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Trapped or lost to football academies by exorbitant compensation fees

There are a series of cases where children and teenagers are effectively trapped at Football League clubs against their will or are even frozen out of the football academy system. The cause is of outrageous compensation fees held over their heads by controversial youth development rules of the EPPP, that “restrain the trade and restrict the movement of a minor”, according to a sports law expert.

Now 19-year-old Nathan Tshikuna was expelled from MK Dons in 2014 because of behavioural problems, including criticising his coach on social media. Despite impressive performances in trials, he couldn’t sign for another team because of high compensation fee of £80,000, nor was able to return to play for the club. He was stuck to play non-League football for 2½ years instead.

In another case, the father of an 11-year-old boy who played for Barnet said his son was “humiliated” by being moved between age groups on three separate occasions. Consequently, they wanted to leave the club, but the club couldn’t let go of a financial stake in his future afterwards. “It’s all about compensation,” father said. “They have used him, basically. When he wants to leave they turn around and say, ‘we want money out of you’. Like he’s a piece of meat.”

Another boy, who had spent two seasons at a League One side when aged 9 and 10, decided to leave because he was not enjoying his time at the club. His father said, that upon his release, it was not made clear that he had signed a YD10 form. He was shocked to find out that it would cost the new club £6,000 when he tried to return to the academy system at a nearby League Two side. The club could not afford to pay that amount for a player of that age.

Youth development rules of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) were voted in by League clubs in 2011 to help clubs produce more home-grown players. Under these rules, there is a fixed compensation scheme, that depends on the time the player has spent at the club, the age of the player, and the ‘category’ of the academy, that puts a price on young players’ heads if they sign one of two forms – YD10 form. According to this form, any new club is liable to pay a compensation if they were to register that player to their academy. If the player has signed a YD7 form, however, no compensation is due.

The problem here is, that many lower leagued teams are not able to afford to pay thousands of pounds for senior players, let alone youngsters. This results in bigger, elite clubs being able to snap up young talents, and many children at lower league clubs becoming trapped or lost to professional academies.

It is reported that in many cases families were not fully introduced to what the consequences of signing a YD10 form would be for their child. According to a legal expert, there is insufficient notice given to parents who are “agreeing to some extremely onerous contractual terms”. There is a Professional Footballers’ Association helpline available for parents in case they have any concerns, but it appears that it provides little more than a reiteration of the EPPP regulations.

While it’s not disputable that the club must be compensated somehow for developing young players if they were to be approached by another club, it is questionable if this method applies to all cases, since it seems the rules merely work for elites. It is reported that many clubs also closed their academies because of the EPPP. We think that something should be done here to rethink the rules and apply it widely. It also is a possibility for SportyCo here to help financially both parts – young football players and academies.  A possibility to collect funds on our platform could prevent academies to decay, and youngsters to remain stuck and unnoticed.

Source: The Telegraph

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