Ipswich Town apply for Category One academy status

Bryan Klug

Bryan Klug - Credit: Archant

TODAY could prove to be one of the most significant days in Ipswich Town’s recent history, as the club officially applies for Category One academy status.

Currently a Category Two academy, should the club be successful, following an independent audit, it will be able to sign the best players in the country, command the largest fees for academy players and play against the cream of English football’s best young talent, most probably from the start of the 2014/15 season.

But a move to Category One would see the club have to spend big in order to improve their current academy facilities, with extra classrooms, dressing rooms and physiotherapy rooms needed to provide for the increased amount of contact time with young players that would take place. That would require a minimum of 18 full-time staff and an operational budget of £2.5m, which would come out of owner Marcus Evans’ pocket.

Category One status is all part of the new four-tier system known as the EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan), a youth development scheme initiated by the Premier League.

The new layered system of the EPPP, initiated by the Premier League, means Town have to obtain Category One status to give themselves the best chance of signing and keeping hold of the best young talent in the country.

The regulations allow more movement of youngsters between academies at younger ages and the fixing of transfer fees, which allows the top clubs to cherry-pick the best talent, for small fees.

“We are currently in Category Two and delivering a great programme but if you want to compete for the best players, you have got to nail down Category One status,” said Town academy director, Bryan Klug.

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“If you are not starting out with the best players then you are making it really difficult. We want to be the best academy in the area and that’s no disrespect to Norwich, West Ham or up the road at Colchester.

“The bigger clubs (in Category One) can offer better packages to these youngsters so why wouldn’t they choose to go there if they are given an extra pair of boots or training kit?

“The EPPP has thrown a lot of money at the academy system and it’s become a lot more competitive.

“I have seen the standard at Tottenham and we are not kidding ourselves that we can do the same, but we want to be on the same playing field doing it our way. It’s my job to make this place the one that everybody chooses.”

Town want to get under way with their audit as soon as possible but even if they were to be awarded Category One status, it wouldn’t come into effect straight away.

“You can ask for an audit as soon as possible,” said Klug.

“It won’t be this season so we won’t be in the programme next season but we want to be ready for the audit by December (this year) or January (2014).

“I would like to start operating in that (Category One) manner a month or two leading up to the audit.”

FOR everything you need to know about the academy system, the Blues’ bid and the EPPP, read Chris Brammer’s in-depth interview with Town academy director Bryan Klug, in today’s East Anglian Daily Times.