England’s Premier League agreed on proposals to overhaul its youth academy system to try and increase the national team’s talent pool following its worst soccer World Cup defeat in South Africa.
The plans include an elite performance program for clubs and an academy ranking system that would determine compensation should a player quit for a rival, said Premier League Chief Executive Officer Richard Scudamore.
The league has identified youth development as a means of boosting the national team after England’s oldest World Cup squad lost 4-1 in the second round to the youngest German roster since 1934.
“What we really want in the build-up to major tournaments is to have 40, 50, 60 players in contention to get on the plane,” Scudamore told reporters in London yesterday. “That’s really the objective rather than what looks a fairly self-selecting group. It’s about increasing that pool, you want to be spoiled for choice in every position.”
Central to the proposals agreed on by the league’s 20 clubs is to increase contact between academy players. That may lead to the creation of regional schools catering to the needs of the country’s best young talent, Scudamore said.
“I can envisage a day where in the northwest of England we have a Premier League school where a number of clubs have their boys,” he said.
Such an institution would cater for students’ education while allowing them to train at a comparable level to peers in nations like World Cup finalists Spain and the Netherlands, Scudamore added.
Ged Roddy, the Premier League’s director of youth, said the blueprint envisages players aged 8 to 16 getting as much as 15 hours of coaching a week, three times the current level.
At Ajax, the Amsterdam-based club famed for producing homegrown talent, players receive 6,000 hours of coaching by the time they are 18, according to Roddy. Their English counterparts will have completed 2,500 hours of training by comparison.
“We have lagged behind and we need to reconstruct the system,” said Roddy, who conducted a global study of academies.
The changes would allow 18-year-olds trained by English clubs to be in a stronger position to make a case for a contract than a Spanish or Dutch boy, added Roddy.
“At the moment the opposite is true,” he said.
Since its inception in 1992, the Premier League has attracted some of the world’s best players because it can offer higher salaries than rivals. Scudamore said a focus on developing young local talent won’t necessarily mean a reduction in the number of foreigners.
“It’s not an acceptance that we have to do something about the foreign players,” he said. “It’s the opposite. If you are going to make it as an English player into our first teams you have got to be world class.”
Last season, 222 Premier League players, an average of about 11 per club, were qualified to play for England, which won its only World Cup title when it hosted the 1966 tournament.
Roddy, who also studied elite athlete development in sports including swimming, cycling and track and field, said more and better-qualified coaches are needed.
According to data compiled by European soccer governing body UEFA, the number of English coaches holding its qualifications is about 10 times fewer than the 23,995 credentialed in Spain.
That has meant children in the 7-11 age bracket, which Roddy refers to as the “golden years,” often miss out on top level coaching.
“I see an urgent need to develop coaches in that particular area,” Roddy said.