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FAQs

No question is a bad question.

We are often asked questions concerning all aspects of the football industry, whether it be regarding regulations around academy offers and compensation disputes, advice on trials, or legal matters around image rights and contractual issues. Below we outline advice in reply to some of the most frequently asked questions we receive around academy football.

 

  

What is a Football Academy?

A football academy attached to a professional football club is where selected players are trained from an early age with the ultimate objective being that they grow through the age groups to eventually sign a professional contract and play for the clubs' first team or be sold for a profit.

What is the earliest age a child can enter a football academy?

Clubs cannot register players until the U9s age group (eight-year-olds sign on the third Saturday of May every year) but they are allowed to coach them from any age, as well as play matches from U7s - this is becoming more and more popular and known in the industry as 'pre-academies'.

What are pre-academies and development centres?

A football club in essence will do whatever it takes to source the best footballing talent from the earliest ages as possible. One way they can get a hold on a promising player aged under 9 is to train them as part of a pre-academy so that once they become U9 age group they can push these players into the main academy. This should highlight to parents how competitive football academy life is - there are kids as young as 6 competing just to get on the academy conveyor belt.

 

Within a clubs' academy itself, there are only a certain number of places they can make available per age group due to tight football regulations. Thus, what many clubs do is have selected players train in what are known as Development Centres. This is where a child may train a couple of times per week with other selected individuals - usually top grassroots players local to the clubs academy base. This is known as an 'under belly' to the academy and theoretically run in a similar fashion, ie players can be let go and taken on through trials etc. 

What is a football academy trial and how does the process work?

The purpose of a trial is for the player to experience the Academy environment and for the Academy Club to view the player ahead of potentially offering him/her a period of registration as an Academy Player.

 

Usually the player’s trial period at an Academy Club lasts for up to six consecutive weeks but this can be extended to a maximum of 18 weeks if desired – for an initial additional period of six weeks and then a further period of six weeks thereafter. A trial may not be offered to any player who is on trial at another Academy Club or who is currently registered at another Club (unless consent is given).

 

Before a trial commences, the required Premier League/English Football League trialist form (PLYD Form 2) must be completed and sent to the relevant League. The maximum travel time for U9s–U11s players attending a trial is 1 hour. For U12s–U16s players it is 1.5 hours

 

Early cancellation of a trial must be notified to the league via PLYD Form 3.

Entering the Academy System

 

  • Player is spotted by a scout or recommended to a club by contacts

  • After a successful trial (usually 6 weeks), the player may be offered to register via PLYD Form 5

  • The football league will process the signing registration

  • Players have a 7-day cooling off period but during these 7 days they are a player of the club officially so can attend training/play matches

  • A registered player cannot approach or co-operate with other clubs and likewise clubs cannot approach the player during a registration period until either:

    • 1st March and the player has had no offer of extension or

    • after 1st Saturday in June having received extension offer or notice of termination. This is technically the opening of a window of decision making

Want to know more about academy registration lengths, extension and termination process, requesting release or academy compensation? Click here to request our 'PlayerBacker' PDF manual - a FREE 30 page must have document for any football academy parent.

How does my child get spotted/scouted for a football academy?

For the sake of this answer, we are going to presume your child is actually good enough to play academy football. We have to remember, many parents who are not trained in football talent identification believe their child is good enough today (I say today as any player can work towards any level) when it's not the case - it is a rose-tinted glasses situation! 

 

A big challenge within the football industry is players' pathway successes are based on key individual's opinions. It is not objective like Tennis for example - whereby you could enter your 9 year old into tournaments and they win or lose, the ball is in or out. If they are truly good enough they will win the tournaments and move up the ranks. 

 

In football and team sports in general, this is not the case. A young player who one coach might rate highly may not be rated as highly by another. A scout may be told to watch a player and he/she is going through a tough period and doesn't perform, or vice-versa a scout might be there to watch one player and it's actually another player on the field who catches their eye. This is the name of the game. Your child needs an element of luck and opportunism on their side to impress the right people at the right time no matter how good they are. However, you can increase the chances of this occurring that is for sure. This may be via:

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Want to know more about academy registration processes, how to improve your child's chances of getting into the system, what really happens at an academy football trial? Click here to request our 'PlayerBacker' PDF manual - a FREE 30 page must have document for any football academy parent.

Why are football academies categorised and what does this mean?

Pre-2011, Premier League and Football League clubs would operate either a Centre of Excellence or an Academy (the latter being the higher tier based on facilities eg indoor). The Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) was then launched by FA in 2011 to introduce a tiered system for youth academies as well as a fixed system of compensation when a player moves between academies. This also occurs in theory through tribunals at pro level when a player leaves a club on a free (no transfer fee) before their 24th birthday to compensate the club that developed them over x amount of years.

 

Football clubs are awarded category status of one to four, with one being the highest status and supposedly costing the club north of 2m to run per season. Awards are done by an independent audit being assessed on 10 factors including productivity rates, training facilities, coaching, education and welfare provisions. Category one academies which set-up accommodation and educational facilities can get around the time to travel restrictions (recruitment radius) for young players making it easier for them to pool talent from across the country (can only occur from Youth Development Phase – U12 and if player is on full-time training model).

 

The system also created two new levels of category - Category Three academies that were similar to old Centres of Excellence and Category Four academies that can only register youth players between the ages of 16–18, picking up players released from clubs higher up the pyramid.

The EPPP then oversee English Youth Development, ensuring that more money is invested by the FA and Premier League with a tiered amount invested across the football academy categories. This means that the category one clubs will receive more funding than category two and so on. Academy Categories as per Nov, 2019:

Category 1 Academies

Arsenal FC Academy

Aston Villa FC Academy

Blackburn Rovers FC Academy

Brighton FC Academy

Chelsea FC Academy

Derby County FC Academy

Everton FC Academy

Fulham FC Academy

Leicester City FC Academy

Liverpool FC Academy

Newcastle United FC Academy

Manchester City FC Academy

Manchester United FC Academy

Middlesborough FC Academy

Norwich City FC Academy

Reading FC Academy

Southampton FC Academy

Stoke City FC Academy

Sunderland Athletic FC Academy

Swansea FC Academy

Tottenham Hotspurs FC Academy

West Bromich Albion FC Academy

West Ham United FC Academy

Wolverhampton Wanderers FC Academy

Category 3 Academies

Accrington Stanley FC Academy

AFC Wimbledon FC Academy

Blackpool FC Academy

Bournemouth FC Academy

Bradford City FC Academy

Bristol Rovers FC Academy

Burton Albion FC Academy

Cambridge United FC Academy

Carlisle United FC Academy

Cheltenham Town FC Academy

Doncaster Rovers FC Academy

Exeter City FC Academy

Fleetwood Town FC Academy

Gillingham FC Academy

Grimbsy Town FC Academy

Leyton Orient FC Academy

Luton Town FC Academy

MK Dons FC Academy

Northampton Town FC Academy

Oldham Athletic FC Academy

Oxford United FC Academy

Peterborough United FC Academy

Plymouth Argyle FC Academy

Portsmouth FC Academy

Preston North End FC Academy

Rochdale FC Academy

Scunthorpe FC Academy

Shrewsbury Town FC Academy

Southend United FC Academy

Stevenage FC Academy

Swindon Town FC Academy

Walsall FC Academy

Category 2 Academies

Barnsley FC Academy

Birmingham City FC Academy

Bolton Wanderers FC Academy

Burnley FC Academy

Bristol City FC Academy

Cardiff City FC Academy

Charlton Athletic FC Academy

Colchester United FC Academy

Coventry City FC Academy

Crewe Alexandra FC Academy

Hull City FC Academy

Ipswich Town FC Academy

Leeds United FC Academy

Millwall FC Academy

Nottingham Forest FC Academy

Queens Park Rangers FC Academy

Sheffield United FC Academy

Sheffield Wednesday FC Academy

Watford FC Academy

Wigan Athletic FC Academy

Category 4 Academies

Brentford FC Academy

Huddersfield Town FC Academy

Tranmere Rovers FC Academy

Wycombe Wanderers FC Academy

What are the phases of a football academy and what do they mean?

Foundation Phase

Age: U9, U10, U11

Registration Length: 1 Year

Training Module: Part-Time Training Model - usually 3 evening sessions per week and matches on weekend 

Registration form upon entry: Premier League Club - PLYD Form 5 + PLYD Form 6 signed by player and parent. EFL Club - YD4 Form

Extension or Termination Form: Premier League Club - PLYD Form 8. EFL Club - Form 30

Travel Time to Academy: No more than 1 hour

Youth Development Phase

YDP phase has two different options based on whether your child is at offered a 1-year registration or 2-year registration and at a Category 1 Academy.

Age: U12, U14, U16

Registration Length: 1 Year

Training Module: Part-Time Training Model - usually 3 evening sessions per week and matches on weekend 

Registration form upon entry: Premier League Club - PLYD Form 5 + PLYD Form 6 signed by player and parent. EFL Club - YD4 Form

Extension or Termination Form: Premier League Club - PLYD Form 8. EFL Club - Form 30

Travel Time to Academy: No more than 1 hour

or

Registration Length: 2 Years

Training Module: Hybrid or Full-Time Training Model - see following answer on training models below

Registration form upon entry: Premier League Club - PLYD Form 5 + PLYD Form 6 signed by player and parent. EFL Club - YD4 Form

Extension or Termination Form: Premier League Club - PLYD Form 9. EFL Club - Form 30

Travel Time to Academy: Any travel time permitted

Professional Development Phase

Age: U17-U23

Registration Length: 2 Years*

Training Module: Full-Time Training Model - see following answer on training models below

Registration form upon entry: Premier League Club - PLYD Form 11 + PLYD Form 33 signed by player. EFL Club - YD4 Form

Extension or Termination Form: Premier League Club - Terminated via PLYD Form 11. Accepts extension via PLYD Form 12. Also signs PLYD Form 1. EFL Club - Form 33

Travel Time to Academy: Any travel time permitted

*A pro dev contract (scholarship) can be offered on the 1st January in year player turns 14 and no later than 31st December in U16s year. 

What are the different types of football academy training model?

Part-Time Training Model (PTTM)

Player attends school full-time, and attends the Academy in the evenings, at weekends and during holidays. The Academy will keep in regular contact with the school.

Hybrid Training Model (HTM)

Player is released from school to attend the Academy for part of their weekly timetable, this will depend on age and the Club’s programme. Agreement must be reached between the players’ school, parents and Club describing the arrangements and the likely effect on the players’ studies. The players’ educational attainment will be recorded on the Premier League’s Learning Management System (LMS) and academic progress monitored.

Full-Time Training Model (FTTM)

 

If the player is offered a place on the FTTM at their Academy they will receive both their football and education programmes through the Club. The players’ academic needs will be met by a local school in partnership with the Club.

Foundation Phase (U9-U11)

Youth Development Phase (U12-U16)

Professional Development Phase (U17-U23)

  • PTTM

  • Cat 1 & 2s can also offer HTM at this stage

  • PTTM

  • Cat 1 & 2s can also offer HTM & FTTM at this stage

  • FTTM

  • All academies must offer education component for first 2 years at 16-18

  • Scholars are expected to complete their education programme even if they sign a professional contract before the Apprenticeship has run its course. You cannot sign a pro contract until 17 although it can be pre-agreed such as the case of Harvey Elliott (Fulham to Liverpool)

What are football academy catchment areas?

Catchment areas (travel time to academy base) rules are in place to obviously reduce the travel journeys young children are making but also to ensure clubs are only able to recruit local players. 

However, as you will read below there is controversy that category 1 academies theoretically have a loophole to recruit players who are U12 and older from anywhere in the country. 

Under EPPP rules, Category 1 clubs can from U12 take on players from anywhere for a relatively low fee (compensation). Other category clubs can only sign players Under-16 who live in their “catchment area” of 60 minutes (U9-U11) and 90 minutes (U12-U16) from the clubs training facilities.

At the time of the EPPP's introduction - which no one can argue has enabled England to produce top talent at youth and senior level over the last 10 years, Peterborough United chairman Barry Fry claimed this was at the expense of lower league clubs:

“What frightens me is that a lot of clubs will pull out of having a youth system altogether. Lower league clubs will look at how much it costs to run their academy and think that if the Premier league can nick their best players for a low price, what is the point of investing in it?”

Want to know more about why Brentford scrapped their academy all together in 2016 or how Jadon Sancho and Harvey Elliott were prized from their roots of Watford and Fulham respectively to head north to Manchester City and Liverpool at such young ages? Click here to request our 'PlayerBacker' PDF manual - a FREE 30 page must have document for any football academy parent.

What is football academy compensation and how could it effect my child?

In essence, if a club invests time and resources into training a player then upon an extension being offered (the club want the player) the player rejects the offer - rules are in place to allow the club being exited to receive 'compensation' for the work they have put into training the player to date.

 

Prior to 2011, this was determined either by mutual agreement between the clubs or on a case-by-case basis via tribunal with the decision being based on the potential of the player. The fee was usually paid upfront with future payments based on first team or international appearances. There was sometimes also a sell-on percentage, such as when Jermain Defoe moved from Charlton to West Ham aged 16 the award was £400,000 upfront with another £1.25m based on future club/international appearances and a 15% sell-on-fee.

 

The Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), launched by the FA in 2011 introduced a fixed system of compensation when a player moves between academies. This was intended to allow players to move to the best academies in the country, whilst avoiding the complex Tribunal system of awarding compensation, but still ensuring the original club receives some money for the time and resources they have invested in the player.

How does the EPPP player compensation system work?

 

When a player signs to an academy from U9 – U16 they begin to accrue a compensation value for each year they are developed.

 

The amount of compensation accruing each year is shown below:

Age Group of the Player

Category of the Academy

Yearly Compensation Amount

U9 -U11​

U12 - U16

U12 - U16

U12 - U16

All Categories

Category 1

Category 2

Category 3

£3,000

£40,000

£25,000

£12,500

Do football academy players get paid?

Yes, academy players once they sign a scholarship are paid. Before this point, once a player joins an academy of course a 10 year old will not receive wages, however, their family could receive financial help for things such as travel and the tuition of siblings on site while the player trains is common for example. 

Players can be offered a scholarship deal from 1st Jan of their 14th birth year and no later than 31st March of their U16s season (31st December Cat 1). Academy scholars’ wages at Premier League and Football League clubs are on average set at £165 per week with an increase to £175 in the second year. They are apprentice minimum wages just the same as an apprentice electrician or plumber would receive. While the most highly rated are offered a professional contract at 17, others spend a full two years on scholar wages.

The very best 17-year-olds in English football now command professional deals despite many never having been part of their club’s first-team squad and these can be pre-agreed from the 1st January in their 14th birth year. Young players offered pro contracts could be on anything from £300 - a few £thousand per week. The majority of Chelsea young pros are on £1,000+ per week for example. Raheem Sterling signed a pro contract at 17 after making his senior debut at 16 years for a reported 30k per week.

The competition is fierce between the top category one academies to sign the best schoolboy talent, with boys and their families agreeing a “scholar plus professional deal” or pre-agreement deal in which they automatically move to the latter on their 17th birthday. The pro contract a club can offer a 17-year-old is like that of any other pro players’ (although can be max 3 years if 17) but normally range from £300 – £1.5k per week and will typically be renegotiated:

  • On the players’ 18th birthday (he can sign a 5-year deal)

  • After 1st team debut

  • After 10 x 1st team appearances

  • Senior national team debut

An agent will often oversee all of the above as well as the players’ first pro contract.

At what age can a player sign to an agent (football intermediary)?

A player can sign to an FA Licensed intermediary on the 1st January of their sixteenth birth year. Make sure the intermediary is cleared to represent minors (players aged under 18) by the FA via their regularly updated list of FA licensed intermediaries. Football intermediaries play an important role for the player throughout their careers and this is no different at the early stage. The intermediary may assist with:

  • Negotiating the player's first pro deal (must be 17 years old and max term is 3 years)

  • Re-negotiate the player's deal once they turn 18 years old or reach certain milestones (player can sign a 5 year deal once turned 18)

  • Assist with a loan move for a young player to get experience

  • Provide advice and negotiate deals regarding commercial opportunities