How to measure the performance of football clubs’ youth development academies

Published 09 October 2015 | Authored by: Richard Battle

In this series of feature blogs, the Sports Business Group at Deloitte undertakes a financial analysis of some of the key activities engaged in by football clubs, both in the UK and worldwide. This first piece looks at how to measure the performance of football clubs’ youth development academies.

 

The Elite Player Performance Plan

A strong youth system helps a club to achieve its desired categorisation under the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan (“EPPP”) and to attract talent and develop Home Grown Players for the benefit of the first team. It can also provide a financial return, something that is always welcome at a football club.

Since the Premier League introduced EPPP in 2012, clubs across the four English divisions have invested significant amounts in youth development. We estimate that Premier League clubs spend on average c.£5m each year on the academy, making it the second largest cost centre for most clubs, behind senior player costs. The multi-disciplinary approach which EPPP encourages has driven clubs to implement best practice across all areas of the academy.

However, measuring the success of these inputs on the progression of players already in the academy, and the ability to recruit the right players to supplement the squads, remains a challenge. We believe that there is scope to supplement the progress brought about by EPPP with an additional framework, which can help to form the basis of discussion on the overall and on-going performance of the academy within the academy management team and with senior management from the wider club beyond the training ground.

 

Measuring sporting performance

Each academy will have a ‘productivity’ aim, for example to produce players who have a career in professional football. Whilst this is rightly the ultimate measure of an academy’s success, it is inherently backward-looking. If players of the right standard do not emerge at around the age of 18, by then it is too late to act. The core of that group of players is likely to have been at the academy for many years.

It is therefore important to find a ‘lens’ into the academy to inform and support recruitment and retention decisions, and provide accountability. This includes a better understanding of the players at each age group, including squad composition and expected outcomes for each player, as well as their progress through the academy and transition to the first team. By doing so, the areas of strength/weakness within the academy can be identified, and it can support succession planning and recruitment needs, the effectiveness of which can also be better understood.

Pyramid of Productivity Football

 

Measuring financial performance

Given the growing investment made by clubs into their academies, it is becoming increasingly important to be able to assess whether the academy is contributing value to the wider club, i.e. delivering a return on investment. It is commonly accepted that transfer and loan fees generated by academy products are one measure of this, but analysis rarely stretches beyond comparing these with overall academy expenditure.

It is also pertinent to consider, as some clubs do, the net cost of academy products once they make the first team in comparison to the net cost of players recruited from elsewhere and to do so in the context of their respective contributions to first team performance. As well as transfer and loan fees paid/received, this approach can also incorporate the wage costs of academy players compared with those of players recruited from elsewhere, and in doing so, provides a more accurate assessment of the financial value of an academy.

The analysis can be extended to incorporate the overall running costs of the academy, such that they are effectively spread across the small proportion of academy products that reach the first team.

 

Our experience

Our recent work with clubs has been to develop a range of club specific key performance indicators to measure their respective academies’ performance across the areas outlined above, which can be used as the basis to report progress and performance to a club’s Board.

It provides a platform for academy managers to articulate the success of their academy, and for senior management to provide constructive challenge. It can also help to focus and direct investment into particular areas of the academy such that they generate better returns, i.e. identify areas with the greatest potential to achieve more value through incremental investment.

The Sports Business Group at Deloitte has provided assistance to Blackburn Rovers and Everton in the development and implementation of a framework to monitor the performance of the academy.

The Sports Business Group at Deloitte is a team of 20 people based in the UK, working exclusively on sports business projects with clients across all sports around the world.  This article was first published in the Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance (2015 edition).  Further information is available at www.deloitte.co.uk/arff

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About the Author

Richard Battle

Richard Battle

Richard Battle is a Senior Manager and joined the Sports Business Group in 2010. A large proportion of his work is in football, working on a range of projects for clients who include investors, clubs and governing bodies. Richard leads Deloitte’s work with academies and is a UEFA licensed coach. 

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