Widnes Vikings have confirmed that their Academy system will cease operations.
Their youth system has produced a wide array of players that have represented Widnes first team, with some being recognised internationally.
Callum O’Neill made his first-team debut in 2019 and received a call-up in Ireland’s senior squad, while Keanan Brand moved to Leigh Centurions on loan from Super League side and near-rivals Warrington Wolves.
Connor Davies-Aspey is another upcoming name after he made his Super League debut for Salford Red Devils this season.
Widnes Vikings posted a statement on their website outlining this decision stating that it was ‘tremendously difficult’. A number of factors including a substantial decrease in funding and the Covid-19 pandemic placed further financial and logistical constraints on the club.
The statement reads: “Current Academy licenses across the sport are due to expire at the end of 2021, and it has been indicated that Super League membership and the ability to draw players from non-heartland areas will be integral to successful reapplication.”
“After exploring every alternative avenue, the combination of these factors has led the club to this outcome. Ultimately, there are insufficient resources available at present to support both a competitive first team and an environment of the appropriate quality necessary for the development of young players.”
“The club is dedicated to providing all players with the appropriate support and ensuring they have the best possible opportunity to secure playing opportunities elsewhere.”