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Thursday 12 September 2013

Barclays U21: New format for next season

Promotion and relegation and two divisions for next season to encourage more competition

Clubs such as Chelsea and Southampton will be vying to finish in the top 11 this season

After an extensive consultation process, the Premier League Shareholders have voted in favour of changing the structure of the Barclays Under-21 Premier League to encourage more competition and prepare Academy players for the intense environment of elite competition and progression to the first team.

From the 2014/15 season and beyond, the League will be divided into two divisions, based on their league position at the end of the current 2013/14 season, with promotion and relegation between them (with two teams up and two teams down) for future seasons.

"The introduction of promotion and relegation will ensure a more intense and competitive environment"
Ged Roddy

On the current basis that there are 22 Category 1 clubs, this would mean two divisions of 11 clubs each in 2014/15. Clubs would play each other home and away. There would be no plays-offs or final as in the current system, instead whoever top the League at the end of the season are champions. 

“The idea of how we introduce greater competition and replicate the Premier League environment is something that has been debated widely among clubs," Ged Roddy, Premier League Director of Youth, said. "Following discussion with Premier League Shareholders we met with Academy Managers in the summer to talk about this further. Consensus was reached to put forward the idea of promotion and relegation in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League.

“What we want in the Academy system is meaningful competition for players. We need to have a match environment that helps players to bridge the gap from Academy to Premier League. A key focus for those in the Professional Development Phase has to be on learning to win and preparing for a professional career.

“The introduction of promotion and relegation will ensure a more intense and competitive environment. The fact that it will come in for next season should also give extra meaning to this season’s Barclays Under-21 Premier League, as clubs fight to make sure they get into the top division.” 

Under-21 Cup to promote competition

This week, the Premier League introduced another competitive element to the Professional Development Phase with the inaugural U21 Premier League Cup. Fifty-two academies from Categories 1-3 have entered the U21 Premier League Cup for the 2013/14 season.

The one-off fixtures in the competition will be played on a regional basis until the round of 16, whereupon the draw becomes national. With all cup matches due to be played in stadia, the new competition is designed to help the transition of youngsters from academy to professional players while prolonging the incentive for more clubs to win silverware throughout the season. 

The Premier League announced last year that £340m would be invested in Elite Player Performance Plans over the following four seasons. The number one stated aim is to create more and better Home Grown Players.

There are youth development enhancements taking place across the country: Academies are getting more contact coaching hours with their young players; education and welfare have improved; coaches are being put on development paths to get more qualified to a higher level.

More than 95% of the players in the Premier League Academies are British and 16 of the 22 starting players in the 2012/13 Barclays Under-21 Premier League Final between Manchester and Tottenham Hotspur were English. Eight of United’s starting XI were from within 21 miles of Old Trafford.

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