Many fans will by now have seen the Scottish FA’s ‘Project Brave’ announcement of the clubs who have been admitted to the new tiers of the academy structure in the Scottish game.
Clubs were free to apply for whichever grade they felt best suited their individual needs and acceptance was based on grading according to a criteria-based system and an assessment of Measurable Performance Outcomes (MPOs).
Saints applied for and have been accepted in to the tier known as ‘Progressive’ – one of eight clubs to be accepted into that level.
Speaking about the outcome, Chairman Steve Brown says: “This has been a long process which has required a great deal of discussion with both the Scottish FA and other clubs.
“The initial stretching proposals were of great concern to a number of clubs in terms of practicality and affordability and I held several meetings with the leading figures at like-minded clubs to come up with alternative, more inclusive criteria.
“From the feedback put to the SFA, they agreed to have a ‘middle tier’ for clubs who felt that the so-called ‘Elite’ status was unsuitable for them. Acceptance into this middle tier, known as ‘Progressive Performance’ has still required a huge amount of work being put into the onerous application process and more importantly has seen the club commit to several new full-time posts within the Academy and also increase resources in areas such as training time, indoor facilities, physiotherapy, sport science and video analysis with further enhancements requiring to be made over the first three years of the new structure.
“It is a very substantial extra investment in the Academy operation and although the level of income from the SFA will also increase there is no doubt the net effect will be a substantial extra investment by the club. Nevertheless, it is absolutely the right thing to for St Johnstone FC and the hard work put in by Alistair Stevenson and all his staff is showing signs of bearing fruit – the summer intake of new full-time players from almost exclusively last season’s league-winning Under 17 squad is clear evidence of that.
“In addition to the boys in that team, older players such as Zander Clark, Craig Thomson, Ally Gilchrist, Jason Kerr and Aaron Comrie have all been wholly or partly developed via our Academy structure.
“In short, we felt that we were already on the right track and arguably producing as much, if not more, young talent than clubs graded higher than us. We did and do, however, share the Scottish FA’s desire to develop better Scottish players for the betterment of the game at both club and international level.
“Youth development requirements and demands is different to every club and we feel that we have been accepted into a level which meets our ambitions but does not place intolerable pressure on overall club finances.”
Head of Academy Alistair Stevenson says of the move: “This is hugely positive for the club and is the outcome we hoped for after a great deal of work being put into the application by a number of people.
“Players, parents, my staff and everyone at the club have endured the best part of 18 months of uncertainty over the future direction of the Academy but the pathway is now clear and we are very enthusiastic about the future.
“The current season will now run through to December and we then break before heading into what will be a 2018 ‘calendar season’ and we are now all working hard to ensure that we hit the ground running when that comes.
“The need for further development and enhancement continues in the next two or three years and this will require further investment from the club but we are determined to meet these challenges and ensure that McDiarmid Park remains amongst the best venues at which young players can develop.”
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