POLL: Should Ipswich Town invest �2 million a year in upgrading their academy?

IPSWICH Town will not be forced into following in the footsteps of arch rivals Norwich City by investing �2 million a year in Academy facilities.

That is the message from chief executive Simon Clegg who said the decision to apply for top tier youth status – which would allow the Blues to try to attract youngsters nationally – was not an easy one to make.

Norwich City have announced plans to go for the ‘category one’ status when the new four-tier Academy system comes into play in 2012/13.

But despite fears that Town could end up playing second fiddle to their Norfolk neighbours, Clegg insisted: “The fact Norwich are pushing forward will have no bearing on what we decide. We won’t be forced into anything, we will do the right thing for this football club.

“With the additional money it (going category one) is going to cost, you have to weigh up the benefits of doing that. It is a significant increase in what we are spending at the moment. But it is a not a financial or football decision only.

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“It will be a decision the three of us (Marcus Evans, Clegg and Paul Jewell) will come to.”

To apply for the top status, Clegg admitted Town would have to double their current Academy investment – something many fans would back considering the success of the club’s famed youth system over the years. Connor Wickham was sold this summer for �8.1m, potentially rising to �12m, but Clegg said it was not as simple as producing a top player every few years.

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The chief executive said: “You have to ask what are the benefits? One of the benefits is that you can ‘poach’ on a wide basis.

“But realistically, how many parents from just outside Newcastle are going to let someone under the age of 15 relocate down to Ipswich?

“Most people who have young teenagers, in an ideal world, will want them to grow up at home and continue their footballing skills within the normal family environment.”

An advantage of the ‘category one’ status would be clubs could attract players from across the country rather than youngsters who live within 90 minutes of their ground.

But Clegg said the club would not be making a decision until there are more concrete details for the new structure – including what impact an increase in the academy budget would have in the financial fair play agreement which Championship clubs have agreed to adopt in the coming seasons.

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