There are currently 24 Football Academies in Wales that are homes for talented young players throughout the country. The FAW Licensed Academy program is now considered a foundational step in the FAW talent pathways in preparing young players for the professional game and Welsh national youth teams. Out of the 24 Licensed academies in Wales, 12 are also UEFA grant funded as they are linked to teams playing in the Cymru Premier League. With new talent being produced all throughout Wales, these academies are set to represent the Future of youth training and development.
What are the Welsh Football Academies?
There are currently 24 FAW Licensed Academy Programs located throughout Wales. The vision for these academies, is that each centre will create pathways for young players to play in the Cymru Premier League, the Welsh National Youth League and eventually for the Welsh National Team. They’re designed to be residential based, holding between 100 and 120 young players at a time. The academies work to provide a variety of training sessions, academic services and provide opportunities for coaches and trainers to work with players off the match field. One of the main focuses of the Welsh Football Academies is to encourage the development of cultural awareness and pride within the Welsh youth players.
Where are the Welsh Football Academies?
- Airbus, Broughton
- Connah’s Quay Nomads
- Flint Town United
- Prestatyn Town
- Colwyn Bay
- Caernarfon Town
- Bala Town
- Aberystwyth Town
- Haverfordwest County
- Carmarthen Town
- Llanelli Town
- Pontardawe Town
- Briton Ferry
- Cambrain & Clydach
- Taffs Well
- Barry Town United
- Cardiff Metropolitan University FC
- Risca United
- Cwmbran Celtic
What Is the Cymru Premier League? The Cymru Premier League is the name of the youth league of the Cymru Alliance.
What are the benefits of Welsh Football Academies?
Jordon Abershaw, the Head of the FAW Licensed Academy, stated in an interview with BBC Radio Cymru, “the benefit is we try to give young kids the best environment they can to do well, to develop and to push themselves.” He went on to explain the Premier League license players, “can learn from them, they’re on first-name terms with them and we can send them back to their clubs to work with them and develop and use them as much as possible”. Neil Turner is the Under 20 manager for Llandudno and he agrees. He stated in an interview with The Daily Post, “we are really fortunate in that we are a part of the pathway system of the Welsh Premier League. And through that pathway system we are able to promote our own players.
The FAW outline that the main benefits of the Welsh Academies and participating in the FAW Licensed academy program include:
- Exposure to regularly audited and FAW supported football provision
- A quality assured skill acquisition program
- A robust national games program
- A pathway into the FAW Regional/National Program which includes the Cymru Cup, the FAW/Trust flagship talent ID event, for Welsh qualified players.
(Source: FAW Cymru, https://www.fawtrust.cymru/next-generation/academy/)
What does the future of youth training look like?
Through their fully integrated feeder system, the FAW and the Welsh Football Association hope to provide their license holders with the best opportunities to develop talent within Wales and also to provide a clear pathway for players from within the country to progress on to the elite ranks of Welsh Football and the England football team. Through this commitment, a model that the English Football Association and their clubs followed in the 80s and 90s is finally being realized in Wales and young players are now catching up on the development of players that were produced in Wales over the past decade.
The licensed academy program is an exciting pathway for all young players in Wales and is a great way for players all across the country to develop their skills and build solid foundations for progressing into the professional leagues. The future of youth training looks like players having a consistent challenge and being able to build connections with players across the country which looks to produce a strong team network for the future of national Welsh football.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Welsh Football landscape. Their grassroots development is a shining example for other small nations like the Republic of Ireland and Scotland, where smaller teams with limited budgets have the potential to beat some of the larger teams of bigger countries. Success does not come without hard work, and Wales have set the bar high in terms of player development. Just a few years ago, Welsh football was not a major name in the footballing world. With the introduction of the LFA Licensed Academy, coupled with the long-term funding from UEFA, Welsh football is shaping up to be a big name in European football.