The UEFA Intelligence Center report “Training Facilities and Youth Investment – Landscape 2020” was recently published. The European federation shares its data from 950 training centers that 673 clubs in 54 different countries use. What is standing out and how are The Netherlands actually doing?
The first thing that stands out is that talent development in Europe has become a huge business. The European clubs (playing in the top divisions) spend about €870 million per year on their youth academies. Obviously, there are big differences in budget, more about that later. With a difficult transfer market due to the current COVID-19 situation, UEFA expects a major advantage for clubs that invest sustainably in a strong youth academy. They have a strong foundation for future success, according to the union.
The report indicates that transfer fees for players under 20 have tripled in the past five years. This even reached a record high in 2019. The U20 market has become extremely lucrative. Investing in youth as a business model for clubs nowadays is very well substantiated with figures. Other clubs with strong youth academies are also benefiting from the flourishing market. The solidarity payments (in the event of a transfer, the new club pays a percentage to the club where the player was trained) have doubled in ten years; from €68 million in 2009/10 to €139 million in 2019/20. UEFA indicates this as a beautiful figure. This amount could have been even higher for me. A higher solidarity contribution would do even more justice to all those clubs that have contributed to the talent’s route to the top.
Position of Dutch clubs
I was very curious about the position of The Netherlands when it comes to the budget for youth academies. And it is not surprising that English clubs spend the most money on their youth academy. With an average budget of €6.1 million, they are at the top of the list. Followed by Germany with an average budget of €5.3 million and France with a budget of €4.7 million. The Netherlands are in 7th place with an average budget of €1.9 million.
There are huge differences in budget for youth between the different European top countries. This fact is reinforced when you know that in England, Germany and France many clubs are currently putting more than €5 million into their youth academy. For comparison: according to the report, there are 3 clubs in The Netherlands with a youth budget of more than €5 million. In Germany there are 12, in England 9 and in France 8. There’s a big gap between the 3 clubs in The Netherlands with a budget of more than €5 million and other clubs. The report does not mention any Dutch clubs with a budget between € 3-4 and € 4-5 million. All other clubs work with budgets between € 0-3 million. In neighboring countries, the gap is smaller and the spread between clubs is more equally distributed. It seems as if we do not come off well in this list compared to these (large) countries. But if we compare ourselves with Belgium, we can be very happy with the Dutch clubs that invest more than €5 million in youth.
When it comes to artificial turf, we are at the top of the list. Our research in 2015 already made it clear that Dutch professional youth academies make extensive use of synthetic turf pitches. The UEFA report underlines this once again. The Netherlands leads the ranking when it comes to the number of synthetic turf / hybrid pitches at our training centers. On average, a Dutch club has 3.4 artificial grass / hybrid pitches compared to 3.9 natural grass pitches. In other European countries this is a lot less. For example, England has an average of 3.2 artificial grass and 6.8 natural grass pitches, Germany 2.9 artificial grass and 4.5 natural grass pitches and France 3.2 artificial grass and 3.7 natural grass pitches at their disposal.
Collaboration with schools
Finally, a positive not about the collaboration with schools. Almost all Dutch youth academies work closely with schools. On this point, The Netherlands scores 94%, compared to Germany with 88%, England with 70 % and Belgium with 56%.
Innovation and creativity
It is unlikely that we will close the financial gap with our neighboring countries in the short term. After all, it’s about bigger countries, more clubs, bigger leagues and many more youth players to train. To keep up with the massive investments in youth academies from countries like Germany, England and France, we need to do what we’ve always been good at: innovative thinking and creativity to get the most out of our budgets.
Do you want to know what we do for youth academies in The Netherlands and abroad? Read about in our cases.
The images used are from the UEFA report “Training Facilities and Youth Investment – Landscape 2020”