The third ECA Youth Conference was successfully held today at the Allianz Arena, home to FC Bayern München. ECA, committed to the continued development of youth football at European football clubs and, in accordance with its key pillar of knowledge sharing, provided the opportunity for ECA Member Club representatives to gather and discuss best practice and quality areas for improvement at professional youth academies across the continent.
Following the ECA Youth Academy Study, the biggest ever survey conducted by ECA with 123 participating clubs, the key findings from this study were presented to ECA Member Clubs in attendance. The study, initiated by the ECA Youth Academies Task Force, a specialised Task Force comprising of representatives from FC Schalke 04, Everton FC, Olympiacos FC, RSC Anderlecht, FK Crvena Zvezda, Maccabi Tel Aviv FC, Aalborg BK, and Juventus, was developed with the aim of outlining a set of common good practices for youth academies at European football clubs. In turn, the ECA Youth Conference provided the perfect platform to present the resulting 12 Professional Youth Academy Quality Areas to attending ECA Member Clubs.
ECA Youth Working Group Chairman & AFC Ajax CEO, Edwin van der Sar kicked off proceedings as he welcomed over 100 representatives from 82 clubs and 34 different countries, whilst stressing the importance of youth development in the successful running of a football club and to the game of football as a whole.
Speakers on the Professional Youth Academy Quality Areas, developed from the results of the ECA Youth Academy Study, included Domenicos Masoulas, Olympiacos FC Director of CSR & Head of Academy Administration, and Patrick van Leeuwen, Maccabi Tel Aviv FC Performance Director. As members of the ECA Youth Academies Task Force, they provided in-depth case studies, looking at how the 12 quality areas have been implemented at their own clubs.
Each of the 12 Professional Youth Academy Quality Areas were explained to present club representatives, with details on the criteria and potential implementation at club level being outlined throughout the duration of the event. The Professional Youth Academy Quality Areas include, but are not limited to: 'Strategic Importance', which looks at the value of implementing strategic thinking to the development, location and financial responsibility of the running of the youth academy; 'Talent Identification', which aims to increase professionalisation in the area of recruitment, looking at the development of resources and planning within this department; and 'Cognitive Care', referring to the encouragement of both football and academic studies, providing educational support to players, where necessary. A copy of the Youth Academy Study, including the Professional Youth Academy Quality Areas was distributed to all present club representatives.
Commenting on the conference, Edwin van der Sar stated:
"I am pleased to see so many clubs attending this ECA Youth Conference in Munich today. The turnout truly illustrates the importance of youth development in the eyes of European football clubs. A fundamental reason as to why youth development matters is that without new generations of top talents, the game of football will cease to attract new generations of supporters. Therefore, it is our role as football administrators to ensure that this passion for the game continues into the next generation."
Regarding the Professional Youth Academy Quality Areas, he said:
"The issue of quality sounds true across all levels of running a football club and no more so than at youth level. The Professional Youth Academy Quality Areas presented today can serve as a mechanism to safeguard and promote the development of future generations of footballing talent at European football clubs."
The third ECA Youth Conference proved to be the perfect platform for ECA Member Clubs to share knowledge on recent trends and the future direction of youth development.