As we continue to celebrate the EFL's annual Youth Development Week, we're taking a closer look at ‘EFL Futures', a programme which is central to the League’s ambition to create opportunities for young playing talent and represents the commitment made by Clubs to improve opportunities for home-grown players.
Since launching in December 2016, the programme has provided EFL Clubs with a financial incentive to give home-grown players more first-team opportunities, rewarding Clubs for providing starting opportunities in EFL fixtures for players under the age of 21 and who are eligible to play for England (or Wales for Swansea City and Newport County).
During the 2020/21 season, 288 players have made a total of 3,544 starting appearances through EFL Futures, accounting for 10% of starting appearances across all three divisions.
Other initiatives that have been developed in recent seasons include the introduction of the Club Developed Player Rule at the start of the 2018/19 season, which now ensures each Club is required to nominate at least one Club Developed Player on their squad list or on their teamsheet for all League competition matches, alongside an increase in the number of home-grown players that must also be named, from six to seven.
The top Clubs to have provided starting opportunities for ‘EFL Futures’ qualifying players during 2020/21 were:
Championship: Norwich City
Provided five players with a combined 97 appearances during the 2020/21 season.
League One: Plymouth Argyle
Provided seven players with a combined 137 appearances during the 2020/21 season.
League Two: Exeter City
Provided six players with a combined 138 appearances during the 2020/21 season.
EFL Director of Youth Development, David Wetherall, said: “Youth Development remains at the forefront of priorities for the EFL and its Clubs, with substantial investment made in this area each season to produce more and better home-grown players.
“Through schemes like EFL Futures, we are helping to deliver more opportunities to young players at the beginning of their careers which is key to a player being able to fulfil his potential. From a Club perspective this, in turn, can give them a competitive advantage on the pitch over opponents, as well as bringing a number of direct financial benefits.
“It’s encouraging to see the numbers of opportunities given to players across the EFL despite the challenges of last season, and we’re looking forward to building on this throughout 2021/22, working closely with Clubs and Academies as we continue to develop the next generation of young footballers while striving to ensure that Academies provide a positive experience for all involved.”