Following media reports relating to the Chesterfield FC Player Progression Pathway (PPP) and Chesterfield FC International Academy, chief executive Chris Turner has issued the following statement:
“I felt it was necessary to respond to the speculation regarding the two organisations that are associated with our club in order to set the record straight. As stated previously, it is important to note that both organisations are separate legal entities. They are self-funded with no financial connection to the club.
“The PPP was set up to help provide a pathway to the club’s academy and that has been a great success, with over 150 youngsters moving from the PPP to the academy between the ages of 9-16 over the last four years. The development schools were set up to bring the grassroots football clubs and Chesterfield FC together. When I arrived at the club five years ago, the relationship between the grassroots clubs and the football club was virtually non-existent.
“The current set up is a format where young players between the ages of 9-16, who are playing for local junior teams, can now train on a weekly basis with a qualified coach affiliated to Chesterfield FC, without the player being totally committed to the club. We hope that when the player decides to join a professional academy, this association will encourage them to join Chesterfield rather than Sheffield Wednesday or Sheffield United, which has happened too many times in the past.
“The recent resignation of coaches working for the PPP was disappointing. The coaching staff are part-time employees so there will be times when coaches leave for different reasons. A number of coaches resigned at 3pm last Monday, two hours before coaching was due to begin. This obviously caused Liam Sutcliffe a massive problem and he had to make the reluctant decision to cancel the training session. This is an extremely rare occurrence in the four years it has been operating.
“I understand that a number of the coaches are setting up their own development school. The timing of their departure was clearly done by the coaches to damage the PPP as much as possible for their own gain. There are now new staff on board so it is fully operational again. There are over 100 youngsters from the ages of 9-16 training every Monday night at Gosforth Fields in Dronfield, which is great to see.
“The International Academy will provide an opportunity for young players from all over the world to be coached and educated in Chesterfield. I see this project as similar to a young person going to university. The young player, whilst in the village, will be coached on a daily basis and he will be educated with a syllabus provided by Oxford Academy. The safeguarding of these young players/students is also covered by Oxford Academy.
“Only two weeks ago, Oxford Academy officials carried out a comprehensive review of the CFC Village and gave it a glowing report. In the next six weeks, a number of players/students will be leaving the PPP, at the end of their two-year course. These players/students will be leaving with a BTEC Level 3 in Sport, which is equivalent to three ‘A’ Levels. From July 1, over 40 players/students from various countries will be based at the CFC Village.
“This is an innovative scheme which has attracted interest from elsewhere. A number of Football League clubs have expressed interest in both the PPP and International Academy. I think more clubs will adopt a similar approach to youth development in the future because the EPPP system has proved to be very expensive and is not producing the results that many within the game predicted. Recently, Championship club Brentford made the decision to close down their academy. This has started the alarm bells ringing within the Football League because Brentford were held in the highest esteem within youth development and their decision will have a knock-on effect.
“The EPPP system is expensive and was originally set up for Premier League clubs. The Football League adopted it to ensure their clubs were not falling behind. If you ask the managers and coaches, they will inform you that the system is flawed and expensive. By adapting our youth development system, I feel we have the best of both worlds as the academy and the PPP complement each other.
“There is no denying that it has been a challenging time for the organisation over the last 12 months, particularly from a financial point of view, but this is not unique in business as many new ventures experience similar issues. It is important to note that neither the International Academy nor the PPP/Development Schools owe Chesterfield FC any monies whatsoever.
“The PPP and International Academy are now starting to develop commercial partnerships which will help the organisations progress. In order to go forward, commercial partnerships need to be introduced for simple economic reasons. One such partnership is with a Far East sportswear manufacturer, which will enhance the whole programme. This will also result in the organisation of pre-season trips for the first-team squad next year and the year after. We aim to expand on other commercial deals which will have similar benefits for Chesterfield FC.
“Parents of youngsters who were due to go on a trip to France voted to cancel the trip following the acts of terrorism in Paris. Despite the fact that there was no requirement to do so, as a gesture of goodwill, the PPP agreed to refund the cost of the trip and payments have now been made to all 25 parents. I must say that we are very grateful to all our parents for their patience and support during this time.
“I remain confident that the PPP and the International Academy will provide long-terms benefits for Chesterfield FC, attracting young players who might otherwise go to local clubs such as Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United. If a young player at either organisation has the required ability and attitude, there is a pathway to the professional ranks at Chesterfield FC.”