The decision means that the club will rank alongside 26 other elite Category 1 Academies such as Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. The promotion ensures that Palace’s games programme is also enhanced – the Under-18s will play in the Premier League: South division, whilst the Under-23s will compete in Premier League 2 next season.
Palace has a rich history in developing world-class football talent, with 36 players coming through the Academy ranks to reach the first-team in the last 15 years, making more than 1,000 appearances collectively for the Eagles. The latest Academy graduate coming through the ranks was full-back Tyrick Mitchell, who made his first appearance during Saturday’s match against Leicester City.
The club secured a long-term lease for the Academy site opposite its first-team training ground on Copers Cope Road, Beckenham, in December 2018, with planning permission for a major upgrade to facilities formally granted last month, with works well underway.
Club Chairman Steve Parish said: "Achieving Category 1 status is the culmination of an immense amount of hard work from our staff, and it is an incredible achievement in such a short space of time since securing the land and planning permission.
"Our ambition is to have one of the country’s leading football academies to capitalise on the hotbed of footballing talent in south London. The investment in the playing facilities, education offering and player care provision will enable us to attract and develop the next generation of Wilfried Zahas and Aaron Wan-Bissakas.
"Furthermore, we are committed to having a transformational impact on the lives of the wider community and especially the 200 plus boys that are directly in our care at any one time, whether they make it to the professional ranks or not.
"The whole Academy site will also be widely used by the club to enhance our presence in the community – not just the playing facilities. We are looking at ways we can positively affect the lives of young people using the education facilities for job training and further education.
"I would finally like to take this opportunity to thank the thousands of our supporters who have already generously committed to becoming Academy Founder Members, helping us further enhance this magnificent project for the benefit of our young players for years to come."
The enhanced site, which will be fully accessible, is to be made available for community use through the Palace for Life Foundation, as the charity continues its school holiday programmes, disability teams and community engagement initiatives, providing development opportunities for thousands of young south Londoners.
The development includes:
- a central area of open-plan office and meeting spaces together with a restaurant common / meeting area that will be the hub of the Academy, linked to terraces overlooking the new ‘show pitch’
- Four classrooms, open-plan office and meeting spaces
- Campus-style internal and external refit to all buildings
- and a new gym and sports science facility
- Fourteen dressing rooms of differing sizes
The playing facilities will be enhanced and expanded to feature:
- 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
Season Ticket holders for the 2019/20 season are being offered incredible benefits in return for transferring their refund towards further enhancing the Academy project by becoming Academy Founder Members, including an invitation to attend a first-team training session with a friend. For more information, click the banner below.