Birmingham to downgrade Academy after dramatic u-turn

Bellingham joined Birmingham's Academy as an Under-8 

Bellingham joined Birmingham's Academy as an Under-8 

BIRMINGHAM CITY have admitted they are set to scrap all teams below their Under-17s - just three months after announcing they had applied for Category One Academy status.

The Blues, who have been a Category Two Academy since the inception of the EPPP system in 2012, released a statement saying they would “be looking at remodelling the Academy system and exploring a B and C Team model.”

In doing that they would be following a similar path to Huddersfield Town, who announced they were dropping from Category Two to Four in July 2018 and only running U17 and U19 teams.

Just three months ago, Birmingham announced they had applied for top status, with CEO Dong Ren saying: “We are extremely proud of our Academy programme and it represents the backbone of our football structure.”

Now they have made a u-turn, citing the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit (which were obviously known about in September) as contributing factors.

"The review has highlighted that in the current climate, with the associated costs of operating an Academy system of 10 different age groups, developing value is becoming increasingly difficult," the club said in a statement this evening.

There are three main reasons for downgrading the Academy, Birmingham explained:

  • "Firstly, we share an immediate geographical catchment area with a number of other professional football clubs which makes attracting the best young talents from the local region increasingly difficult." (TGG: Neighbours Aston Villa have been embarking on a major Academy recruitment drive this year, while nearby West Brom and Wolves also have Category One Academies).
  • "Secondly, whilst we continue to field a competitive Under-23s team in the Professional Development League, there lies difficulty in exposing players to the standard of football which renders them equipped and ready for our first team." (TGG: There is an ongoing debate in football about whether U23 competition properly prepares players for senior football).
  • "Additionally, the necessary resource and funding of the Academy has to make sense from a business perspective. The review has highlighted that in the current climate, with the associated costs of operating an academy system of ten different age groups, developing value is becoming increasingly difficult."

The statement added: “The club acknowledge that the proposed changes will impact a number of current staff and players within the existing system.

“We will be opening discussions with those affected in the coming weeks and months and commit to supporting both staff and players during the transitional process.

“The club will also be answering the concerns and queries of all those involved and will provide further clarity on the situation where possible. The magnitude of the club’s decision to remodel the Academy is firmly understood.”

This evening, the club has also written to parents of Academy players telling them they were “exploring opportunities to enhance the Academy programme.”

It added: "The club have been researching ways for a period of time of restructuring the Academy with a specific focus on re-branding the Professional Development Phase in order to increase productivity, opportunity and pathway within the Academy to support the first team."

On Friday, Academy Manager Kristjaan Speakman left Birmingham after 14 years to become the new Sporting Director at Sunderland.

Last season, 10 Academy graduates were called up to Birmingham’s first team - Steve Seddon, Jude Bellingham, Geraldo Bajrami, Odin Bailey, Caolan Boyd-Munce, Jack Concannon, Ryan Burke, Nico Gordon, Miguel Fernandez and Jayden Reid.

Bellingham had established himself as a regular starter prior to his move to Borussia Dortmund for a fee of about £30m and went on to win his first England cap. The club retired his number 22 shirt after the move.

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