According to research from the Football Association, around 10% of academy players will go on to sign professional contracts after completing their course with their respective clubs, with the remaining individuals having to quickly come to terms with the fact that they may well have spent years chasing a goal that will never materialise. Even those players who do earn professional contracts are not able to say for certain that they will have a long and successful career in the game, with many having to find alternative jobs after retiring.
At the end of each season, young footballers nervously await to find out if they will be kept on at their club, which is undoubtedly one of the most stressful periods for any player. With many youngsters being used in order to aid the development of the few standout players in a given age bracket, it comes as little surprise that the majority are released and replaced by others with more skill. Meanwhile, and perhaps worst of all, some players are even unable to sign for other clubs, due to conditions stipulated on their release forms.
For most clubs, there are two types of release forms utilised. The YD10 is where the player may not sign for another academy, without them paying some form of compensation, while the YD7 simply releases the player with no conditions. As a result, parents must think carefully when signing academy contracts, which is also why so many young players now have agents in their corner.
Most young footballers understandably often neglect education in favour of putting their all into improving on the pitch, with the chance to become a professional player hypnotising many. Academy players trail several times per week from a young age, missing school classes on a regular basis as a result. Very few individuals will be able to put maximum effort into both football and education, however these will be the ones who are likely to have a backup plan if their career in the beautiful game fails to materialise.
Families also play a significant role in the aspirations of their loved ones, with many failing to recognise just how slim their chances of making it as a pro actually are. As a result, when their children or siblings are released by their club, they will often regret the time and energy in which they have put into their efforts.
Many within the game now believe that it would be more beneficial to release players at a younger age, allowing them to focus upon their education and a more realistic career path. Those who are released at 16 or 17 have spent so much time training and developing as a footballer that they will need to start from zero in whichever new route they take.
Despite the fact that all academies are now offering education as part of their courses, while some even provide it for released players, this regularly revolves around sport. As a result, many players will still struggle to adapt to the real world after leaving their club. Education is of key importance for any player looking to start a new career path, with parents and coaches advised to ensure that this is understood from a young age where possible.