Albion have joined the Premier League elite in terms of youth development.

The club’s academy has been awarded Category One status, the highest rank under the Premier League’s Elite Players Performance Plan (EPPP).

The Seagulls are now recognised as one of the best clubs in the country in terms of facilities, staff and opportunities for young players.

Albion will play against some of the biggest clubs in the country at under-21, under-18 and under-16 level.

Their youth set-up is now recognised as being in the same bracket as clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.

Head of football operations David Burke described the award as fantastic news and reward for a lot of hard work.

Burke said: “Firstly we need to thank (chairman) Tony Bloom for the financial support he has provided to get us to this level.

"Tony has given the club magnificent facilities in terms of the Amex and now the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre, and with his continued investment in our youth policy; he has been integral to us taking this next step.

“On a personal note I would like to thank (academy manager) John Morling and all his team who have done a fantastic job to take us from a centre of excellence in 2012, to a category one academy in 2014.”

Albion came through two inspections and had to meet high standards for education, coaching, medical, strength and conditioning, analysis, recruitment and sport science.

Burke added: “The advantage of our new status means our players will test themselves week-in, week-out against the best players in the country, in the best facilities to help them develop.

"However, despite everything at their disposal, the basis for any young Brighton player’s progression will remain hard work and putting in the hours.

“The new status also gives us a better scope for recruitment opportunities as well as in developing the players we already have.

“We now feel with a Category One academy, a commitment from Sami and his staff to give the young players a pathway, along with the qualified development staff who provide bespoke training plans for our young players, there is a recipe success here at Albion.”

Albion’s under-21s will now enter a national league containing sides such as Newcastle and Aston Villa.

Simon Ireland’s team start their league campaign against Blackburn Rovers in August. Under-21 fixtures will still be played at either Culver Road, Lancing, or at the Amex.

The under-18s and 16s enter the southern regional leagues and will come up against Arsenal and Chelsea.