National Training Clubs?

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The National Training Centres (NTCs) in Australia act as an important tool in the identification and development of young Australian players from around the country.

A concept based on the successful academy systems of European countries such as France, the Netherlands, and Germany. Working in conjunction with the numerous local clubs at the National Premier League and state league levels, this ambitious project could bear fruit for many years to come.

Cooperation between all parties is key to the success of the NTCs achieving their vision by ensuring the best talent from clubs are identified through strong networks, ties and clear lines of communication.

National and state bodies and clubs may have the shared goal of wanting to get the best out of the players, but where this may deviate is by which methods or pathways.

Football Federation Australia and the associated state bodies are aiming at representative football starting from state teams right up to the pinnacle of the Matildas and Socceroos.

Although clubs derive pride from having their players represented in the national teams, there are other immediate concerns such as making ends meet. Herein lies the rub. How do you get clubs to give up their best and most valuable talent to the NTCs?

As it stands, clubs stand to make far more by selling their young players to clubs overseas as opposed to seeing them go on to the NTCs when this would most likely mean they would go on to join an Hyundai A-league (HAL) club. Why is this such a bad thing?

Of course players coming up through the domestic competition can benefit both player and league but it does very little for the clubs which nurtured and brought through the player. The maximum an NPL club can get from a HAL club is $10,000 as opposed to a theoretically unlimited negotiated sum from a foreign club.

To make matters more complicated for the NPL clubs, some of the NTCs are asking for compensation in the event a foreign club comes in for a player who has spent time with the NTC.

Last year in Victoria saw a player who came through the Altona City’s and Melbourne Knights’ youth system trialled at Premier League side Sunderland.

“The father of another boy I manage recommended that I look at this kid in the NTC squad,” player scout Ben Hudson told Football Central.

“It seemed fairly clear to me that he was good enough to go to Europe – so long as he had EU citizenship.”

The player was asked to stay on for three weeks after an impressive debut where he scored two minutes after coming on against West Bromwich Albion.

“After the third week they offered him a two year scholarship at the club’s academy, conditional on his EU citizenship coming through and there being no upfront compensation costs,” Hudson revealed.

It was after contacting the Football Federation of Victoria and the FFA to ascertain who was entitled to training compensation that it was revealed that the player’s junior clubs as well as the NTC were entitled to compensation.

Although all parties agreed to deferred payment as to allow the player to pursue his dream, it has opened a can of worms in respect to what impact could this additional party claiming compensation for players have on player movement. Especially when the other party is an non-profit organisation charged with the development and nurturing of the game and players.

In the aforementioned case, the FFV decided to negotiate separately and without consideration for the clubs. A letter to Sunderland from the FFV’s legal representative stated:

We again cannot in any way respond in relation to the position of Altona City SC or Melbourne Knights FC (or any other interested party) and we have already advised you need to make separate enquiries in relation to other clubs the player has played with.

15 March 2013

The amount the FFV were asking was over €230,000 should the player come on in a first team game prior to the 70th minute. This figure represented the three seasons spent at the Victorian NTC from 2010 to 2012.

The Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) believe the NTCs and transfer of players should be something undertaken with the most caution with ultimately the best interest of the player at heart.

“The National Training Centres are an integral part of the nation’s elite development pathway with their performance directly related to Australia’s international competitiveness,” said the PFA.

“The question of training compensation should be one that is answered on a case by case basis and should never result in a player being priced out of the market.

“Ultimately this will hurt not only the individual but Australia’s footballing interests which the National Training Centres were established to serve.”

Despite the the FFA’s own National Registration Regulations stating in 10.3 Amount of Training Compensation that “no training compensation is payable to an institute,” the FFV maintain they are justified under the FIFA regulations on the status and transfer of players.

“This is just standard protocol under FIFA rules and regulations and happens all the time,” explained the FFV.

“The junior clubs are entitled to a small percentage of the player’s future sign-on fees.”

The FIFA rules and regulations referred to are as follows:

VII. Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanism

Training compensation shall be paid to a players training club(s) when a player signs his first contract as a professional and (2) each time a professional is transferred until the end of the season of his 23rd birthday.

The key word there is “club” and whether or not the NTCs qualify as a club or not.

According to the FFV by-law 12 – Club Compliance Policy in the their own Constitution the NTC does not meet many of the requirements of what a club is. The FFV website also makes no mention of the NTC being a club yet do use the word institute:

The National Training Centre program is a program which is funded by Football Federation Australia in conjunction with Football Federation Victoria. the program aims to prepare identified Victorian players for the the State Institute Challenge and possible selection in Australian National programs such as the Australian Institute of Sport and Joeys.

The FFA take a hands-tied approach while deferring the decision on seeking training compensation to the state federations.

“Football Federation Australia, as a member of FIFA, is bound by the international training compensation guidelines governed by FIFA Regulations,” said an FFA spokesperson.

“FIFA has previously recognised institutes as clubs as they play in organised competitions and like any other club, are entitled to training compensation under the FIFA Regulations.

“Hence, it is more a decision for each Member Federation which runs the institute on whether they wish to seek compensation or come to an agreement with an overseas club.

“Generally speaking, overseas clubs will engage the junior clubs, including NTCs, with a view of coming to an agreement for training compensation prior to signing a player.”

The ambiguity of the issue means it is far from a black and white case. The NTCs are very important to the development of our players and game but should they be negotiating separately from clubs the transfer of players?

Should they be seeking compensation at all? From what we could gather, many of the NTCs forfeit their “entitlement” to compensation leaving the negotiations to the junior club and overseas club.

For football to move forward and grow to the level we all dream, there needs to be more cooperation and uniformity in approach. The roles of each stakeholder must be clear without any blurred lines.

Adam Howard

Adam is one of the founders of Football Central and the creator of OSAussies.com.  He has followed the career paths of Australian footballers playing in leagues all over the world.  Born in Adelaide and currently residing in Hiroshima, Adam brings a unique perspective to Australian football.  He is an ardent supporter of Australia's domestic competition and national team.

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