The youth academy of Premier League side Swansea City has achieved the EPPP Category 2 status thanks to improvements to staffing levels and expansion of the academy’s facilities.
Youth academy categorisation was brought about with the introduction of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), a long term strategy aimed at improving Premier League Youth Development. The better the rating, the better chance the academies have of signing better players and commanding larger fees. Applying for a new categorisation, however, is not a simple process.
The Club must submit a 2,000 page self-assessment, as well as undergo a rigorous audit over a range of criteria including teaching curriculum, facilities and staffing levels. As Academy Manager Nigel Rees put it “The EPPP is an effective tool in the development of academy players, but it can be time consuming.” With an audit fast approaching, the club knew they needed to expand their facilities in a short space of time, while keeping the development flexible enough for future expansion to meet Category 1 requirements.
Coming to the Wernick Group for a solution, in two days they had been provided with designs, drawings and a detailed quotation as well as being shown the Group’s manufacturing base at nearby Neath. It took just one week to install and fit four modular units at the 1st team training centre in Landore. The modular office units provide space for teaching, allowing the Club to provide the more formalised education crucial for preparing players for life outside football.
Meanwhile, at Fairwood Common new facilities were ordered on hire in mid-October and installed on the fourth of November. The training ground there is shared by many teams, including the Premier League 1st team, the University team and the women’s league teams. Players and referees there can now enjoy changing rooms with showers and toilets, as well as a pitch-side therapy and first aid room.
Handover took place the morning of the audit and, alongside the other improvements, the enhanced facilities ensure the Club were rewarded with a Category 2 classification. Nigel commented “All the staff are happy with the accommodation provided and it has served its purpose very well. The EPPP has been beneficial to the Academy as I think it has to all Academies; it ensures that players are given the opportunity to develop in an appropriate environment with all the support systems in place.”
As for the future, Nigel is optimistic. “We are hoping to move forward with the application for Category one sooner than originally planned,” he commented “but no final decision has been taken as yet. As an Academy we are making all necessary changes in line with the requirements for Category one and we have the full support of our Chairman and the Board. We are fortunate that we have this support and a hands on approach by senior staff at the Club.”