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Academies (and the closure of Widnes’).


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I was listening to the latest Widnes Chat Podcast this morning (a really interesting hour and a half interview with their CEO) and the first half hour or so was about why they’ve had to close their academy. Considering how many players they have churned out (all but two SL teams have a first team player who hasn’t come through their system apparently) it makes sad listening. 
 

I know SL is about the SL clubs only, and they might argue why should they give an academy at a Championship club £100k a year to run, but given how many players come through that pathway, and how the player pool is shrinking, it seems shortsighted of the English game in general to have let it happen. Particularly when not all SL clubs have an academy themselves, and don’t produce players like Widnes do. 
 

It’s worth a listen anyway. 

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I don't see any contradiction in the following statements: If you're in Super League you should run an academy. Any club should be able to establish an academy if they wish (Cat 1 or Cat 3).

If Hull is big enough to have two Super League clubs then it is big enough to have two academies. If both teams are worthy of a SL spot then they both should be producing players.

Academies are a difficult topic as ideally every club would have one etc. but between clubs not having large sums of finance for it, a lack of outside the box thinking, and quite obvious problems over

2 hours ago, Eddie said:

I was listening to the latest Widnes Chat Podcast this morning (a really interesting hour and a half interview with their CEO) and the first half hour or so was about why they’ve had to close their academy. Considering how many players they have churned out (all but two SL teams have a first team player who hasn’t come through their system apparently) it makes sad listening. 
 

I know SL is about the SL clubs only, and they might argue why should they give an academy at a Championship club £100k a year to run, but given how many players come through that pathway, and how the player pool is shrinking, it seems shortsighted of the English game in general to have let it happen. Particularly when not all SL clubs have an academy themselves, and don’t produce players like Widnes do. 
 

It’s worth a listen anyway. 

Interesting - You got a list of these players ?

TBH in the Saints team i'm struggling to think of any ? Percival was from Widnes but came through the Saints Academy, Similar with Lewis Dodd, he Signed with Saints Academy when he was about 14, though maybe he was at Widnes prior to that ??

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22 minutes ago, Saint Toppy said:

Interesting - You got a list of these players ?

TBH in the Saints team i'm struggling to think of any ? Percival was from Widnes but came through the Saints Academy, Similar with Lewis Dodd, he Signed with Saints Academy when he was about 14, though maybe he was at Widnes prior to that ??

I haven’t got a list no, they just said it on the pod. They did mention Percival and Dodd though, among others. Only Wigan and HKR don’t apparently. 

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I don't think Academies in football have gone the way they were intended,and the chopping and changing on Age and reserve sides haven't helped in rugby league.

St Helens must spend a tidy sum on their biennial trips to Australia- obviously not all make the first team,and some leave.

One soccer club,surrounded by enormous foreign wealth,abandoned their Academy some years ago,and as I type this I think they are near promotion to the Premier League. They are succeeding by spending very little on transfers.

They rely on data and analysis.

With the potential loss of revenue in our sport it may well be the way ahead.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/apr/05/brentford-ditched-their-academy-premier-league-outcasts

Looking at other sports,and other countries is beneficial.Sometimes.

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1 hour ago, Saint Toppy said:

Interesting - You got a list of these players ?

TBH in the Saints team i'm struggling to think of any ? Percival was from Widnes but came through the Saints Academy, Similar with Lewis Dodd, he Signed with Saints Academy when he was about 14, though maybe he was at Widnes prior to that ??

Dan Norman

obviously some of the players will be off the radar a bit

 

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1 hour ago, Saint Toppy said:

Interesting - You got a list of these players ?

TBH in the Saints team i'm struggling to think of any ? Percival was from Widnes but came through the Saints Academy, Similar with Lewis Dodd, he Signed with Saints Academy when he was about 14, though maybe he was at Widnes prior to that ??

Ben Davies. Played against Salford last year for us. Started at Widnes and was signed ahead of 2020. 

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2 minutes ago, Davo5 said:

And to think the RFL gave Widnes the Cumbrian academy to run & develop,another outstanding piece of planning & forward thinking.

Logistics wise it probably wasn't a great idea. Why did it ever happen?


Surely they should have just invested directly in Cumbria? Or didn't they think there was sufficient management capability there.  100k in Cumbria? Surely Super League can see the benefit in that? Less than 10K per club

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7 minutes ago, Davo5 said:

And to think the RFL gave Widnes the Cumbrian academy to run & develop,another outstanding piece of planning & forward thinking.

From the interview, if I understood it correctly, the final straw was SL stopping £80k of funding. Such a small amount of money when you consider the output, and indeed the benefit it has to the lives of 20 lads in each age group every year. 

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Academies are a difficult topic as ideally every club would have one etc. but between clubs not having large sums of finance for it, a lack of outside the box thinking, and quite obvious problems over player numbers in a general sense, you can see why it all comes unstuck when financial pressures are applied.

In a basic sense, academies/reserves/youth teams, however you want to describe them, should only be centrally assisted with funding for 2 parameters -

1. the club is part of the full time Super League

2. the club and surrounding juniors are isolated from the Super League academies (London, Newcastle, Coventry, arguably Sheffield, Cumbria, the Welsh clubs) and therefore act as strategic regional hubs for the game.

Clubs like Widnes that find themselves outside of those brackets are hard to make a compelling case for funding when purse strings are being tightened. In all likelihood, the best talent will almost always gravitate to the top tier clubs nearby (as Brentford in the above article found) and the lack of an established transfer market in RL means that a club like Widnes can't financially set itself up on the basis of selling on top juniors in the way that say Ajax do in football.

That said when 2 of the 10 Super League clubs don't have an academy (including Salford who closed theirs down), I can see why Widnes would feel aggrieved at the decision. In my mind having those 2 parameters for clubs to recieve funding shouldn't stop clubs like Widnes, Fev, Halifax etc running academies or the Cat3 College based Academy teams independently.

Edited by Tommygilf
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1 hour ago, Hela Wigmen said:

Ben Davies. Played against Salford last year for us. Started at Widnes and was signed ahead of 2020. 

fair enough - though Ben Davies I wouldn't have classed as a first team player having played just once against Salford at the end of last year, and Norman hasn't played for Saints yet, so not really a 1st team player.

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2 hours ago, Angelic Cynic said:

I don't think Academies in football have gone the way they were intended,and the chopping and changing on Age and reserve sides haven't helped in rugby league.

St Helens must spend a tidy sum on their biennial trips to Australia- obviously not all make the first team,and some leave.

One soccer club,surrounded by enormous foreign wealth,abandoned their Academy some years ago,and as I type this I think they are near promotion to the Premier League. They are succeeding by spending very little on transfers.

They rely on data and analysis.

With the potential loss of revenue in our sport it may well be the way ahead.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/apr/05/brentford-ditched-their-academy-premier-league-outcasts

Looking at other sports,and other countries is beneficial.Sometimes.

I think they actually rely on the flood of players dumped by bigger teams to take players on for a quick profit or release.  Stories about how innovative clubs in London are ignore that the location and not some genius are largely responsible.  Association Football has little to teach RL when it comes to player production. 

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30 minutes ago, Tommygilf said:

Academies are a difficult topic as ideally every club would have one etc. but between clubs not having large sums of finance for it, a lack of outside the box thinking, and quite obvious problems over player numbers in a general sense, you can see why it all comes unstuck when financial pressures are applied.

In a basic sense, academies/reserves/youth teams, however you want to describe them, should only be centrally assisted with funding for 2 parameters -

1. the club is part of the full time Super League

2. the club and surrounding juniors are isolated from the Super League academies (London, Newcastle, Coventry, arguably Sheffield, Cumbria, the Welsh clubs) and therefore act as strategic regional hubs for the game.

Clubs like Widnes that find themselves outside of those brackets are hard to make a compelling case for funding when purse strings are being tightened. In all likelihood, the best talent will almost always gravitate to the top tier clubs nearby (as Brentford in the above article found) and the lack of an established transfer market in RL means that a club like Widnes can't financially set itself up on the basis of selling on top juniors in the way that say Ajax do in football.

That said when 2 of the 10 Super League clubs don't have an academy (including Salford who closed theirs down), I can see why Widnes would feel aggrieved at the decision. In my mind having those 2 parameters for clubs to recieve funding shouldn't stop clubs like Widnes, Fev, Halifax etc running academies or the Cat3 College based Academy teams independently.

That's a good post. It's tough to accept but if there's limited funding it probably doesn't make sense for Widnes to have an academy when we have Warrington, St. Helens and Wigan on our doorstep. If we could fund our own way that would be different but the club was financially decimated by the last administration and the new owners aren't especially wealthy so aren't able to bankroll it.

The issue Widnes had is that when we produced players of promise they eventually fell out of contract and moved onto bigger clubs with Widnes not gaining any financial remuneration, or, we had promising youngsters who were thrown in way too early because of injuries to the first team and a lack of finances to have any depth in the first team squad.

There's a number of players who came through the Widnes academy who I believe would have had very different careers had they come through say Saints or Wigan's academies where they would be eased in a bit more. I really think being thrust into first team game and exposed can be the ruin of a lot of young players. And we certainly did that out of necessity, because our squad primarily in our recent Super League years, wasn't being managed well at a high level.

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3 minutes ago, DI Keith Fowler said:

That's a good post. It's tough to accept but if there's limited funding it probably doesn't make sense for Widnes to have an academy when we have Warrington, St. Helens and Wigan on our doorstep. If we could fund our own way that would be different but the club was financially decimated by the last administration and the new owners aren't especially wealthy so aren't able to bankroll it.

The issue Widnes had is that when we produced players of promise they eventually fell out of contract and moved onto bigger clubs with Widnes not gaining any financial remuneration, or, we had promising youngsters who were thrown in way too early because of injuries to the first team and a lack of finances to have any depth in the first team squad.

There's a number of players who came through the Widnes academy who I believe would have had very different careers had they come through say Saints or Wigan's academies where they would be eased in a bit more. I really think being thrust into first team game and exposed can be the ruin of a lot of young players. And we certainly did that out of necessity, because our squad primarily in our recent Super League years, wasn't being managed well at a high level.

Yeah you really have to assess the value of an academy when it is being centrally funded and sadly for Widnes, the RFL and the Super League, the cards just weren't stacking up. Academies are great and that but I think it needs to be caveated with the reality that it is possible to have a poor academy too.

If Widnes were a football club they could run themselves (at least in the short term) on the basis of having a top rate academy that produced players they could then sell on for a significant fee to the bigger clubs. The lack of a transfer market in RL simply makes that proposition impossible.

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40 minutes ago, Saint Toppy said:

fair enough - though Ben Davies I wouldn't have classed as a first team player having played just once against Salford at the end of last year, and Norman hasn't played for Saints yet, so not really a 1st team player.

Think he played 20+ for Widnes and has a squad number for the new season so I can see why they would claim it. 

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7 hours ago, Eddie said:

I was listening to the latest Widnes Chat Podcast this morning (a really interesting hour and a half interview with their CEO) and the first half hour or so was about why they’ve had to close their academy. Considering how many players they have churned out (all but two SL teams have a first team player who hasn’t come through their system apparently) it makes sad listening. 
 

I know SL is about the SL clubs only, and they might argue why should they give an academy at a Championship club £100k a year to run, but given how many players come through that pathway, and how the player pool is shrinking, it seems shortsighted of the English game in general to have let it happen. Particularly when not all SL clubs have an academy themselves, and don’t produce players like Widnes do. 
 

It’s worth a listen anyway. 

Bit of a false flag to say the least. Of course any talent they produced in recent years will have fled to other SL clubs. If they had not gone bang and stayed in SL I'm sure most of those players would still be at Widnes.

Trinity picked up Brad Walker that way but I seriously doubt we would have trIed to sign him from a SL Widnes or that he would have left them.

Wakefield currently have 14 academy products in our first team squad. I'm pretty sure 10 of those could find their way to new SL clubs if we went down.

Same for most other clubs. I'm not saying Widnes aren't a good breeding ground for player but they are or were no more active than any other SL team bar the ones who don't have a team which as far as I'm aware is Salford?.

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2 hours ago, Eddie said:

From the interview, if I understood it correctly, the final straw was SL stopping £80k of funding. Such a small amount of money when you consider the output, and indeed the benefit it has to the lives of 20 lads in each age group every year. 

Equally as short sighted as when the RFL stopped funding I forget how many development officers in London/the south

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Just now, Sir Kevin Sinfield said:

I’d love to see the statistics on how many Super League and Championship have come from each academy. I am certain Leeds would come out on top, they produce more players than anyone else. Wigan would be 2nd and Saints 3rd. The rest of the game in the UK is far too reliant on those 3 clubs. 

The second and third divisions would be an interesting study. Certainly whilst Leeds had a very settled squad from 2010-15 the opportunities for academy progression were minimal leading to plenty of young players moving on to pastures new.

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16 minutes ago, Sir Kevin Sinfield said:

I’d love to see the statistics on how many Super League and Championship have come from each academy. I am certain Leeds would come out on top, they produce more players than anyone else. Wigan would be 2nd and Saints 3rd. The rest of the game in the UK is far too reliant on those 3 clubs. 

I’m sure they’d all love to be as well funded as the three clubs you mentioned, and have academies as good as them. And don’t forget those three can hoover up the best talent from other places. 
 

An interesting point made on that is that academies used to have to have a certain percentage of players from that town, but the RFL scrapped that so the likes of Widnes then lost academy players to bigger clubs. With Warrington to the East, Saints and Wigan to the North and RL deserts to the West and South it can’t have been easy for them. 

Edited by Eddie
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17 minutes ago, Sir Kevin Sinfield said:

I’d love to see the statistics on how many Super League and Championship have come from each academy. I am certain Leeds would come out on top, they produce more players than anyone else. Wigan would be 2nd and Saints 3rd. The rest of the game in the UK is far too reliant on those 3 clubs. 

So what ?

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3 minutes ago, Eddie said:

I’m sure they’d all love to be as well funded as the three clubs you mentioned, and have academies as good as them. And don’t forget those three can hoover up the best talent from other places. 

Exactly, Eddie.

Who'd've thought that they'd produce most professional players ?

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13 minutes ago, Eddie said:

I’m sure they’d all love to be as well funded as the three clubs you mentioned, and have academies as good as them. And don’t forget those three can hoover up the best talent from other places. 
 

An interesting point made on that is that academies used to have to have a certain percentage of players from that town, but the RFL scrapped that so the likes of Widnes then lost academy players to bigger clubs. With Warrington to the East, Saints and Wigan to the North and RL deserts to the West and South it can’t have been easy for them. 

Its a self fulfilling prophecy though, or at least a result of positive feedback loops.

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The sad reality in this day and age is that it’s not worth any clubs outside of SL having an academy. If you manage to produce players of potential SL quality you will loose them for a fraction of the cost of developing them if you get anything at all.

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15 minutes ago, Tommygilf said:

Its a self fulfilling prophecy though, or at least a result of positive feedback loops.

Definitely. But very hard to break the cycle, especially once the rules changed so bigger set ups can take your best players. 

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