Malky Mackay, the Scottish FA Performance Director, will today lead the next stage of Project Brave, which will encompass a four-day consultation with Club Academy Scotland members around the country aimed at gaining support on proposals to refresh the existing strategy.
Project Brave is the working title for the process that started in March last year and has has involved a performance working group comprised of existing CAS member clubs.

The proposals include a reduction from the current 29 funded academies to a maximum of 16, selected via an independently audited criteria-based system. That, in turn, would streamline the number of players in the academy system from around 2500 to around 1200, bringing greater focus to talent development and optimising playing opportunities.

In addition, enhanced funding for achieving Measureable Performance Outcomes will encourage best practice, the alignment of youth-age matches to a summer season will promote attractive football, the return of reserve-team football is designed to expose young players to more intense competition at the key age of development, while innovative ideas such as the introduction of colt teams will also be discussed.

Since the launch of Scotland United: A 2020 Vision in 2011, the Scottish FA has worked in partnership with senior clubs to provide a pathway for the country’s most talented players from the seven regional performance schools, Club Academy Scotland and the national youth teams programme.

The objective of Project Brave is to harness the success of the strategic plan and ensure a more efficient pathway to first-team football.

“We know we need to focus on the very best players in the very best academies with the limited resources we have,” says Stewart Regan, Scottish FA Chief Executive.

“One of the recommendations from the working group was to have no more than 16 academies in Scotland defined as elite. Any club can put a bid in, and they will be independently audited against a defined set of criteria. If they are successful, they will be included in Scotland’s list of elite academies.”

The working group for the strategy was formed in March last year. With a population of 5.5m people, Scotland currently has 2500 CAS players in 29 centrally funded academies, in comparison to Germany, which has 54 academies for a population of 83m.

Clubs that do not meet the eligibility criteria for CAS status will still have access to funding from the Scottish FA to enable them to continue running their academies.

“We want to make sure that we get the best support to help us manage the migration to our new academy system,” says Stewart.

“We have identified an organisation from Europe, Double Pass, who work with a number of key countries, including the FAs in England, Belgium, and others in Scandinavia.

“They will be coming on board sometime in 2017 to start the auditing process to establish whether club academies meet the criteria we set out, and will be continually reviewing academies into next year to make sure they are the standard we need.”

The Project Brave working group have also made a number of other recommendations to increase the number of young Scottish players playing at a high standard. These include making greater use of the loan system, creating an under-18 league, and changing the Scottish FA Youth Cup from an under-20 to under-18 competition.

“We know we do quite well until we get out the age group of 17, where we have qualified for three successive finals” says Stewart. “The gap is between 17 and 21. We need those players to get game time.”

The latest draft of the report has been circulated to all Scottish FA member clubs in the academy programme, and this week they will have the opportunity to attend one of four consultation events at St. Johnstone, Kilmarnock, Oriam and Hampden to voice their opinion.

Club feedback will then be incorporated into the final report before Project Brave commences at the start of season 2018/19.