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Watford refuse to comment on the future of their partnership with the Harefield Academy
This article was originally uploaded on Thursday but due to technical problems is no longer on the site, so we have uploaded it again.
Watford have refused to comment on the future of their partnership with the Harefield Academy after the club decided to downgrade their youth programme.
The Hornets this week announced it was no longer applying for a Category 1 status as part of the new Elite Player Performance Plan, which is being implemented this summer.
Instead they have opted for Category 3, which is the same as Stevenage and Aldershot Town.
Watford have taken the decision because of the increased expenditure required to be a Category 1 Academy, because they have no intention to recruit nationally and did not want to be part of the nationwide Under-21 league, which is mandatory for the top two levels.
We understand Watford’s current budget for their Academy is between £1.3m to £1.6m and guidelines for clubs suggest Category 1 academies should spend £2.3m. Category 2 is £1.5m and Category 3 is £500,000.
Watford attempt to recruit locally and the path into the Hornets’ first team has traditionally been quicker than most, meaning their demand for an Under-21 league is also less. Sources claim the above reasons were part of the reason why the new regime felt it unnecessary to be a Category 1 club.
Gianfranco Zola indicated as much when asked about the issue this week. He said: “I have said a few times that there is always places in my squad for good young players from our Academy.
“Watford has a great reputation for youth development. I would say that it is here, more than any other club in the league, where the path from the Academy into the first-team squad is the shortest.
“This is a great thing for a young player to know. My staff and I are watching them closely and involving them when it is right to do so.”
Watford have an agreement with the Harefield Academy, which is a specialist sports school attended by several of the club’s youngsters through several age groups.
The Hornets refused to comment on whether they will keep their current agreement with the Harefield Academy or whether the partnership will be scrapped in the short-to-medium future.
We understand the club are in discussions with Harefield at the moment.
We also understand Watford have agreed a new ten-year lease with University College London for their London Colney training base, which includes an option to purchase the land.