Sunday, September 24, 2017
Just moving Millwall academy’s all-weather pitch could trigger a downgrade

Just moving Millwall academy’s all-weather pitch could trigger a downgrade

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Lee Gregory gets a shot off after Fred Onyedinma's strong run in the 3-0 FA Cup upset victory over Bournemouth on Saturday

Millwall’s academy will be doomed to a downgrade if its all-weather pitch is moved, football chiefs have told the club.
Lewisham council leaders will tomorrow debate whether to force Millwall Community Scheme off its current site in Zampa Road, beside The Den.
Its covered synthetic pitch would be in a new leisure centre, Energise, in nearby Stockholm Road. That would mean the Lions’ highly prized academy is forced to transfer its use of the all-weather pitch there, too.
But the English Football League has now told the Lions’ board that any move from that base would mean a reassessment of its academy’s Category Two status, which enables its teenage prodigies to play against the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal.
EFL rules state academies must have 24-hour access to such a pitch, either on a club’s current site or at its classroom base, or “principle venue” – Millwall’s is currently in Well Hall, Greenwich.
No third option like the move to Stockholm Road is allowed in Category Two. And transferring to Greenwich would require planning permission, which could take months to finalise.
So they may instead be condemned to Category Three, where their rising stars play the likes of Southend United or Dagenham & Redbridge, in a change which could permanently damage the club’s bid to attract South London’s top talents.
The enforced MCS move would come about as part of a planned billion-pound scheme by developers Renewal to build 2,400 homes around the stadium.
That would mean Lewisham seizing three pockets of land around the ground and handing them over to Renewal using a compulsory purchase order (CPO).
Lions chief executive Steve Kavanagh said: “The move to Stockholm Road might only be 500 yards but it does not comply with the rules.
“They are riding roughshod over decades of our use of the all-weather pitch and I do not understand why.
“We have raised so many issues about what Lewisham and Renewal are trying to do. But they have never accepted any discussion and instead come up with an answer to work around it but not solve it.
“We have no idea whether we would get planning permission to install a covered all-weather pitch in Greenwich.
“If the council is true to its word that the MCS and the academy are essential to the borough, they should stop this development now.
“It is not up to the council, the MCS or the club whether the academy can move – only the EFL’s Category Two auditors can do that.”
Cllr Alan Hall, chairman of Lewisham’s scrutiny committee, said: “There remains a series of serious questions to be properly addressed.
“This CPO has been postponed since February 2016 that must say something.
“There is not a compelling case in the public interest, primarily because of the uncertainty of delivery, zero social housing and low so-called affordable housing and the high risk to the council and the council’s reputation if the scheme goes ahead.”
Bobby Dean, Parliamentary spokesman for Lewisham Deptford, said: “The only compelling case that’s been made is that this Renewal scheme will be a disaster for the local community.
“Millwall FC is the largest sporting asset Lewisham has and their future cannot be jeopardised by this luxury scheme with no regard to affordable housing. Lewisham should withdraw the plans and start again – this time properly involving the football club and local community. The Labour leadership is taking the area for granted. The Overview and Scrutiny Panel is there to keep an eye on the Mayor and Cabinet on our behalf, and their concerns are being consistently ignored too. It’s yet more evidence that the directly elected Mayor holds too much power and the position should be scrapped.
“Lewisham Liberal Democrats are the only party that has managed to form a proper opposition to Labour in the last decade – and we’re ready to be that strong voice for Lewisham again.”
The English Football League’s regulations on youth development, rule 308, state: Ideally a club’s indoor facility should be located at its principal venue for the coaching of academy players and any new facility must be located at the principal venue.
It is accepted, however, that a number of clubs have existing indoor facilities which are located elsewhere, or that it may be impossible for a club’s indoor facility to be located at its principal venue for planning reasons.
In such cases, where the board is satisfied that the club’s indoor facility may be located other than at its principal venue, there shall also be a requirement that the rules relating to the maximum travel time from an academy player’s residence to the coaching venue are complied with.

Chief Reporter | Former news reporter on Daily Mail and Times, former editor in Edinburgh and Barnet. Sports editor and father for 15 years. Once made nine doormats for Harrods entrances. They lasted two years.

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Just moving Millwall academy’s all-weather pitch could trigger a downgrade