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EPL's Academies impact (2021-22 season)

Updated: Mar 14

Despite being the Football industry’s “big spender” when it comes to player trading, with an expenditure around 4x above average of other top 4 leagues (22’ summer transfer window), English Premier League’s clubs do rely heavily on the Academy to sustain their Sporting model. In fact, last season alone, EPL clubs had around 7.5 Academy players, on average, on their squad, which represents about ¼ of the whole squad.

Out of these 7.5 Academy players, 3 were debutantes and 4.5 played less than 270 min in total (3 complete matches), which indicates that 60% of these players were at the bottom of their club’s squad pyramid. Being that the case, we can highlight clear strategy signs:

  • EPL clubs are using the first team as a platform to promote and leverage the Academy’s prestige, by creating a clear bridge between Youth and Professional football and developing a sense of successful path, which are perceived as valuable factors by young talents when choosing which Academy to join and also acts as a dynamo for their development;

  • A prestigious Academy is able to achieve high recruitment’s success and retention rates of talent, hence, upgrading its outcome;

  • Upgrading and optimising the Academy’s outcome means the club will have more and better options at the first team’s disposal. This creates:

  1. Sporting success through on-pitch performance of talented players, identified with the club’s values, with potential to upgrade their level;

  2. Savings from the unnecessity to purchase more players to complete the squad & through low salaried players (the 4.5 players mentioned);

  3. Financial surplus if the club decides to sell these players.

A prestigious club certainly has the ability to attract talented players to its Academy with

relative ease when compared with less prestigious clubs. In fact, last season alone, the top 6 English clubs came in the first 8 places when it comes to the Academy’s overall financial impact. However, smaller clubs can take advantage of this situation, given that the relative impact there has the potential to be greater, given its smaller size.

In fact, last season alone, the top 3 EPL clubs whose Academies had the most relative

impact on the club were as follows:

1- Leeds United

2- Aston Villa

3- FC Burnley

In the case of FC Burnley, the club does not seem to have a very active strategy in place, with only one debut last season. However, given the size of the club, Dwight McNeil’s sporting contribution and 17M€ move to FC Everton at the end of the season had a major impact.

On the other hand, Leeds United had in place a sound plan by promoting 5 Academy players, besides the other 3 that already integrated the squad. On top of that, the sensational 49M€ Kalvin Philips’ transfer to Manchester City matched the entire club’s Commercial revenues for the whole season.

It would not be wise to draw too many conclusions over one season sample. However, the overall scenario starts to take shape. This being said, the results illustrate that it is fundamental for a club’s sporting and financial success to create a sound Academy strategy, regardless of the size of the club.

At Four Nations Football Consulting, we can set the club for a consistent and optimised

Academy model, including a benchmarking analysis of Academy impact on the League and the underlying potential of the club’s Academy.


Squad with the most % of Academy players:

1- FC Liverpool (43.2%)

2- Manchester United (37.1%)

3- West Ham United (36.7%)

On-field usage of Academy players:

1- Chelsea FC (22.2%)

2- Crystal Palace (19%)

3- Tottenham (18.3%)

Financial impact (benefit) of the Academy:

1- Manchester City (68.5 M€)

2- Manchester United (68.4 M€)

3- Leeds United (65.4 M€)

Most debuts:

1- Manchester City (8)

2- FC Liverpool (7)

3- Brighton Albion (7)

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