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An eleventh hour announcement of major investment in the Academy by Mike Ashley had not been enough to secure Category One status for the Newcastle United Academy. The club have continued to work since the conclusion of their audit, however, and now look set to gain critical Category One status in the EPPP.
Back in February, Mike Ashley announced an increase in funding for the Newcastle United Academy in preparation for an independent audit in conjunction with the Elite Player Performance Plan. The hope was that the announced investment as well as other improvements that had been made recently would be enough to allow the auditors to assign Category One status to the Academy, meaning Newcastle United would have maximum flexibility in youth acquisition as well as get maximum central funding assistance through the EPPP. (The link above includes a breakdown of what EPPP and the category status means if you've forgotten or are unaware.)
As official announcements rolled in from clubs in the same audit group as Newcastle United (Sunderland announced they had been given Category One status, as had Newcastle's other northeast rivals Middlesbrough), the club maintained steadfast silence as media reports indicated that Newcastle would be given Category Two status. This would have hamstrung Newcastle's stated model to depend more and more on local youth and Academy products if it ended up being finalized.
Making the grade is of huge importance to United, who would stand to lose nearly £300,000 of annual Academy funding and run the risk of neighbours Middlesbrough and Sunderland – who have both already been given Category One status – potentially poaching their players for a knock-down fee if they were in the Category Two bracket.
--From The Journal
In the months since the results of the audits were being announced, Newcastle have apparently been working feverishly with the Premier League and the independent auditors to address shortcomings that were identified in the Adademy, and there is a likelihood that the work has paid off. While there will likely be no announcement in the very near future, The Journal has reported that Newcastle United are hopeful of being confirmed in Category One status in "the next few months."
Newcastle’s Academy was initially assessed below the grade required to earn the sought-after Category One mark, which brings a minimum of £775,000 of annual funding and makes it easier for clubs to scout and transfer the best players from all over the country.
That was a sizeable blow for a club that has placed youth development at the heart of its attempts to become sustainable, but The Journal has learned that United are hopeful of confirmation of their Category One status in the next few months, having proven to the Premier League that they have made the improvements raised by the original audit.
--From The Journal
Academies will undergo a regular re-assessment through the EPPP, so a rating of Category Two would not have been catastrophic per se, but it would have set the youth process at Little Benton back by quite a bit of time as Category One clubs would have been able to take the pick of United's Academy (think Sammy Ameobi, Tim Krul, etc.) until Category One status was secured by Newcastle. If the club can manage to secure Category One status from the word go as is being reported, the youth program will stay firmly on track.