The financial benefits to Sunderland AFC revealed as category one academy status retained

Sunderland have retained their category one academy status – but what does that mean for the club?

Friday, 7th February 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Friday, 7th February 2020, 3:31 pm

We take a look at exactly what being a category one academy affords Sunderland, and the criteria they have had to meet to preserve the prestigious status:

EPPP explained

EPPP is the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan - an overhaul to the academy system designed to encourage homegrown talent.

Sign up to our Sunderland AFC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Sunderland AFC have maintained their category one academy status

Clubs are all given an academy category - ranked from one to four - which dictates how their academy must operate.

Sunderland have operated a category one academy since the introduction of EPPP.

Staffing structures

Having a category one academy places some heavy demands upon Sunderland - not least when it comes to staffing their academy set-up.

The Premier League Youth Development Rules lay-out exactly what staff each level of academy needs and, unsurprisingly, category one academies need to be equipped with a variety of staff to deal with all aspects of their developing footballers.

Leading up the academy is a full-time academy manager, who must hold a UEFA A Licence. For Sunderland, this is Paul Reid - whose official title is ‘Academy Director’.

He must be assisted by a full-time Academy Operations Manager and a full-time Academy Secretary, who will deal with all administration concerned with the academy.

The coaching staff is also extensive, with a Head of Academy Coaching leading up a pool of coaches which must include at least:

Two foundation phase (under-9 to under-11) coaches Three youth development phase (under-12 to under-16) coaches Three professional development phase (under-17 to under-21) coaches Two full-time goalkeeping coaches A senior professional development coach

The Premier League regulations also specify the club must recruit a number of physiotherapists, psychologists, sports scientists and strength and conditioning coaches - as well as appointing an Academy Doctor (although this role can be shared with the first team club doctor).

A qualified teacher also needs to be appointed as Head of Education, while a player care lead and a recruitment lead must also be in place. Ged McNamee recently returned to Sunderland in the latter of those roles.

In total, there are no fewer than 27 job roles that need to be filled as part of a category one academy, although it is worth noting that some roles can overlap or be combined with other responsibilities.

Facilities under the microscope

One area where Sunderland have little worry is facilities, with the Academy of Light continuing to be the envy of many in the game.

The Premier League do have guidelines for which facilities category one academies must have, and they are easily met by the Black Cats.

A number of grass and artificial pitches must be accompanied by an indoor pitch, which Sunderland have in the barn at the Academy of Light, and the Premier League check on these facilities once each season.

Coaching and recruitment guidelines

While Sunderland’s academy one status gives them the pick of the local talent on Wearside, there are some restrictions on where they can recruit players from.

The aim of EPPP was to promote local talent and, in the foundation phase, players can only live a maximum travel time of one hour away from the Academy of Light in order to sign for Sunderland.

Youth development phase layers must live no more than 90 minutes away.

There are also rules on how much coaching players must receive while in a category one academy - which are detailed below:

Foundation phase - 4 to 8 hours per week Youth development phase - 10 to 12 hours per week Professional development phase - 12 to 14 hours per week

These areas will all have been scrutinised in Sunderland’s recent audit.

The financials - and funding for Sunderland

The big question mark over operating a category one academy is finance.

Naturally, there are few - if any - other League One clubs who could afford to maintain an elite level academy given the costs involved.

While there is no set figure on the costs required to run an academy, given salaries and other expenditure will differ from club-to-club, research has been conducted into the financial burdens of EPPP.

Indeed, data released in 2012 estimated that running a category one academy could cost anywhere between £2.3million and £4.9million per year. That figure is thought to have increased since the research was published.

Naturally, this is a big expenditure for any club sitting outside the top flight and unable to benefit from the lucrative broadcast deals afforded to the top twenty teams in the country.

There is some help from the Premier League, who provide a financial contribution to running a category one academy. The exact amount that is contributed to club’s is unknown, but it must be match-funded, meaning there is still a significant outlay for Sunderland in running a category one academy.

But their status does afford them some financial benefits - particularly when it comes to securing compensation for any players who depart the club.

Premier League rules state that for players in the under-9 to under-11 age brackets, category one academies are entitled to £3,000 per year they spent at the Academy of Light should they move elsewhere. For players in the under-12 to under-16 age groups, that increases to £40,000 per year.

While these sums are not extravagant, they at least offer Sunderland an element of financial reward should their better players be tempted elsewhere - and are vastly superior sums to those afforded to category two academies.