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The news that Brentford’s Academy is set to close this summer will come as a surprise to many, not least those parents and children who form part of the current cohort of young footballers. However, it has been clear for quite a while that not all has been well at the Uxbridge facility, with a succession of key staff having left to join rival clubs.

According to a former Academy staff member Beesotted spoke to today; “Shaun O’Connor (Head Of Recruitment) and Miguel Rios (Assistant Head Of Recruitment) both left for Arsenal and Fulham respectively. A number of coaches have also left, along with most scouts. Stuart English (Head Of Coaching) recently joined Birmingham and Danny Buck was also set to jump ship.” Things were clearly not going to plan on several fronts.

It appears that the final decision came following a meeting at Jersey Road last week to discuss whether the Academy was to be downgraded from a Cat Two to Cat Four – with a call finally made to close the academy and restructure the club’s youth system from the ground up.

We understand that many of Brentford’s Under-18 players are available for transfer, although the club issued a statement that suggests that some may be retained to join what has been described as a new Elite Development Squad.

These developments will shock many as the Brentford Academy was one of Matthew Benham’s most revered projects and we discussed the news briefly – just before it officially broke – on the Pride Of West London end of season podcast (link below): there were ambitious targets to have 50% of Brentford’s first team filled with Academy graduates by the end of the decade, with talk of even having a full England international coming from the Bees’ Academy during that time.

The club’s official statement says: “As part of a lengthy evaluation process, Co-Directors of Football, Phil Giles and Rasmus Ankersen were asked by the Club to examine the structure of departments within the football operation.”

“A cornerstone of that evaluation process was that the Club must strive to find ways to do things differently to our rivals, in order to compete and progress as a Championship football club. We cannot outspend the vast majority of our competitors therefore we will never shy away from taking the kind of decision that can give us a competitive edge.”

“This philosophy is particularly relevant with regards to the future of the Brentford FC Academy. As a London club, there is strong competition for the best young players, and the Club’s pathways to First Team football must be sufficiently differentiated to attract the level of talent that can thrive in a team competing towards the top end of the Championship.”

“Moreover, the development of young players must make sense from a business perspective. The review has highlighted that, in a football environment where the biggest Premier League clubs seek to sign the best young players before they can graduate through an Academy system, the challenge of developing value through that system is extremely difficult. Therefore, as a result of this review, the decision has been taken to completely restructure the Club’s Academy system.”

It is a well known fact that running a Cat Two Academy is an expensive business, and as was revealed in the Beesotted article on the Brentford accounts, the club ran up a £15m debt last season and, even in a good season could rack up debts of £6m to £8m a year, so this news may be part of prudent housekeeping if it is felt the academy is unlikely to produce the required talent to make it viable in the long-term. However, you have to feel sorry for the young footballers (and their families) who will become innocent victims of the cuts and we hope the club handles that issue with the required care.

My own son was with Chelsea’s Academy for over two years, as well as being invited to train with Brentford’s Centre of Excellence for three years, so I am only too aware how competitive clubs in West London are when snapping up young talent – and of how potentially damaging being let go can be – which is the fate which unfortunately awaits almost all lads in any case. Not that anyone ever feels like their son will be, I think that is part of every parents’ DNA.

My personal view is that Brentford always had their work cut out to compete with QPR, Fulham and Chelsea (all long established), not to mention the other top flight clubs who have their tentacles in areas that far exceed their geographical location, and I always queried if we could in fact succeed based purely on Chelsea’s almost total dominance locally. But we all hoped that a successful Academy would play a central role in our club growing in stature in West London, and today’s news is a real shame.

The club’s statement today claims that they feel the new Elite Development Squad can work closer with the first-team set up and that there will be clear pathways for the best young players, but only time will tell on that front, and how many home grown players are realistically of Championship quality.

Beesotted are currently plotting up an academy special so keep tuned to the Beesotted Website and Beesotted Podcast Channel over the next few days.

In the meantime, Brentford Football Club have a big dome in Uxbridge available to hire for weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, discos and jumble sales if anyone is interested.

Dave Lane