THE DEMANDS OF the FA Academy Charter means that every Sunday for the junior members - that is the schoolboys aged from 9-16 - a minimum of four top quality pitches are required to allow them to fulfil their fixtures.
Each age group has a team and consequently, each Sunday, we field eight teams. Four play at home and four away. We need four pitches of good quality, we need a similar amount of dressing rooms to cope with this - plus a separate one in case we have lady officials.
The demands, which include an indoor area are quite stringent. It is to be hoped that the smaller clubs that are claiming that the system is elitist are not frozen out of their genuine intention to produce young footballers through the Academy structure.
We do need more ground - and of a better quality. At Chigwell currently, we have six pitches of which two need a little attention, plus an artificial pitch.
In the difficult winter, the senior team need at all times to have three pitches available of a decent standard.
The Academy has been left slightly short and, as a consequence of that, the board has looked into different options around the area to find sufficient space to develop a wonderful site maybe independent of the senior group.
Although, depending on what we may acquire, a site that can embrace both the seniors and Academy boys from nine years old upwards.
Clubs like Blackburn, Middlesbrough and Liverpool have achieved and built wonderful sites. Of course, this is a costly exercise and the club would have to raise money in order to fulfil this dream.
Time moves on, football moves on, and we must stay with the game.
However, it is our hope, that in due course we can show our intentions clearly to the Academy committee. We have to be able to prove that we have plans in place.
If everything falls into line it has to be hoped that by the season 2003-04 we could have new surroundings.
David Pleat explains the necessity of improved surroundings for our Youth Academy...