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Academy focus on re-audit

2 March 2014

In-depth You Tube video about changes

AFC Wimbledon’s Academy coaching staff are confident of passing a re-audit that they believe is essential to ensure a flourishing youth section at the club.

to view the video.Dons You Tube During a video interview for the club’s official You Tube channel, Youth & Community Director Nigel Higgs, along with academy coaches Mark Robinson and Jeremy Sauer, spoke passionately about ensuring that the club earns category three status under the EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan). Click on  

The EPPP is the process that determines the club’s eligibility to run an academy and funding is based on what level they are operating at. AFC Wimbledon’s academy is expected to be re-audited by the start of May.

Nigel explained why the club’s academy requires a re-audit and talked about the changes that will be made before reassessment. As part of this, Mark will switch from Academy Manager to Head of Coaching and Jeremy’s job title will change from Operations Manager to Academy Manager.

Nigel said: “At the beginning of last season a round of audits were started by an independent standards organisation and they have assessed the suitability of clubs to operate academies in the English game. We have been operating at academy three level for a season and a half under a license granted by the Football League.

“Back in the Autumn, it was our turn to be audited. This involved a process of us submitting documentation into an online tool, before we had a visit from auditors at the beginning of November. That process was incredibly thorough and required an awful lot of hard work from our staff. Unfortunately, we received the final report and we did not meet the required standard for a category three club.

“The recommendation was that we operate at category four, which would only allow us to operate teams at Under-18 and Under-21 level. That would be a devastating result for staff, players and the club’s ambitions because we currently operate teams all the way up from Under-9 to senior level. One of the main reasons why we fell short was because of the Productivity criterion, which is based on the number of players developed by an academy currently in the Premier League or Football League.

“As a new club to the Football league, we argued it was impossible for us to score any points in this area and following representations by the Football League to the Professional Game Board (PGB) we have the opportunity of a re-audit. This will take out the Productivity criterion and give us a much fairer playing field. We now have a very good chance of achieving category three status.

“The board of directors, the Dons Trust and the first-team management have all been very supportive. We have a lot more hard work to do and we will be changing things. However, this gives us a great opportunity to reverse the original decision and fit in with the strategy of the club, which is to develop our own players.”

Mark Robinson and Jeremy Sauer have had their coaching titles changed so that the academy will be more suited to the “best practice” recommended by auditors.

Mark said: “Our ethos as a club is to bring through young local boys and that’s what we’ve got with our current Under-18s. This is about a process that we must follow and not about us lacking the coaching skills to bring players through. This season we’ve had 16-year-olds playing Under-21 football. I was proud to be Academy Manager, but that was just the way it panned out because I set-up the Under-18s after coming out of Sunday football.

“I was doing 30 per cent of the Academy Manager role while also being on the training pitch coaching for five or six days a week. Jeremy is the best man to do the academy manager job; he is based in the office and is good at leading projects. I will be out coaching and that’s my best role. It’s not about job titles though because it is about doing the best for this football club.”

Jeremy added that fulfilling the criteria required for EPPP academy three status has helped the academy to increase standards.

  “It has been a massive amount of work for us to be a category three club under the EPPP,” he said. “But there have been lots of things in there that have helped us. The process and the procedures and how professionally we have had to run the academy can only be of benefit to us in the long-term. We have embraced it, but we have to ensure we get over this hurdle. Then we feel that we can really push players forward towards the first-team. “

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