Birmingham City confirm Academy downgrade to Category Two

Birmingham were awarded a provisional one-year Category One licence

Birmingham were awarded a provisional one-year Category One licence

BIRMINGHAM CITY have become the first club to have their Academy forcibly downgraded after losing an appeal to the Professional Game Board (PGB).

The club today confirmed that they would be operating a Category Two Academy next season after the PGB rejected their appeal against the Professional Game Academy Audit Company (PGAAC) decision.

“Whilst we are disappointed with the results of the audit and the decision of the PGAAC, we acknowledge the many challenges associated with operating a Category One Academy and that costs have been significantly higher than anticipated," the club said.

“This has presented a sizeable obstacle when attempting to meet the required Category One conditions.”

This was perhaps surprising, as the costs of operating different categories of Academy are clearly laid down in the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP).

The Blues were granted coveted Category One status for the first time last May. However, the licence was only on a one-year provisional basis because auditors were unable to do on-site visits due to Covid.

A full audit was then conducted in February this year and flagged issues with strategy, staffing and budget (clubs are required to invest a minimum amount in the Academy depending on their Category status).

The decision of the auditors to reject Birmingham’s Category One application was ratified by the PGAAC Board. Birmingham appealed this decision, with the Football Association’s PGB acting as the final arbiters and backing the PGAAC.

While clubs have previously moved down Categories - Bolton, Brentford, Huddersfield, Swansea and Watford - this has been on a voluntary basis.

“As a club, we pride ourselves on the clear pathway that exists from our Academy to our first team and remains committed to producing players capable of competing for places in the Senior Squad," Birmingham said in a statement.

“The number of Academy graduates who made first team appearances in the 2021/22 campaign was more than any season in the past decade. We recently operated a thriving Category Two Academy and will prepare our teams for an equally successful future, striving for excellence, and will work hard over the coming months to address the factors that informed the PGB’s decision.”

The decision will be officially ratified by the PGB at their next meeting on Tuesday 24 May.

CONCERNS ABOUT BURNLEY AND FOREST ACADEMIES

Three Category Two clubs were awarded provisional Category One status in 2020 - Burnley, Crystal Palace, and Leeds United - and two in 2021 - Birmingham and Nottingham Forest.

Usually, a three-year licence would have been awarded, but the inability to do on-site inspections because of Covid meant the licences were only provisional to 2022.

Crystal Palace and Leeds have had their Category One status rubber-stamped following full inspections this year, but auditors raised concerns about both the Burnley and Forest Academies (as well as Birmingham's), meaning their applications will have to go before the PGAAC Board when it next meets at the end of May. So too will Peterborough’s application to go Category Two.

Birmingham City - and their Academy - have had a tumultuous couple of years. In December 2020, the club released a statement announcing their intention to scrap age groups below the Professional Development Phase (Under-17s) and effectively abandon the Category One application, only to reverse the decision just 24 hours later.

Last May, the club announced that the Category One application had been successful. In June 2021, Craig Gardner was promoted from assistant manager to Technical Director and two months later Paul Williams replaced the long-serving Mike Dodds as Academy Manager.

The club are currently being linked with a takeover by former Watford chairman Laurence Bassini, funded by West Ham co-owner David Sullivan.

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