Statement from CEO Michael Dunford
The club can confirm that we will be closing our youth academy at the end of the season.
This is not a decision which has been taken lightly, but the club feels at present that the overall conversion from academy players into full-time professionals does not justify the six-figure sum it costs to run the academy on a yearly/annual basis. The news was given to the players and their parents at a meeting on Saturday, February 8.
Although four players have graduated from the academy into the first-team squad since we became a Football League club in 2011, none have started a competitive first-team game.
The club currently has 16 scholars signed to football development or college education contracts, including six first-years, and our Academy staff will work hard to try and find them alternative clubs. In addition, coaches Steve Martin and Mark Beard will be leaving at the end of the season.
Chief Executive Michael Dunford said: “This has been an agonising decision to make but has been done in the interests of the club’s overall viability.
“We had hoped the scholarship programme would be sustainable but the reality is that it is very expensive and requires more financial resource than we can provide as a club at the moment.
“As part of our ongoing financial review we have been examining every aspect of the club. Since we became a League club none of the scholars who have been with us have become first-team regulars and it is very hard for local lads to progress now as we are competing in League One and looking to push towards the Championship.
“We are extremely grateful to Steve and Mark for the work they have done and we wish them and the lads all the best for their future careers.”
The club is still providing, through our Community Trust, football in local schools and the REDS development programme. One of the aims of these schemes and other initiatives remains identifying the best local talent.
Mr Dunford added: “One of the biggest tasks for our Community Trust is to develop and enhance what we do in terms of development programmes in the Crawley and West Sussex community.
“As for young players, John Gregory and his scouting team watch many of the Premier League under-21 games around the country and we are always trying to identify those players aged 18-21 who are not getting opportunities with the top clubs to see if they could develop into first-team players.”