Academy Manager Richard Stevens opens up about the status of the Coventry City FC Academy...
In light of recent reports about the Academy's future at the Alan E Higgs Centre, the club would like to explain what it means to have a Category 2 Academy and what the requirements are for maintaining one.
What is A Category 2 Academy?
Maintaining a Category 2 Academy takes a big commitment from the Football Club. There are four academy categories, with one being the highest rating and four being the lowest. “Category 2” means that the football club passed an audit by the Premier League that the club is able to fulfill a set of very specific criteria. The audit process from the Premier League works on a three-year cycle, with the current cycle beginning in the upcoming season 2016/2017. The process involves a rigorous look at the function of the Academy across a set of pre-determined criteria:
• Club Vision and Values
• Coaching Programme
• Sports Science and Medicine
• Education and Welfare
The football club’s own investment in achieving these criteria – currently about £600,000 per year – is then supplemented by a Grant from the Premier League in the region of £500,000. This joint figure of roughly £1.1 million is then dedicated to the Academy and allows it to fulfill the required criteria. This money is paid once an Academy Performance plan has been produced, followed by an online submission against over 300 specific requirements and then confirmed by a five-day audit inspection from an independent company.
What Is The Premier League’s Academy Audit?
Over the previous three-year cycle we have developed and delivered a programme that has been recognised as “outstanding” in the First Audit report. This, along with an excellent productivity rating that was recently released and widely reported on, has given us clear indication that we will maintain our status in the Audit Process that is currently underway. The club have until September 30th to submit an Academy Performance plan and Mandatory Core Conditions prior to a five-day audit, taking place some time between October 16th and April 17th.
The facility requirements – indoor and outdoor pitches, offices, classrooms – are vital for the audit to be successful. This is a core requirement, without which it will be impossible to pass the upcoming audit. As is well known, during the summer of 2013 the club spent a period of time away from the Academy base due to ongoing negotiations between the Alan Higgs Charity and the Coventry City FC.
During this time the Academy worked out of two local facilities on a temporary basis. Had the Academy not returned to the Higgs Centre when we did, our status would have been under threat. The support of the Football League and everyone involved in the Academy at the time ensured that we were able to continue to deliver a programme that fulfilled all of the criteria.
How Important Are the Indoor and Outdoor Artificial Turf Areas?
As with all the facilities requirements, these are critical. The facilities for Category 2 and indeed even the lesser Category 3 require direct access to an indoor football area, an outdoor floodlit 3G pitch, grass pitches, and classroom and office space. The key to fulfilling these requirements is that the Academy has to have guaranteed and exclusive use during the times they are needed to run the various programmes and training sessions.
So for example, the Academy currently have access to four grass pitches at the Alan Higgs Centre, seven days per week and have exclusivity during these times. This allows us to run the Under-18s and Under-21s training programmes and also a vocational school release programme between for U11s-U16s on three afternoons per week. This equates to between 20 and 40 hours of grass time per week depending on the time of year and school holidays. Weekend fixtures are played on a Saturday morning and Sunday morning.
The indoor area and the outdoor 3G pitch each are used for 12 hours a week. At no time can the club share these pitches during these hours, as this would be in breach of Premier League/EPPP criteria. To maintain Category 2 status the club need exclusive use of a facility during all working hours.
Is There Anything You’d Like To Add?
Over the past ten years and beyond the partnership with the Alan Higgs Centre has allowed an excellent working relationship between Academy and Centre staff. It has allowed Coventry City FC to run an Academy that has given over 32 Academy players the opportunity to become professional footballers. As an Academy Manager the work of the staff and the commitment and desire from the players and parents has been a joy to be part of. I am sure the supporters and club have also been proud and pleased with the outcomes.
With the audit year upon us, it is important we maintain the high standard set over previous years and look to continue to provide the local talent within the area the opportunity to represent this Football Club and provide the most promising youngsters in Coventry with a development pathway to the highest level of the sport.