Wanderers insists ditching youth system was only option
WYCOMBE Wanderers Supporters Trust insist there was no option but scrapping the club’s youth academy.
The Blues, after consulting with the Trust, announced last week that it was scrapping its highly-productive Centre of Excellence, leaving 31 members of staff (eight permanent, 23 part time) facing redundancy and 115 players from U8s to U18s looking for a new club.
Wanderers say the decision was made for financial reasons after Football League clubs voted last October to introduce the Elite Player Performance Plan from next season.
Under rules of the EPPP there will be a transfer fee cap of around £70,000 for academy players, making big money moves of players like Kadeem Harris to Cardiff City and Jordan Ibe to Liverpool a thing of the past.
Wanderers were one of 22 clubs to oppose the EPPP proposals, but they are the only one of 72 Football League clubs to scrap its youth system entirely as a result of its introduction – although other clubs have subsequently scaled down their academies.
Supporters Trust chairman Trevor Stroud said: “It’s a regrettable decision, but you have to have a football club first before you can have youth players to play for it.
“I don’t know exactly how much money we’ll be saving, but it’s a big sum, hundreds of thousands pounds a season.
“And the sort of money we got for Jordan Ibe won’t be available in the future.
“So we’d invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in a player on the off chance we might get £70,000 back.”
However, ditching the academy will have knock on effects. Apart from giving forcing the best youngsters in the area to look at MK Dons, Reading, Northampton etc for a route into the professional game, there will also be financial ramifications for Blues – even without the big transfer fees.
Speaking the Bucks Free Press in February, head of youth at the time Richard Dobson said: “We’re aware that we’ve got to make money for the club....Every time a young player comes through the youth system, you’re not paying another club for him.
“You’re looking at £700 or £800 a week just to pull a player out of non-league football.
“It becomes expensive, but if they come from the youth system, you’re paying a fraction of the wages [apprentice wages are £78 per week], there is no fee involved and they are already embedded in the culture of the club.
“Also, you’re not taking a gamble because you know the character of the player. With new players, there is a chance that they come to the club and then you realise you don’t like their attitude.”
In the current squad, Matt McClure, Jesse Kewley-Graham, Anthony Stewart, Josh Scowen and Charles Dunne have all come through the ranks at Adams Park and made their first-team debuts in the last two years.
In a joint statement issued last week, the club and Wycombe Wanderers Supporters Trust said: “The long-term stability of the club is the number one priority and all resources are going towards ensuring the club is financially secure.
“Both parties understand this is extremely disappointing news, but it was unavoidable in ensuring the club becomes sustainable.”
To help heart-broken players find new clubs, Wanderers have given them contact lists for other clubs with names and numbers.
Meanwhile, the club’s Elite Centre and its Community Schemes remain in place.