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BREAKING: Bolton Wanderers Downgrade Academy Status

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Dramatic headline, but what does that mean?

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Bolton Wanderers are to downgrade their Academy from a top-level Category 1, to a Category 2 status.

The move is designed to save on the £1m a season that it currently costs the club to operate the academy at the high standard demanded of Category 1 clubs.

FA rules state that:

A club with Category 1 status must have several full time employees that, under Category 3, can be made part-time or removed all together. Among the roles which could be reviewed are sports scientist, coach developer, strength and conditioning coach, performance analyst and head of education.

Further to this, the number of coaches employed to work with players under the age of 16 can be reduced. In a Category 1 training session there has to be at least one coach for every eight players. In Category 3 that ratio is relaxed to one in ten.

Most importantly, Category 2 clubs are recommended to cap their academy spending at £500,000 - half the present annual bill. Such financial savings would be understandable but of greater concern to fans may be that the club could, if it chooses to do so, slash the number of coaching hours given to their youngest academy players.

The FA Charter explains:

Under Category 1, Under-11 players have eight hours coaching a week for 46 weeks a year, meaning those players receive an annual total of at least 368 hours of tuition.

Under Category 2, the academy lads could receive as little as 120 hours a year.

What is certain though is that the youth teams will no longer be testing themselves against the country's most challenging opposition in a league format. Club youngsters will continue to play friendlies against the big clubs in behind-closed-doors games but competitive fixtures against Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur will be replaced with the likes of Luton Town and Stevenage Borough. Glamorous eh?

Another feature of the downgrade is that the next Zach Clough would find his path to a larger club a lot easier, as Category 2 clubs are entitled to less compensation for young stars. Under the rules, a talented 16-year-old registered with a Category 1 Academy since Under-9 level could sign for another club and his current team would be due £200,000 in compensation. For the same player, a Category 2 club would receive £71,500.

Category 1 clubs are also required to have a floodlit grass pitch, an indoor surface available all year round and match analysis suites - something that Wanderers can now do away with.