Wednesday 15 March 2006
Q&A on Youth Development Programme and Ladies Football
The Dons Trust
In advance of the Annual General Meeting, Dons Trust member Peter Young e-mailed us the following questions on the Youth Development Programme and Ladies teams. Below, Dons Trust Board members Nigel Higgs and Bert Dale give their answers.
Answering the questions on the Youth Development Programme (YDP), Nigel Higgs writes:
The purpose of the YDP is to produce players at age 18/19 that are of a standard equivalent to the AFC Wimbledon senior squad. The club board have adopted this strategy as a prudent way to manage player costs and as a sustainable strategy for the club?s future. The success of the old Wimbledon Youth set up is an example for us to follow. How else would Wimbledon have got class players like Jason Euell, Andy Thorn or Glyn Hodges?
My colleagues and I on the Club and PLC boards believe that the YDP is the future of the Club and without it we will not reach the level that we have set out in our aims. If we genuinely wish to get back to the league then the YDP is intended to play a large part in taking and keeping us there. This strategy is also being worked on actively with Dave Anderson and the senior team staff so that when young players come through they are aware of them and opportunities are made for those young players to prove themselves. For this reason, the YDP needs to be an elite provision and needs to be able to compete with other local clubs, the professional club academies and centre of excellence when attracting and retaining players.
The basic question Peter raises is whether this investment is worthwhile now and how will the club benefit from the investment?
Success will only be achieved when players graduating from the YDP are in the senior squad and playing for the first team. Given that our first intake of 16 year olds will be going to Nescot in September, this may take another couple of seasons to achieve. The initial target is for 2 graduates to the first team squad each season. The strategy to meet these targets includes building up the YDP to be fielding teams in the top division of local youth leagues at every age level from mini-soccer at U8 through to U16. The establishment of such a programme consisting of feeder teams to provide players into the U19 squad cannot be achieved in a short period of time. Leagues will not just open their doors and say please enter the top league and even if they were willing, the other clubs would not tolerate it. Most successful ventures benefit from learning by experience and the YDP is no different.
The YDP is now in its third year but has already achieved considerable playing success. This season we have a team at every age level bar one from U11 to U16 in the semi-final of the Surrey County Cup. Although this is only the most visible part of the growth and development that has been nothing short of phenomenal in such a short period of time. I also strongly believe that boys who come up through our ranks will be committed to the club and that the staff will have detailed knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore the boys? parents and guardians will know our approach and ambitions and should have confidence in the club?s ability to handle their boy?s football development.
Some of Peter?s other questions around community involvement are addressed through the Community Football Scheme and were answered at the AGM and are recorded in the minutes.
The specific outstanding questions he raised at the AGM are addressed below:
I totally agree that the pace of development should be commensurate with the status of the first team and that our strategy is regularly reviewed to ensure it supports the long term development of the first team at an appropriate cost. Now that the Youth Development Programme has moved under the management of the Club and become fully integrated with the PLC budget, accounting and operational processes the overall costs are being actively managed and scrutinised. The YDP has grown rapidly and there are steps we can take to control any further increase in budget and the 2006-07 budget will include a targeted percentage reduction. Further reductions will be built into future budgets. Opportunities for funding and sponsorship are being pursued alongside the overall youth and community proposition of the club. These are all areas that will have a positive effect on the overall budget. There is still considerable development to be done before the agreed targets can be achieved, but all of the foundations are now in place and the success or failure of the youth and community department can be measured against those targets.
My personal view on letting young players go without holding them back or receiving much of a fee is, why not get back some of the investment the club and Trust members have put in? Otherwise another club would benefit from that investment without doing any of the work. Whether or not the assumption about holding back young players is true and valid is as yet untested and has not been discussed at a strategic level, but it would be an interesting position to be in.
I hope that addresses your concerns and I am more than happy to discuss further either at public meetings or in person.
The gross cost of the ladies to the Trust last season was £12,060 last season (against a budget of £16,500). This season the budget has been reduced to £15,000. The ladies teams received none of the SI sponsorship funding last season, for reasons explained at the AGM.
The cost to the DT is expected to cover about 75% of the total cost of running the ladies this season. The other 25% is made up from fundraising, sponsorship and donations. This particularly applies to the two girls? teams, who are completely self-funding. It's anticipated we will extend the youth section of the ladies to at least 4 teams next season with no additional cost to the DT membership.
The ladies and girls are expected to become members of the Dons Trust, and to actively seek sponsorship and take part in fundraising activities, as well as non-fundraising club activities (such as the Family Fun Day).
Both of our girls? teams are currently inclusive. A good percentage of the players (and their parents) have attended most of the first team home games. The senior ladies attend occasional men's games, but many work on Saturday.