By Dan Chapman
A number of parties (including Clubs, supporters and journalists) have made contact with us in the last few days enquiring as to whether we can give a bit more detail about the current status of EPPP audits. So we have tried to answer some of the key questions we have received in the guidance below.
What is the Timeline now?
The deadline has now passed for all Clubs to have submitted their completed ‘audit tool’ which contains their self assessment of which Category they should be awarded. Many found the process of self assessment to be quite bewildering, but we take the view that this is only the beginning. It is intended that all those Clubs who are seeking Category One status will be audited between now and October 2012, with Category Two audits taking place between October 2012 and February 2013. Category Two applicants therefore have the luxury of a little more time to prepare for audit than the Category One Clubs.
What are the consequences of failing to make the grade?
All Clubs must be certain that by the date of their audit they are fully compliant with all of the EPPP requirements for the Category they are applying for. The financial consequences of failure are considerable: Category One applicants will lose just short of £300,000 in funding if they are only awarded Category Two status. Category Two applicants, similarly, will lose around £270,000 if they are awarded Category Three status.
What changes actually take place, apart from the new label and the much heralded 90 minute rule for Category One Clubs?
The EPPP and Youth Development Rules signal unchartered waters for Football Clubs and create a culture of bureaucracy and accountability that only a few of the country’s existing Clubs will be familiar with. For most Clubs, the experience of employing new staff, constructing new facilities and following robust procedures will be daunting, all in the pursuit of the planning and reflection objectives which are at the core of the EPPP. All departments of a Football Academy will be touched; from education and welfare to sports science and medicine. These represent radical changes from the days when an Academy was based primarily around on field coaching. The future is now one of a holistic approach, catering to the needs of each individual player. One only needs to look at the 6/12 weekly player review requirements that each Academy will need to complete for every player in each age group to comprehend the enormity of the multi-disciplinary task that awaits.
Has anyone been audited already?
The first audits are starting very soon, but there have been two ‘dummy audits’. One such dummy audit was for a Category One applicant, the other Category Two. We understand that both dummy audits resulted in a failure, meaning that the applicants would have been graded Category Two and Three respectively.
Is any Club seriously going to be awarded a status on technicalities, lower than their obvious prowess would suggest?
A very key question. There are those in the game who believe that certain Clubs would inevitably be awarded Category One status simply because of the stature of that Club, and/or their past history of producing home grown talent. We think this is a dangerous view, and disrespectful to the independent auditors who (as we have stated before) have foundations from outside of the UK in any event. There is certainly no suggestion of a nepotistic network being at play here. Indeed, we are aware of one Club who objectively would be considered to be at least a Category Two Club who are not far off receiving only Category Four status on the correct application of the strict EPPP criteria. There really has to be a wake up call to all those Clubs approaching their audit that lapses in compliance cannot be tolerated.
So what do we say Clubs should do now?
If a Club has any doubt whatsoever as to whether they will be successfully passing their audit, then it is advisable that they engage some external assistance from EPPP experts who fully understand the process, the auditing approach and the Youth Development Rules. Pre-audit reviews from an independent party would be prudent, which we at Full Contact can arrange at relatively short notice. Many Clubs will find that they are falling short in one or two areas at least, but that with some remedial work they still have plenty of time to ensure they will be compliant come the arrival of the auditors…
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The spearhead and Senior Partner of Full Contact, Dan is an experienced solicitor and advocate, with a specialist background in employment law and sports.
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