Youth Development is hugely important to the Premier League and since the League’s inception in 1992, the youth programme has expanded beyond all recognition.
At that time, Clubs had access to young players from the age of 14 for one to two hours per week. Now there are 40 Academies across the country.
Seventeen of them are in the Premier League with the exceptions being Wigan Athletic, QPR and Swansea, who operate Centres of Excellence.
The next stage of Premier League Youth Development has seen the creation of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) that clubs will implement from 2012 onwards.
The plan promotes the development of a world-leading Academy system with the ultimate goal to produce more and better Home Grown Players.
The Youth Development department is responsible for the following:
- Registering players and organising programmes of matches during the season that cover the three central phases of development: Foundation (9-11 years), Youth Development (12-16 years), and Professional Development (17-21 years)
- Providing a collective platform for Academy Managers and personnel to meet regularly so they can exchange ideas and debate issues
- A programme of Continuing Professional Development for people working in the player/child welfare area and coaches working with players throughout the three phases
- Ensuring pitch sizes and match formats are carefully tailored to the age of players
The Youth Development department delivers a comprehensive Games Programme for each of the three development phases.
The most high profile of these is the Under-18 Academy League, which consists of 40 Premier League and Football League Academy clubs and plays a pivotal role in Academy players’ transition to professional football.
The department also arranges a host of additional activities, including futsal festivals; a national indoor Under-14 tournament and other bespoke age-specific tournaments; and the Premier League International Under-13 and Under-15 Tournament, where Clubs play against peer teams from around the globe.
The Premier League has its own Education Department that delivers a programme to support the technical, tactical, physical, mental, lifestyle and welfare development of all Academy players.
The Premier League is also responsible for the formal education programmes for all Apprentices aged 16-19 who have signed a full-time Scholarship Agreement at a Premier League Club.
In September 2010, the education programme was given an ‘Outstanding’ rating by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education.