The decision of the Club to opt out of the EPPP system is a major change of direction and one clearly not taken lightly.
BFC embraced the new scheme wholeheartedly when it was launched, and invested heavily in establishing and maintaining the Club’s Academy. Indeed, we were one of only three clubs in the third tier of English football to have their Academy accorded Category 2 status and have consistently invested more than the minimum specified under the rules in order that it should compete with other Academies of the same rank. Half a decade on from the initial decision to invest in this the Club – with Matthew Benham’s support – has given it every chance to succeed.
Bees United’s main concern has always been the long term sustainability of the Football Club, and the Academy plan was developed as a contributory factor of achieving that sustainability, either by producing players of sufficient quality for the 1st team each season, or of sufficient quality to command high transfer fees. If, as a result of this extensive review, which we know has been conducted over several months, the Club has assessed those aims cannot be realised in the current market, it calls investment in this area, at least at the current level, into serious question.
The other element of the BU manifesto is the desire for the Club to be closely connected to its community, and there is always excitement among fans when local young talent is seen to come through to the 1st team. However, the current Academy structure is only one means of achieving this aim. BU were heartened to see mention in the official statement of the Club working more closely with the Club’s Community Sports Trust in its efforts to work differently with youngsters in the local area. The BFC CST is one of the leaders in its field nationally and has massive reach in the community through their well established Football Development Centres for local talented young footballers. A stronger alliance with the Club can only extend the reach and improve the impact of this activity to the benefit of both parties.
This decision by BFC is entirely consistent with its policy of thinking differently about every aspect of the business, of analysing every facet of how the Club operates, and of being single-minded about how a club like Brentford, with more limited financial resources than many others, can achieve its ambition of gaining sustainability and promotion to the Premier League. Every choice, particularly one that challenges the conventions of the industry, will prompt criticism or scepticism, and, of course, success is never guaranteed. However, given the calls for investment across all facets of the Club’s business, and the assessment that we are not getting the expected return on investment in this area, BU endorses this change of direction. We were pleased that the Club has applied particular focus to briefing the staff, the young players and their families before making any public statement, and to support them through this process.