Brighton & Hove Albion’s academy has been awarded Category One status, the highest ranking under the Premier League’s Elite Players Performance Plan (EPPP).
After years of meticulous planning and hard work, head of football operations David Burke and his team were granted the status that they have been striving for, meaning Albion are now recognised as one of the best clubs in the country in terms of facilities, staff and opportunities for young players.
The award, which will see the under-21, under-18 and under-16 teams coming up against some of the biggest sides in England, gives Albion’s youth setup the same recognition as clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.
Burke told seagulls.co.uk, “It is fantastic news. We have worked long and hard to get here and we are delighted with what we have achieved.
“Firstly we need to thank Tony Bloom for the financial support he has provided to get us to this level. Tony has given the club magnificent facilities in terms of the Amex and now the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre, and with his continued investment in our youth policy; he has been integral to us taking this next step.
“On a personal note I would like to thank John Morling and all his team who have done a fantastic job to take us from a centre of excellence in 2012, to a category one academy in 2014.
“This has been a seismic change over the last two years and his staff have dealt with the pressures of two full inspections - comparable to an Ofsted report - in order to pass all the criteria in education, coaching, medical, strength and conditioning, analysis, recruitment and sport science."
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Burke added, “In addition, the administration that comes with this process is a huge task which brings a lot of pressure, but everyone has done an excellent job and I am grateful to them for their efforts.
“The advantage of our new status means our players will test themselves week-in, week-out against the best players in the country, in the best facilities to help them develop. However, despite everything at their disposal, the basis for any young Brighton player’s progression will remain hard work and putting in the hours.
"The new status also gives us a better scope for recruitment opportunities as well as in developing the players we already have. We now feel with a Category one academy, a commitment from Sami and his staff to give the young players a pathway, along with the qualified development staff who provide bespoke training plans for our young players, there is a recipe success here at Albion.”
Chairman Tony Bloom added, “The news is terrific. We have a real emphasis on developing and nurturing young talent at Brighton and I am delighted with the award.
“It has been a primary goal for a while and I am pleased we managed to achieve it so quickly. I commend David, John Morling and the rest of their team for the tremendous job they have done.”
Albion’s under-21s will now enter a national league containing sides such as Newcastle and Aston Villa, and Simon Ireland’s team start their league campaign against Blackburn Rovers in August. Under-21 fixtures will continue to be played at either Culver Road, Lancing, or at the Amex.
The under-18s and 16s enter the southern regional leagues and will come up against Arsenal and Chelsea. Full fixture lists for the under-21s ad under-18s will be released in due course.