Leeds United still hoping to graduate their academy

Leeds United are working to try to ensure their bid to join the ranks of the country’s top football academies is not put on hold for a year because of the coronavirus.

Ready to move: Leeds United coach Marcelo Bielsa outside the current training headquarters.

In 2012, the Premier League, Football League and Football Association created the Elite Player Performance Plan in attempt to improve the quality and quantity of home-grown players. Clubs are audited annually and put into one of four categories, with more funding and privileges the higher the category.

This season, Leeds were hoping to move from Category Two to the top level.

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The academies had already been audited this season, and given “action points” to improve on by the end of May but in light of the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, there will be no opportunity to assess if those changes have been made satisfactorily.

Clubs wishing to upgrade may now have to wait until 2021-22, but Leeds are in talks to see if that can be avoided.

Developing players has long been a strong point of the club, but as well as productivity and coaching, the EPPP makes high demands on training facilities, education and welfare provisions. Long-term, the Whites are looking to move away from their Thorp Arch training complex to one better equipped to meet the demands.

Recruitment is less restricted and the compensation when players leave greater for academies with a higher category.

Only Category One academies can play in Premier League 2, the leading Under-23 competition for reserve teams. They can also play in the Premier League International Cup, EFL Trophy and Premier League Cup.

Middlesbrough’s is the only Category One academy in Yorkshire. Some, such as Huddersfield Town’s, have voluntarily downgraded to give themselves greater freedom or lower costs.

It may be when the full financial damage of the covid-19 outbreak is assessed, more clubs go down this route.