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U Turn on academy status?

Reports surfaced yesterday that the Swans are about to do a U-turn on their academy status for the coming season with a downgrade to at least category 2 highlighting the further impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on football clubs and how they must fight to survive.

Although the news has yet to be officially confirmed by the club it has been widely anticipated that further cuts would be made as the club fights off the incredible loss of revenue that started with relegation from the Premier League in 2018 and has escalated due to the current global position.

In February – following the release of the club’s latest accounts – Chairman Trevor Birch warned that further cuts would have to be made but at the time said “However, I am pleased to announce that with the full support of the owners we have made the decision to continue to operate the two training sites to maintain our Academy Category One status for season 2020-21.”

This came off the back of him saying that the costs of maintaining Category One status was £3m per year and that only seven other Championship clubs had that status.  Birch had already warned at that stage that our income for the current season would drop to just under £30m and then to £17m for 2021-22 highlighting the gulf between those two figures and the £126m we had as turnover in the last season in the Premier League.

It is probably therefore no real surprise that a little over 6 months after that ‘promise’ was made things have changed when you consider that football clubs have not been able to welcome clubs into the grounds since the early part of March and significant change on that front is difficult to see in the next six months.

Only yesterday, Swans fans found out their options with season ticket money where the words were very much about supporting the club’s financial sustainability.

However, I am pleased to announce that with the full support of the owners we have made the decision to continue to operate the two training sites to maintain our Academy Category One status for season 2020-21.

This will then give us a breathing space to explore further options prior to the start of the 2021-22 season. – Trevor Birch, February 2020

Which all comes back to the simplistic part that the biggest expenditure of any football club is – as you would imagine – in the playing side.  And without a cut on the expenditure of that playing side then further cuts have to be made which, in our case, seems likely to include our academy status.  The PFA seem unwilling to be supporting any cuts on the wage side of things so it is difficult to see what choice the club have in making these kind of decisions.

The loss of category one status will be a blow considering how heavy we have relied on the younger players in the past two seasons and it could be a status that may return in the future but for now it seems that the downgrade is inevitable and understandable?

The future of our Academy is vital for the long-term future of the club. Apart from these facilities on show today, we have made a massive investment in staffing levels throughout the many age groups.

We are determined to look after our youngsters, the vast majority of whom come from our local community, and provide them with the very best coaching and well-being advice that is available. – Huw Jenkins, March 2016

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