Following a recent Premier League audit, Sunderland AFC’s Academy has been awarded Category One status, the highest classification for an Academy.
Academies are independently audited on a three-year cycle and given a category status of one to four, with one being the most elite. The audit is an intense process that forensically analyses every aspect of the Academy operation. A range of factors are considered in the grading, including productivity rates, training facilities, coaching, education, and welfare provisions.
Sunderland AFC’s Academy received a glowing report, highlighting its ‘well developed and structured vision, mission, objectives and strategy’. Significant praise was also given to its staff, who the Premier League said had a ‘shared, defined reason as to what they stand for and where they are going’. The report showed a substantial improvement on the previous audit three years ago.
Speaking about the award, Sunderland AFC’s Academy Manager, Paul Reid, said: “The awarding of Category One status is testament to the professionalism, work ethic and dedication of everyone involved in our Academy operation.
“We have a fantastic team of people here, who work tirelessly on behalf of the club and so to be recognised among the very best youth academies in the country is something we are all rightly very proud of. I would like to personally thank them for their diligence during the audit process and their commitment to upholding the principles and values of our Academy in everything they do.”
Chairman Stewart Donald said: “Developing home grown talent is key for our club and a thriving youth development programme should always be one of our core principles. I am especially delighted for the Academy staff, they do an incredible job day in day out and we very much appreciate their hard work.”
The Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) has six fundamental principles, including increasing the number and quality of home-grown players gaining professional contracts at clubs and playing first-team football at the highest level, creating more time for players to play and be coached, improving coaching provision and implementing a system of effective measurement and quality assurance.
During the 2018-19 season two or more Academy graduates featured in every first-team squad, a 100% record. For comparison, the EFL average for this is 62%. The 9-14 age groups have been prolific in the last 12 months in terms of the tournaments and trophies they have won, at both national and international level.
Paul Reid continued: ““We have a great framework in place, giving us solid foundations on which to continue to develop the Academy. Being awarded Category One is a great achievement, but we know there is still much work to be done. We’ve brought in new staff to complement our existing team and are in the process of revamping our recruitment department, with the aim of expanding our reach and targeted talent pool and in turn, making the Academy stronger
“The under 9-16 age groups are excelling, which is really pleasing to see. We know there are challenges at present with the under 18 and under 23 age groups. The task at these age groups is to compete against the very best in the country on what is an uneven playing field. The pleasing aspect of this result is that the elements within our control have been independently graded as elite and we have given ourselves the very best chance of addressing this specific test.
“As a group we are embracing these challenges and finding the best way forward for our players and the Academy as a whole.”