin

        TSS, I’d disagree slightly. I think teams like Crewe and Watford do invest heavily in their academies, because they know if they don’t then they won’t be producing quality players and therefore won’t be getting good money.

        Running an Academy cheap produces crap players which in turn provide a crap return, which in turn means that they can’t keep afloat. If a team like Watford gets relegated to div. 3 and they can’t recoup money from their academy then they can’t keep going as a club, let alone produce good youth.

        Not knocking you though TSS, it’s all messed up anyway. At the end of the day, under the current system we poached Delph from Bradford City, and we made millions out of it as a result.

  • oldschoolbaby

    The plan also completely misses one of the major points brought up by social and educational change in the last 40 or so years. If you lavish too much on young men you are often rewarded with an arrogant tosser with a massively inflated sense of entitlement.

    If they are hungry for the rewards football offers they can train on a windy hillside followed by a cold shower and a restorative lump of black pudding

    The goal of restoring the fortunes of the national team would be much better served by a plan to retrieve youngsters lost to the game through the lure of PlayStations and smack. Where have all the Scottish greats gone ? It`s nothing to do with coaching, they`ve all become bagheads.

    • chareose

      Completely agree oldschoolbaby !

      There are football feilds near me that often empty during the summer yet when i was a child you had to que up or bribe the older kids to let you play on an lump of grass let alone a pitch….. You see it in all the sports though, they all suffering from lack of kids playing.
      Government needs to open more playing feilds and Parents need to encourage kids to plays sports rather than play on a playstation or hang around on street corners happy slapping old women

  • RickHx

    TSS, I can’t believe anyone is so blinkered as to think the EPPP is a good thing, even if you supported one of the big teams that will end up with a super academy.
    Why do you think 18 coaches and 360 kids is better than 3 coaches and 60 kids? And as for better facilities, you mean like the street kids have in Brazil or Argentina? All that means nothing, other than the kids start to believe they are special, because they are at chelsea or scum. How many come through the ranks to the first team? Young players need truly competitive football to develop, what chance do they have at Man City or Chelsea when they spend 100s of millions on players. The loan system you say, personnally I think the loan system should be banned. Why should Cardiff get Bellamy on a tenth of his actual wage, or Preston get 3 scum players because the managers dad wanted to help out. Football is a business and should remain so. You only have what you can afford or develop. You might not care about any team below us, but it is the depth of the professional game in england that make the english game the best. But its too much money and power thats changing the premiership into a 2 or 3 horse race every year, were nearly in the same position as Spain or Scotland and this is just another nail in the coffin for all but the super rich clubs

    • TSS

      So what’s your counter-argument for systems similar to EPPP working in other countries? Look at Barcelona, they have a boarding-school type academy and are producing talent way beyond what English clubs and our outdated system is managing.

  • shaun

    TSS you use the comment of these players will be loaned out anyway. So this makes it OK. I for one don’t like the loan market as it makes a complete sham of running a footbll club. Most a club should be able to put in a squad is 1 maybe 2 loanees and not the present 5. This along with the new rules would maybe make players and clubs think before snapping up player after player at a young age they can’t use or get experience for.

  • chareose

    Barcelona have also BOUGHT their fair shair of players for millions….
    Your also missing the point mate, that the closure and destruction of dozens of youth academies accross England due to the introduction of this system could offset any positive effect from EPPP. But the likes of Chelsea will be ok JACK.

    EPPP doesnt even touch on whats needed to sort out the english game as i stated above it needs to be changed on a national basis not just by introducing a system that is purely designed to benefit a few teams and effect a few kids. Coaching needs to be changed and kids encouraged to play Futsal etc….

  • number1inyorkshire

    thats a fact the academy days will be numbered .it would be interesting to know the percentage in any league that get through to the 1st team then end up in premier league ..

    there is a love affair with Barcelona as someone has said already they spend a considerable amount on players e:g fabregas .
    they cant be that good they let becchio go ..
    we are trying to change the fundamentals of the English game i:e 4-4-2 the merits of that are for another day but it will take years not a change to the academies ..
    meanwhile the likes of crewe etc who survive by selling academy players will struggle .
    the question i will ask is there any motive in actually trying to get rid of some teams ,a cull in other words ..

  • Beene

    Premier league clubs end up paying less for English players that still won’t make the grade. The cashed up clubs will still pat buckets of cash for players from all corners of the globe who will make up the first team. Nothing changes.

  • RickHx

    The counter argument is simple, Barcelona have in my opinion the best club team ever, but their reserves came 3rd in the spanish second division, a league as competitive as the championship, so their kids are getting the experience needed, but the real problem is that Barca and Real Madrid are now untouchable in spain and the gap is getting bigger.
    So your happy for Chelsea and scum to simply head over the horizon while the rest struggle to break even?
    I don’t really know the answer to the problem, but giving everything to 2 or 3 “super” clubs isn’t it