1. Local - Children and parents will not have to travel far, especially for training. If a child lives in a Village, they will only have to travel to their nearest Town to train, and for matches, most matches will be against local Town Academies in the region. Chasing the dream becomes secondary, but with a real possibility that if the child does have enough talent to make it to the very top, they will not get left behind if they don't join a Professional Club during the early years.
2. Fun - Vitally important, all children will be able to play for their local Village or Town Teams no matter what age group they play in. There will be no signing players up to any contracts (other than registration etc) as there will be no official leagues. Training will be once a week, although logistically, Academies should train on the same night to coincide with playing matches, which could be played fortnightly or monthly. Alternatively, matches could be played on a Sunday morning if preferred.
Town Academies will not be like the Development Centres run throughout most regions by City Clubs. Such Development Centres can have a reputation of being money spinners, with little interest in really developing local talent. Town Academies will have no interest in money, except to cover basic costs. This is about developing that top tier of players of every age group that stand out from the rest, and that should be a priority for every Town Academy.
3. Awareness - This is very important as well. Every week, talented children from different teams shine, most of whom could play for a City Academy Team. They are strong, skilful, and stand above the rest of their team mates. But where they shine amongst lesser talented children, how much more would they develop if given the opportunity to play against the very best in the region?
They would learn to think and play football much more quickly, developing such a vital aspect of their game, which is football awareness. This cannot be stated enough, and that awareness will increase to the very highest levels for their age group if they play for a Town Academy that is part of a Network.
4. Seniors - Setting up a regional Network of Town Academies can really benefit Senior Teams in the region, both Town and Villages alike. There will be a steady number of gifted children available at the end of each season, those of whom do not join a semi-professional or professional Football Club. This will increase the standard of football throughout the lower leagues, establishing a strong foundation to feed the Teams higher up the league structure. There could also be an increase in Teams being formed in the lower Divisions as more children stay in football when they reach adulthood.
Just because a child plays for a Town Academy, does not mean they cannot play for their Senior Village Team if they so wish when they come of age. But if the local Town is playing at a higher level, then of course the option will be there if both club and player are interested.
The main reason for centralising each Academy around a Town is purely because of the logistics and the population numbers involved. Most Towns have between 10 - 30,000 people in them, but most Villages range from between 1 - 5,000, with the odd exception of course. When the population of all the Villages surrounding a Town are added to the Town itself, more often than not it doubles in number. Even though there maybe some rivalry between a Village and its larger Town counterpart, the Town Academies will have nothing to do with that rivalry. This is about setting up a local Academy to support those naturally talented children who will otherwise miss out on playing at a very high level.
5. Grade - At what standard can we say these Town Academies will play at? If Town and Village Teams support their local Town Academy, they will be playing at a higher level than the local 'A' league, but just below the City Academies. Sometimes however, a Town Academy Team may match or even better a City Academy Team due to the local talent coming through. But the goal is not to be in direct competition with the City Academies, it is about filling a gap so that fewer talented children will miss out on playing at the higher level.
Without the pressures and demands of a City Academy, children may thrive better in a Town Academy because it is more relaxed and therefore more fun. They can still play alongside their friends in their local Team, safely knowing that their talent is being developed at the Town Academy, especially if their local Team do not have players with similar abilities.
6. Success - We would all love to see more Professionals Footballers from our region make it to the very top. It is most likely that Town Academies will be scouted regularly by Professional Clubs. An important thing to remember is that the children are still developing at a very high level, which gives parents more choice as to what age they want to commit themselves and their children to a Professional Club if given the option.
7. Management - Who will run the Town Academies? Each Town Academy should have a Committee who are accountable to both parents and players of all age groups, safeguarding not only the children under their charge, but also their commitment to the Town Academy Network. A Child Development Officer with the required Child Safety Certificates will have to oversee the Academy.
A Town Academy may want to employ the services of FA or Fifa qualified Coaches to train their teams, or may have some of their own. Each Town Academy should have autonomy over how they conduct their Academy affairs.
Benefits of a Town Academy