The Academy – Value for money? It has been said, both from inside and for outside the club, that the academy must continue. Mr Cryne was a firm supporter and continued to do so throughout his term in charge. As recently as his take-over speech, Mr Conway pledged his continued support for it. At least he said that they would support the academy when he was not saying they were not going to do anything crazy. The odds appear heavily stacked against anyone questioning the viability of the academy, but that is what I intend to do. I will start by looking at the construction costs. I can remember when our training complex consisted of just one grassless pitch, which was used by all teams for training purposes. When the Co-operative society got into difficulties, the club bought their sports facilities. The club bought the land and began to develop it. They flattened it and created a huge area with 4 pitches, plus an all-weather surface and a couple of small stands. I have no idea what this all cost (the land, the ground works and fencing, the all-weather pitch and the stands) but it must be top side of £1million. Now I have to admit that these facilities are shared, but did the club really need more that 2 pitches for the first team? If you agree, then the purchase of the land, the all-weather pitch and at least half the ground works must be capital costs relating to the academy. The next capital cost is the North Stand. Now I know that not many agree here, but when did that stop me. Before the North Stand was built, we had 2000 seats for away supporters on the Spion Kop. Most of the time, this was more than adequate to house the limited numbers that require seating most weeks. When we decided to build a new stand, the logical place would have been on the west side, thereby replacing a much loved, but dilapidated remnant from the early 1900s. That way, all of the increase in capacity could have been allocated to home supporters. There would not have been as many additional seats if we had matched the east and west sides (about 3,000) and total ground capacity would have been lower but the additional 3000 seats could have increased home capacity from its current, and static 16,500 to 19,500. Those who say that there is not sufficient space are wrong. There was always a plan to move the pitch towards the east stand once funds were available to develop the west stand. As it is, there is no point in attracting larger home support, because if they did turn up in large numbers, there is nowhere to put them. One of the main reasons for locating the new stand on the north side of the ground rather than the west side was that it could also serve as a changing facility for the academy. So what we have is a white elephant that lies unused most weeks, but which is there because of the academy, when all the academy required was a glorified hut with lights, heating, showers and physio room. I know that is an exaggeration, but I exaggerate to make a point. The north stand cost £5m, but we could have met the requirements for perhaps £1m. So how do we allocate the additional £4m in capital costs? That was not the end of the spending though was it. The club were chasing a quality charter, and to get that, it needed class rooms and it needed an indoor training facility. The corner stand contains the classrooms, and it also functions as additional boxes on a Saturday afternoon, even though it is in probably the worst place in the ground for viewing purposes. Nevertheless, let us allocate just 50% of this building as academy capital spending. The indoor training facility is also used by the first team, but frankly, no professional football club would chose to train indoors and many do not have such a facility. Nevertheless, less us allocate 50% of the capital spend to the academy. The capital spend is not even half the story though is it. Next we must tell the story of where that money came from. We used to joke about naming the stands after the player who was sold to pay for it. For example, although there was a government grant available after Hillsborough, it only paid for half the East Stand. The rest came from the sale of Carl Tiler. The South Stand was financed by Gerry Taggart, the floodlights by John Beresford. The North Stand was financed by Ashley Ward and the indoor training facility by Craig Hignett. In other words, all of the developments came at the expense of player sales. It is not just recently that players have been sold, it also happened under John Dennis, but perhaps for different reason. Whilst John Dennis sold in order to build, Patrick Cryne sold in order to protect our future. In the end, John Dennis’ luck ran out, whereas Patrick Cryne has hopefully given us a future. However, the purpose of this piece is not to contrast our previous two main men. It is to try to find out if our academy has been value for money, and in order to do that I have tried to show what we had to give up to create an academy and I have tried to give a flavour of the capital costs. When we get beyond those things, we still have the running costs. Here I do not include the U23 team. We could still recruit an U23 team from Premiership academy cast offs and non-league players who were later developers, and who were therefore not picked up by any academy. I am talking about young players from the age of 8 to the age of 18. Apparently, it costs £1m per annum to run this section of the academy. It is about 18 years since the academy was set up on its current foundations, give or take a few. Let us not argue about the detail. I am trying to give a flavour here. That is £18m in running costs. When a player leaves the academy, his education continues in the adult world. The players who we will eventually sell continue to improve in a different environment. The players who do not improve eventually leave the club on free transfer. The question is, how many players who leave the academy will eventually become establish first team regulars, because that is what the whole process has been about. If an average of just 1 player per year becomes a first team regular, then that player has cost the club £1m, if the figure is 1 every 2 years, then his cost is £2m. Of course, the club can sell on ex-academy graduates, but there is no difference there between a player that we took from the academy, and a player that we took from another club. We have probably earned a total of £9.6m from the sales of John Stones and a further £3m from the sale of James Bree, but Mawson, Hourihane and Roberts did not go through our academy and together their fees came to roughly the same total at a fraction of the acquisition cost. We are all guilty of simply accepting the wisdom of investing in the academy, but has anyone ever looked at the full picture, and been prepared to examine their own logic. This piece is not an argument to close the academy, but it is an argument that perhaps we should think again using a cost - benefit analysis.