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What does the EPPP mean for the future of English football?

In October last year, the 72 clubs of the Football League voted in favour of a new system regarding how fees are set for the sale of home-grown youth players, the Elite Player Performance Plan (or EPPP).

The Football League advised clubs to support the plan’s proposals, as suggested by the Premier League, to avoid the Premier League from withholding funding (of over £5m per season) for youth development.

The new system will be used instead of the tribunal system which is used to set transfer fees for home-grown youth players when clubs fail to agree upon a valuation.

The tribunal system had received criticism for how it handled some cases, most notably the transfer of John Bostock from Crystal Palace to Tottenham Hotspur which reportedly saw Spurs pay the Eagles an initial sum of £700,000 (potentially rising to £1.25m or higher).

So, how will the EPPP handle similar cases, and how could it benefit English football?

The EPPP was the response of the Premier League and the FA to a number of criticisms regarding the development of the English game and the quality and quantity of youth players coming through into the English national side.

Under scrutiny

The plan itself has also come under much scrutiny, mostly from a selection of Football League clubs, but most recently from England coach Fabio Capello who expressed his concerns over the richer clubs in Europe poaching young players.

Several representatives of Football League clubs have also hit out against the system, most notably Crystal Palace co-chairman Steve Parish, director of football at Peterborough United Barry Fry and MK Dons manager Karl Robinson; all three of whom expressed their concerns about how the changes would affect Football League Clubs.

The general argument was that the ‘nominal’ compensation packages that would be offered to selling clubs would not be sufficient to allow many Football League clubs to justify running and maintaining their youth academies.

Talking to talkSPORT, Robinson put the changes into context using the example of Sam Baldock who was sold to West Ham United for a fee in excess of £2m, under the rules of the EPPP would have been transferred staggeringly for as little as £50,000.

From the perspective of Football League clubs, the concerns are that Premier League clubs would start to ‘gamble’ on a number of youth players from an early age, taking advantage of the smaller compensation fees they would be required to pay.

Assumptions

Palace co-chairman Steve Parish also criticised the assumptions made by the plan regarding the quality of youth development in the Premier League.

Parish attacked the idea that teams in the Premier League would always provide superior training and coaching to young players, a point to which FA head of elite development Gareth Southgate agreed.

However, with the aim of the EPPP being to increase the quantity and quality of English players coming through youth systems, how beneficial would the plan be to the development of such players?

The jury is still out on the EPPP and how it will truly impact the intake of youth players in England and the future of clubs in the Football League remains to be seen.

The current forecast appears to be somewhat bleak for many of the 72 clubs who run their club on the money raised by selling talented youth players that they develop (Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to name a few more).

Very little risk

Teams in the Premier League would undoubtedly take advantage of the new compensation rules, taking a selection of young promising talent with very little risk being involved.

Certainly, most of these youth players wouldn’t get near to being involved on match days immediately, so there appears to be two ways to how these players will get competitive football: play in the reserve/youth fixtures or go on loan to another club.

It is at this point I would like to go back to the example of John Bostock, who signed for Spurs at the age of 16. Bostock, who will soon turn 20, has failed to secure a spot in the Spurs first team and has instead been limited to playing reserve team fixtures and for Brentford and Hull City on loan deals.

Bostock also failed to even make the bench for the majority of this season’s Europa League fixtures, for which Harry Redknapp fielded a mix of youth and fringe players.

This, from a player who became Palace’s youngest ever player at the age of 15 and captained England at Under-17 level.

Which brings up the question, what substitute is there for consistent, competitive football?

By Steven Gyford


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