Tranmere to Operate a Category 4 Academy, Focusing on Development of Players from 16+
In the Spring, the Club announced that it was forced to rethink the way it develops young players as a consequence of:
- the impact both of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) system, which has shifted the financial risk of player development to those Clubs lower down the football pyramid who can least afford it;
- having lost the right to register players under the age of 16 as a consequence of being in the National League (enabling them to leave us without us receiving any compensation); and
- having lost all of our academy funding, again as a result simply of being in the National League.
The outcome was that it was decided that for the 2018/19 season we would provide free coaching and a games programme only for players aged 16 and above; and that for younger players, to take a completely new approach to assisting with their development within their existing clubs.
Having now secured our return to the EFL, we are eligible to re-join the EPPP system and to receive some funding toward the costs of running an academy, but this does not change the structural issues which make it very difficult for clubs outside of the Premier League to thrive in an EPPP environment, particularly with respect to players in the younger age groups.
We have therefore now decided that for the 2018/9 season, and indeed the foreseeable future, we will operate a Category 4 Academy. A Category 4 Academy effectively does what we had already decided to do – take registrations of only players aged 16+ - but by re-joining the EPPP system we will be eligible to receive a modest amount of funding towards the running costs.
As planned in the Spring, we shall recruit players aged 16 and above from the many category 1 and 2 academies in the North West who release large numbers of talented players and from the successful local schools' associations which has always been a traditional source of talent for Tranmere Rovers.
For the younger age groups, we will continue with the plans put in place in the Spring to strengthen our relationship with local grassroots club footballs and schools associations, and to create new centres of excellence for Wirral and Merseyside youngsters, with high quality coaching available to all at affordable prices for those who want additional coaching outside of their regular club training.
By electing for Category 4 status, we are effectively able to continue with our plans to focus on the older age groups, but we will receive some financial assistance in doing so. We remain of the view that the planned changes will enable us to produce talented professional footballers and make a vastly improved contribution to Wirral football for younger players.