Feature

How EPPP has helped develop England's finest

14 Jul 2024
Mainoo-Palmer-Wharton-youth-footballcomposite

Gareth Southgate's squad for EURO 2024 has benefited from development in world's leading Academy system

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Did you know that when Gareth Southgate selected his England team for the UEFA European Championships in Germany, he chose a squad of players who have benefited from transformative changes in the English Player development pathway under the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP)?

What is the EPPP? Well it was implemented by the Premier League in 2012 in partnership with the EFL and FA in the aftermath of England’s failure to qualify for EURO 2008 and a disappointing 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign.

The plan was simple in its ambition: the English professional game needed to produce more and better homegrown players through the development of a world-leading Academy system.

Twelve years on, Southgate has selected a squad that at 26.5 years is one of the youngest in the tournament and packed with world-class players excelling at the highest levels of the game.

The pipeline of young English talent has achieved unprecedented success with five England Youth team titles between 2017 and 2023 and the England senior team are having the longest period in the top five of the FIFA World Rankings (from October 2018) since they were created in 1992. 

Kobbie Mainoo - U15 PL International tournament 201920 and U18 PL-composite
Kobbie Mainoo at a Premier League Under-15 International Tournament in 2019/20 and in action for Man Utd in the Under-18 Premier League

Of Southgate’s 26 players, 19 have spent time in the Academy system following the implementation of the EPPP from the 2012/13 season.

The development time for those 19 players totals 104 years, an average of more five years’ development time per player. Indeed, Kobbie Mainoo and Adam Wharton have gone through all the Academy age groups since the EPPP started.

But the EPPP is not only for the benefit of Premier League Academies, it is a strategy for the entire Academy system, both Premier League and EFL. With Academies rated from Category 1-4 regardless of first-team division and supported across all facets of youth development.

Adam Wharton - U16 International Tournament 19-20 composite
Adam Wharton in action for Blackburn's Under-16s at a Premier League International Tournament in 2019/20

With the creation of the plan, it was recognised that significant investment was needed throughout the football pyramid and not just through central funding.

And so the Professional Game Youth Fund (PGYF) was set up to drive investment in the youth development system through direct grant funding to clubs, as well as investment in central projects and initiatives, such as the Games Programme from U9-U21 and workforce development.

The PGYF is funded through a four per cent levy on all Premier League and EFL player transfers.  

Alongside central funding, this has enabled more than £2.5billion investment in youth development both centrally and from clubs throughout the pyramid, and generated a positive return of such investment of over £4bn since 2012 in transfer and loan fees for the Academy graduates of Premier League and EFL clubs.

There is also a comprehensive Academy Player compensation system in place to protect and incentivise investment in Academies throughout the pyramid via training cost compensation, sell-on fees and appearance fee compensation that are part of the EPPP’s Youth Development Rules.

Cole Palmer - U12 Christmas Truce 2012-composite
Cole Palmer with Man City's Under-12s at the 2012 Premier League Truce Tournament in Ypres, Belgium, in match action and taking part in a wreath-laying ceremony

To develop world-class players in Academies you also need world-class coaches. And so each year, £22millon is invested in workforce development by the professional game.

As a result, the number of full-time coaches working in Premier League and EFL Academies has risen from 250 at the launch of the EPPP to over 800, while there are now 4,000 Academy staff members across the Professional Game. The Premier League has been running workforce development programmes for the last 11 seasons, with over 300 club staff currently enrolled across 10+ programmes.

So what does this mean in practice for the 26 Academies that have contributed to the 26 players in Southgate’s England squad?

It means Category 3 Academies, such as Carlisle United who contributed to the development of goalkeeper Dean Henderson before his move to Manchester United, receive over 50 per cent of their total Academy expenditure from central funding through the PGYF and also recognise substantial returns under EPPP compensation rules from the likes of Henderson, who have subsequently moved for transfer fees and made Premier League appearances.

It means Category 2 Academies, such as Birmingham City, who developed Jude Bellingham before his move to Borussia Dortmund, receive world-leading development programmes for their staff. This includes former Academy staff such as Kristjaan Speakman and Mike Dodds, two of the Bellingham’s most influential coaches when he was at Birmingham, who have participated in the EPPP’s workforce development programmes.

bellingham youth

And it means for Category 1 Academies, such as Blackburn Rovers, who only recently sold their local Academy graduate Wharton to Crystal Palace for a reported fee of about £20m, benefit from a Premier League-delivered Games Programme tailored for the specific development needs of their U9s through to the U21s.

The programme offers development opportunities ranging from small-sided, fun and festival-led tournaments at the youngest ages, to national and international cup and league competitions at the oldest ages.

All of which has created unrivalled development environments for aspiring footballers to maximise their potential and equipped  Southgate with a squad of players ready to take on Europe’s best!

England players who developed in EPPP
Player Academies developed in (U9-U18) Years in Academy (EPPP)
Dean Henderson Carlisle, Man Utd 3
Aaron Ramsdale Bolton, Sheff Utd 5
Joe Gomez Charlton, Liverpool 3
Marc Guehi Chelsea 6
Ezri Konsa Charlton  4
Luke Shaw Southampton 1
Trent Alexander-Arnold Liverpool 5
Jude Bellingham Birmingham City, Dortmund 9
Conor Gallagher Chelsea 6
Kobbie Mainoo Man Utd 10
Declan Rice Chelsea, West Ham 5
Adam Wharton Blackburn 10
Eberechi Eze Arsenal, Fulham, Millwall 4
Phil Foden Man City 6
Anthony Gordon Everton 7
Cole Palmer Man City 8
Bukayo Saka Arsenal 8
Ivan Toney Leicester, Northampton 2
Ollie Watkins Exeter City 2

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