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Plans unveiled as Palace target Category 1 status for its Academy

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Crystal Palace Football Club has revealed plans to develop its Academy site in Bromley in an attempt to secure Category 1 status in time for the commencement of the 2020/21 season, subject to planning permission.

Last December, the club secured a long-term lease for the site on Copers Cope Road, Beckenham, which is opposite the first-team training facility in south London. The Academy operates primarily out of this main site, but relies heavily on nearby facilities to meet increasing demand for its playing, training and education offering to more than 220 players. 

The plans include major expansion and enhancement of the football facilities – including a full-size covered pitch, but great importance has been placed on improving welfare facilities for the club’s young players.

This includes new educational facilities, with the creation of up to five classrooms, lecture rooms and meeting spaces, and up to eight tutors will be employed to ensure players receive the very best education on site.

There are also plans to expand the wider player-care provision, providing enhanced physical and mental support – including the employment of a full-time psychologist. A new medical treatment, rehabilitation, and sports science facility will be built.

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The plans include:

  • Campus-style internal and external refit to all buildings
  • New classrooms, lecture rooms and meeting spaces
  • A new medical treatment, rehabilitation, and sports science facility
  • Restaurant

The playing facilities will be expanded to include:

  • A full-size DESSO main pitch (a hybrid grass surface composed of natural grass combined with artificial fibres) with under soil heating
  • A covered full-size 3G synthetic pitch, for all-weather use
  • A full-size, floodlit 3G pitch
  • Creation of six additional pitches of varying sizes for various age groups

The club currently operates a Category 2 Academy, running 10 teams from the Under-9 age group through to U23s. The club’s Under-15s are national Super Floodlit Cup champions, whilst the U18s and U23s won their respective leagues in the 2017/18 season.

The club employs 35 full-time and 100 part-time staff in its Academy, and it is expected that this will increase by approximately 20 – including eight teachers for players’ education.

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The Premier League club’s Academy has an esteemed reputation for producing outstanding footballers, including Wilfried Zaha who has played 334 times for his boyhood club, scoring 53 goals, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (49 Premier League appearances).

Other Academy graduates who have starred in the Premier League include Victor Moses (220 Premier League appearances), Nathaniel Clyne (185 Premier League appearances), Ben Watson (145 Premier League appearances), Wayne Routledge (297 Premier League appearances), and Jonny Williams (12 Premier League appearances; an integral part of the club’s promotion to the Premier League in 2013).

The current England manager Gareth Southgate is also a Palace Academy graduate.

Indeed, over the last 15 years, 34 players have come through the ranks to make a first-team appearance for the Eagles – collectively making more than 1,000 appearances for the club.

The most recent young players who have progressed into the first team are Luke Dreher, who made his first appearance against AFC Bournemouth in May, Sam Woods, who started against Colchester United in the Carabao Cup earlier this season and Brandon Pierrick, who became the club's youngest Premier League debutant against Norwich City on New Year's Day 2020. All three players recently signed new deals with the club, reinforcing the club’s commitment to its most talented young players.

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Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish said: “I am extremely proud and excited to share these plans, which are of critical importance to help ensure our future as an established Premier League football club.

“We have a proud, rich history of nurturing exceptional young footballers, and we must ensure that the best young players are playing here and developing their careers at Crystal Palace.

"Securing Category 1 status for our Academy is imperative for us to be competitive in attracting the very best young players, and there is an abundance of raw footballing talent in south London.

“We have shown in recent years to have a clear pathway for our most gifted and committed players into our first-team – a tradition we are committed to continuing.

“Our excellent coaching staff, several of whom have represented Palace, are devoted not only to developing world-class footballers, but exceptional people too.

“To have our entire Academy set-up on one site in Bromley, where we can increase our contact time with young players, and also vastly enhance our education provision and support infrastructure for them, would be of enormous benefit to the club and the young players too. 

“We will also ensure that there will be community usage through Palace for Life Foundation. We have taken great care in developing plans for the site in a responsible and sustainable way.”

After the club’s application received 549 letters of support, at a meeting on Wednesday, 18th March 2020, Bromley councillors resolved to grant planning permission, subject to completion of the 106 agreement and GLA referral. Work is due to begin shortly.

Exhibition boards from Public Consultation event on 31 Oct–1 Nov 2019 can be downloaded here.



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