Exeter Academy successfully retains Category 3 status in EPPP audit

Grecians’ Academy praised in assessment

Exeter City’s Academy, based at the Cat & Fiddle training ground, has successfully retained its status as a Category 3 Academy after a recent Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) audit.

Numerous aspects of the Academy were taken into account, including both day-to-day running and long-term vision and strategy – and the Grecians’ set-up received a glowing account.  The auditors conducted their assessment over a week-long period in April 2014.

Elements that were assessed included the coaching programme, coaching philosophy, education and welfare, games programme, sports science, recruitment philosophy and talent identification, player performance management, facilities and financial sustainability.

The Academy scored particularly highly on its vision and strategy, sports science and financial sustainability.  The Academy’s success was highlighted in a practical sense in the 2013/14 season, with no less than 11 graduates featuring for the Grecians’ first-team during the season.

As well as giving an assessment of the Academy as it stands, the audit also gave plenty of recommendations for future improvements and developments which will help Exeter City towards its long-term goal of upgrading to Category 2 status.

In particular, the conclusion of the audit praised Exeter’s unique and inventive approach to running its youth set-up under Academy Manager Simon Hayward, and went above and beyond the call of duty in many areas which are not currently covered by the EPPP audit.  The conclusion read as follows:

“It was noted by the Independent Standards Organisation that the Club act innovatively and are producing good work that often falls outside of the audit process.  This is to be encouraged and it is recommended that the Club continue to conduct themselves in the same vein of innovative and inventive practice in the expectation that this will be rewarded in forthcoming audits and will continue to benefit youth Academy players.”

Simon Hayward, who celebrates a decade at the head of the Exeter City Academy later this month, said: “We are delighted to have achieved Category 3 status at the first time of asking and to have got over the line comfortably.  Thanks go to all of those involved in the Academy over the last three years – a huge amount of preparation has gone into this since the EPPP came into force in the 2011/12 season.  

“Special praise must go to the coaching staff, who have taken the brunt of the workload on top of the day job of actually coaching players and producing players for the first team.

“It is great that the ISO recognised how much of our innovative work falls outside their audit process, but at the same time disappointing that this work does not get rewarded within the audit process itself.  Similarly it was great that the ISO have commended the outstanding quality of what they saw our coaches and players deliver on the training pitch and match pitch, but frustrating that the audit tool is heavily weighted towards paperwork.  

“We believe that the Academy should be about producing high quality players and coaches first and although administration is vital to support this we think the football itself is the most important element.

“Although the audit and the implementation of the EPPP has been an arduous process we have welcomed the desire to raise standards in the Academy programme across the country and we will now use the report and its recommendation to help us map, alongside our own plans, how we progress and improve from here.”

Exeter City Vice-Chairman Julian Tagg said: “The Academy, against all odds, continues to improve year on year, which is a testament to the coaches’ purposeful ambition to underpin and support the playing side of the club, and which has been led superbly over the last 10 years by Simon Hayward.

“The supporters’ volunteering and financial efforts – particularly the 50/50 Draw by the Supporters’ Club on matchdays – are significant in this success story.  The next target must be to improve all aspects of facility provision to ensure the bar can be raised yet further.”