Forest Green Rovers has been recognised as one of the leading academies in the region by being granted Category 3 status by the Premier League and EFL.
That means that despite only being in the Football League for ten months, the academy has met all of the criteria required to work to the latest rules and recommendations from football’s governing bodies, and will be able to operate in the EFL at all age groups from U9s upwards.
The new status will see Forest Green competing against academies from around the country at every age group, giving young players the best opportunity to develop at the club.
Scott Bartlett, FGR academy manager, said: "Becoming a Category 3 club means we will be able to recruit the best players in our area, keep our best players and coach them a lot more - it’s a massive step forward and gives us a fantastic opportunity to continue to grow into a brilliant academy.
"Being in the EFL and working to the Elite Player Performance Plan has made a significant difference to the way that we operate and report within our academy, and the Premier League and EFL have been hugely supportive of what we’re doing and our plans for the future.
“It’s a proud day - I don't know of another club that has gone from Non-League, to Category 4 and then to Category 3 in the space of 10 months.
“I’d like to thank the board for supporting our application and all the academy staff for their help, in particularly Vicky French who has worked tirelessly to ensure we were able to succeed in every area.”
Dale Vince, FGR chairman, said: “Since promotion we’ve gone from zero (in Non-League) to Cat 3 in one season, which is an incredible achievement by Scotty and his team.
“It means we’ll be able to offer better facilities to young players and an increased possibility of progression to our first team and beyond.
“I sat in on the presentation to the EFL and PL and one thing that struck me was the total alignment between our first team playing philosophy and the training of our academy players - it’s a really good piece of teamwork.”
The ten key indicators for academies which were used to assess the club were: vision and strategy of the football club, leadership and management of the football club and its academy, the coaching and player development programme, education, schoolboy games programme, athletic development programme, player development programme, talent identification, recruitment and registration, academy facilities and corporate and financial stability.