Crystal Palace have just become the first team to create a dedicated 3-year aftercare package for players released from their academy.
Palace tasked a working group within the club to consider the rationale behind when, how and why players might need or seek their guidance. A decision the club made after becoming aware of the sheer number of players who ‘drop out’ at PDP – professional development stage – after roughly ten years of playing academy football. Affecting players mainly between the ages of 17-22.
Speaking in an interview with The Football Family, Gary Issott – Palace’s Academy Director – spoke on the necessity of the aftercare programme. “I struggled leaving Luton Town in the early 90s and I can only go back retrospectively and understand that was due to a bit of ‘grieving’, I was missing football and my friendship group” explained Issott.
“So, with likeminded people at the club, we made the decision that we want to give players a three-year after-care package. The Chairman (Steve Parish) has been very supportive in this initiative, not only is our remit to produce first team players for CPFC, but we have a duty to nurture and guide the players within our academy should they make the first team or not, and he’s always promoted the values of empathy and places the ‘human’ at the heart of our processes.”
The club will be trying to consistently re-engage with as many players as possible to show them there are other pathways outside of playing football.
“We didn’t just stumble on the length of support, we tasked a working group within the club to consider the rationale behind when, how and why players might need or seek our guidance,” Issott continued.
“Being asked what you’re doing now, and have you got a club, and so on, it can be very delicate and hugely negative for a released player, so they often avoid that embarrassment by staying clear of the club and people who work for it. We must break through that, and promote the many great opportunities within, that if you love football a new pathway may exist at this club for you other than playing.”
Salute to Crystal Palace and everyone connected to the club for all their work in ensuring better player welfare in the future as a core part of the club’s ongoing development.