October 2, 2008
The Board have worked hard over the summer and early season to provide the finance to strengthen the playing staff and to keep players already at the club who may have attracted the interest of other clubs around The League. We know it is important to bring good characters to join the squad as well as quality footballers. Latest addition Jo Kouffour comes across to me as a very likable person and a really good professional.
It was really pleasing to see Jo come on from the bench last Saturday and grab the equalising goal at Yeovil. With just a little bit more luck he could have scored more but at least it has confirmed the view that we have achieved our objective of bringing more goals to the team. All of our summer signings who have featured have now got their names on the score sheet and that is very pleasing for all of us.
As well as the activity that we have seen in the transfer market it is really important to continue to develop home grown players. This season has seen Jo White, Ben Swallow and James Tyrell join the professional ranks and we wish them well. Most of our younger guns are now out on loan to enable them to gain valuable experience at first team level and to play week in and week out. It is the policy that the Management Team promised us over the summer. I know that their progress is being tracked very carefully indeed.
Over the past week I have engrossed myself in a Review of Youth Development at the Football League. The review was published and sent out to all clubs in September. Apart from my avid interest in such matters, I was attracted by the front cover where our own home grown under 18 player Ollie Clarke is to be found in large glossy print. Sporting the famous blue and white quarters for the football world to see nationwide; well done Ollie. Ollie is a very promising young midfield player and we wish him well as we do all of the under 18’s this season. The lads have progressed through the academy off the back of a very good under 16’s campaign last time around.
The newly formed Football League Trust is up and running and on a mission to help Football league clubs develop the star names of the future. Launched a little over twelve months ago, the Trust will support Football League clubs’ Centre of Excellence and Academy youth development programmes through the distribution of grant aid funding.
The level of investment by Football League clubs in youth development continues to flourish, with the annual cost of identifying and coaching young players now standing at more than forty million pounds, a figure that is four times the level of grant funding available to clubs last season. Of that figure, thirty million is being spent directly on developing young players in the 8 to 18 age range. It is really good to know that most of the money is being spent where it should be spent, on training and coaching. There are now 1200 qualified working at in the seventy two clubs’ youth development programmes. That is an average of 16.6 per club. At Rovers we are above the average figure with in the order of twenty coaches engaged.
The Chief Operating Officer at The League, Andy Williamson says:
“The Football League clubs are making a massive contribution to the future of the English game. Never before have we seen such an extensive financial commitment from across the professional game to nurturing the next generation of young footballers.”
League Chairman Lord Mawhinney adds:
“With more than 8500 young players on the books of Football League clubs we are delivering the largest centrally co-ordinated development programme for young players in world football today. More than 600 young players turned professional with our clubs in the last four seasons alone; whilst League clubs also played a role in the development of a further 300 senior professional players and youth footballers currently registered with Premier League clubs.”
The new funding will enable individual clubs to be eligible for an annual grant of up to £180,000. Of course the money is not just given away. For a start, the Trust insists that each club has a separate bank account to segregate funds from the main account. There is no question of the money being used to ease cash flow problems; for most clubs that is another story. Financial accountability is paramount and clubs are monitored throughout the season and in retrospect at the end. It is my experience as a director and secretary of the Trust at Bristol Rovers that our accounts are transparent and properly handled at all times.
On a lighter note; tuning in to Radio 2 last Monday, a Rovers season ticket holder from Bedminster, not least, came up trumps on the Pop Master Quiz with Ken Bruce. Ruth Williams was great. Ruth not only won the quiz and the daily prize hands down but was not backwards in coming forwards to tell the whole nation of her love for Bristol Rovers. Thanks Ruth and enjoy the game with your Dad today.