Youth academy first victim of Crawley's financial cutbacks

Crawley Town have confirmed they will be scrapping their youth academy at the end of the season as part of their cost-cutting measures.

Chief executive Michael Dunford announced this week that the club would be launching a wide-ranging financial review in order to save money and the academy appears to be the first victim.

Dunford said he had agonized over the decision to close the academy but the fact it had not produced any regular first team players in the last three years meant it was not cost effective.

The closure of the academy will save Crawley a six-figure sum each year with coaches Steve Martin and Mark Beard being made redundant.

It means Reds will only operate with a first team next season having ditched their reserve team a number of years ago.

Crawley also scrapped plans to launch a comprehensive youth academy from the age of six up last summer due to the prohibitive cost.

Dunford said: “This has been an agonising decision to make but has been done in the interests of the club’s overall viability.

“We had hoped the scholarship programme would be sustainable but the reality is that it is very expensive and requires more financial resource than we can provide as a club at the moment.

“As part of our ongoing financial review we have been examining every aspect of the club. Since we became a league club none of the scholars who have been with us have become first-team regulars and it is very hard for local lads to progress now as we are competing in League One and looking to push towards the Championship.

“We are extremely grateful to Steve and Mark for the work they have done and we wish them and the lads all the best for their future careers.”

Jonte Smith, Alex Malins, Louis John and Jon Dollery are the only players to have come through the youth academy since Reds were promoted to League Two in 2011.

Smith is the only one of that quartet to have appeared for the first team, making four substitute appearances last season.

Malins has been an unused sub on a couple of occasions but John has yet to make a matchday squad while Dollery was released in the summer.

The club currently has 16 scholars signed to football development or college education contracts and Crawley have vowed to endeavour to find them alternative clubs.

Reds will now refocus their efforts in scouting youth players from other clubs.

Dunford added: “John Gregory and his scouting team watch many of the Premier League under-21 games around the country and we are always trying to identify those players aged 18-21 who are not getting opportunities with the top clubs to see if they could develop into first-team players.”

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