Burnley set to lose Category One & West Brom put in 'special measures'

Burnley rose from Category Three to One in just three years

Burnley rose from Category Three to One in just three years

BURNLEY'S Academy is set to be demoted to Category Two status and West Brom's placed into 'special measures' following a meeting of the Professional Game Board last week - but Nottingham Forest have been granted a Category One licence pending a further inspection by auditors.

All three Academies failed their four-day on-site audits earlier this year. The process that followed was:

  • An on-site meeting between each Academy and the Professional Game Academy Audit Company (PGAAC) to discuss the reasons why they had failed.
  • A meeting of the PGAAC Board to discuss the recommendations of the auditors and to then either revise, ratify or reject them.
  • A meeting of English football's final arbiter, the Football Association's Professional Game Board (PGB), last week to rule on the decisions.

The PGB agreed with PGAAC's decision to withdraw Burnley's Category One licence, which had been granted on a provisional two-year basis in July 2020 (it had been provisional because Covid meant full on-site audits were not possible in 2020).

Burnley did submit a detailed ‘letter of mitigation’, along with supporting documents, arguing that the failings identified by auditors at the start of this year had been down to Covid.

The PGB have asked for further information and Burnley believe the process is still ongoing. But, as things stand, the Clarets will lose their Category One status from the start of next season. As the PGB is English football’s final arbiter, Burnley would need to mount a legal challenge through the courts in order to try and overturn their demotion.

Burnley rose from Category Three to One between 2017 and 2020, which former Chief Executive Neil Hart described as a “tremendous accolade” and Academy Manager Jon Pepper said would "help us compete for the best players and retain the best players."

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ALK Capital, who completed a leveraged buy-out of the club in December 2020, have consistently emphasised the importance of the youth set-up to their vision for Burnley.

When the Clarets were granted Category One licence in the summer of 2020, prior to ALK's takeover, previous Academy Manager Pepper explained the importance of the promotion in more detail.

“I think this further raising of the bar will have a really positive impact and bridge the gap between Academy football and senior football," he said.

“We’re hoping the games’ programme is enhanced, in terms of what we’ve been used to at Category Two, and in terms of recruitment it will have obvious benefits. Players are attracted to Category One environments.

“It will help us compete for the best players and retain the best players. The concept is ‘best with best’, so it will be a challenge for us on the playing side. At the older end, the 18s and 23s, we will be playing some quality opposition."

In June 2021, Pepper left the club after five years and was subsequently replaced by Paul Jenkins, who had previously been ALK’s football advisor.

Meanwhile, West Brom have been placed into what amounts to 'special measures', meaning they will have to meet a number of action points regarding their Academy or else lose their Category One status. A further inspection by PGAAC will take place during the 2022/23 season.

The Baggies have been a Category One club since the inception of EPPP in 2012. In fact for many years they were regarded as a flagship Academy.

Nottingham Forest have been granted a one-year Category One licence pending a further inspection by auditors during the 2022/23 season. Forest were granted a provisional Category One licence last season, having previously been a Category Two club since the start of EPPP.

Peterborough have been granted a full three-year Category Two licence following a meeting of the PGAAC board. Issues had been identified during their audit, but those have subsequently been addressed and PGAAC recommended to PGB that they get a full Category Two licence.

As TGG reported last month, Birmingham have already been demoted to Category Two status.

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