Leeds and Town fear for future of youth academies

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SHAUN HARVEY says Leeds United will have to review their Academy operation after the adoption of revolutionary new plans for youth football was approved by the Football League.

The new Elite Performance Plan was passed by a margin of 46 votes to 22 at a meeting of the clubs earlier this week.

Under the new system, the amount of coaching contact time for players in the country’s top academies will be increased.

Payments to clubs for youth development will also increase but the regulations also include the abolition of the transfer tribunal system, to be replaced by a fixed level of compensation – leading to fears that lower-league teams will lose top young talent to bigger clubs on the cheap.

Harvey has highlighted the case of Luke Garbutt, who left United to join Everton as a 16-year-old for a tribunal-fixed fee of £600,000 with a further £750,000 possibly paid depending on appearances. Leeds were also granted a 20 per cent sell-on clause.

The United chief executive said: “Under the new system, the £600,000 would have been replaced by £134,000.

“Our costs and time will have been exactly the same so it’s fair to say that’s why I believe this is a dark day for clubs who actively develop youth players over a period of time.

“We are going to have to review how we operate. Our Academy has actually generated some very substantial transfer fees but that’s not our motive for running the Academy.

“Our motive is to try and bring players through into our first-team squad. The first-team squad at the moment has probably seven players who have come through our Academy.

“I certainly think there will be a dilution of what clubs are doing because if you look at losing players for a reduced amount of compensation that doesn’t cover the cost of running a development scheme then there will be many clubs looking at the situation to see if it’s worthwhile.”

Huddersfield Town joined Leeds in voting against the plans, as did United’s opponents today, Peterborough, whose director Barry Fry voiced concerns that many lower league clubs may opt to shut down their youth systems.

League chairman Greg Clarke, however, said: “We hope Football League clubs continue to develop, retain and fill their first teams with top local talent.

“There is always a danger under the new scheme that larger clubs will be a bit more predatory. We hope we don’t see that.”