Today, the European Club Association organised the first ECA Youth Workshop at the Emirates Stadium in London.
The recent coming into effect of the UEFA Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations has put a lot of pressure on European clubs to limit their spending. Since investments in youth academies are exempt from FFP break-even calculations, a lot of the clubs' focus is being directed into achieving an efficient and productive youth academy.
ECA has recently published a report on youth academies in Europe, outlining and comparing different approaches and philosophies of some of the top academies across the continent. The idea behind this benchmarking report was to inform member clubs of different approaches to youth training in order for them to have a better idea of how to achieve the best results possible.
As a result, the ECA Youth Working Group, chaired by AZ Alkmaar's Maarten Fontein, launched the idea of organising a workshop dedicated to Youth Academies, which was held today in London.
The aim of this workshop was to give a more detailed insight to the different approaches that exist in youth development, in particular by examining various innovative concepts of youth academies. Case studies such as AFC Ajax, FC Internazionale Milano and GNK Dinamo Zagreb, all included in the first ECA Report on Youth Academies in Europe, were presented to the 125 participants from 80 ECA Member Clubs representing no less than 34 different countries.
After a warm welcome from Arsenal FC Head of Youth Liam Brady and the ECA Youth Project Manager Olivier Jarosz, the workshop kicked off with its first case study of the famous AFC Ajax Youth Academy, presented by Ruben Jongkind and Derk de Kloet, Academy Manager and Process Manager respectively.
Two more youth academy case studies ensued. Roberto Samaden, Head of FC Internazionale Milano's Youth Section, presented his academy whereas Romeo Jozak, Head of GNK Dinamo Zagreb's Youth Section and Youth Technical Director at the Croatian FA, introduced GNK Dinamo Zagreb's youth academy.
In the afternoon, Hugo Schoukens and Jo Van Hoecke from Double Pass presented the results of ECA's Youth Academy Survey conducted at the beginning of the year.
Each presentation was followed by an extensive Q&A Session, during which the members present were able to share their ideas and experiences related to the different topics. Discussions amongst the club representatives proved very lively, which underlined there was a strong need for clubs to meet and exchange thoughts on this important topic.
Just like previous ECA Workshops, the first ECA Youth Academy Workshop turned out to be a great success.
Maarten Fontein, ECA Executive Board Member and Chairman of the ECA Youth Working Group expressed his delight following the workshop:
"Following the launch of the ECA report on Youth Academies in September we organised this workshop to dedicate time to go more into detail on different youth models across Europe. The workshop has proven to be very useful and can be considered as a big success. ECA will continue promoting Youth development."
Liam Brady, Head of Youth Academy at Arsenal FC, was also extremely optimistic about the workshop:
"Today at Arsenal FC, the interest shown by more than 80 clubs clearly proves that investing in youth development is the right path to follow for sustainability in football."