ALBION are delighted to announce the club’s Academy has been awarded Category One status under the new Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP).
The Academy has earned a three-year licence from the Barclays Premier League following an audit from the Independent Standards Organisation.
In order to meet EPPP criteria, the club have developed their training facilities, appointed additional coaching, medical, sports science, recruitment and operational staff, and built a brand new fourth-generation UEFA two-star football pitch, which sits next to the club’s Indoor Training Facility, off Halfords Lane.
The club have made this significant investment to keep pace with the sweeping changes in youth football with the ultimate goal of producing more home-grown players with the ability to break into the first team.
Having Category One status will also significantly boost Albion’s chances of keeping hold of their best Academy players.
Dan Ashworth, Albion's Sporting & Technical Director, said: “There has been a continual improvement to the club’s Academy over the past eight years and earning Category One status reflects how hard the staff have worked to ensure we have one of the best youth setups in the country.
“In improving our facilities and employing additional staff, the club have shown we are fully committed to the ongoing improvement of the Academy.
“The staff have worked tirelessly since the summer to achieve Category One status and they should be incredibly proud of themselves.
“The goal now is to produce more home-grown players who are capable of performing in the first team in years to come.”
Academy Manager, Mark Harrison, added: “We are delighted to have achieved Category One status on the back of the club’s investment in our young players and the Academy as a whole.
“Looking long term, it is important that the club have made this step as the rules and regulations regarding home-grown players are enforced.
“We have a very conscientious, hard-working staff who are passionate about producing players for our first team.
“They go beyond the call of duty so I think it is important to point out that this achievement is a result of their efforts.
“The feedback we received from the auditors was extremely positive and I think it is fair to say we have an Academy that competes with the very best in the country.
“Category One clubs are in an elite group and I expect only around 18 of the 92 league clubs to gain this status.
"Being a Category One Academy club means we now have the option to recruit players nationally at Under 15/16 level. We will also be able to do this at Under-12 level from 2014/15.
“That being said, producing local players will continue to be at the very core of our DNA and one of the biggest advantages of being a Category One club is that we are now in a stronger position to keep hold of our best Academy players.”