Crystal Palace’s academy has been awarded category one status by the Premier League.
It is the highest category possible and means the Eagles’ youth set-up is classed in the same bracket as Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea.
Palace’s U18s will now play in the Premier League South Division and the U23s will compete in Premier League 2 next season.
The South London club has had 36 players coming through the academy ranks to reach the first-team in the last 15 years, making more than 1,000 appearances collectively for the Eagles.
The latest graduate was full-back Tyrick Mitchell, who made his first appearance during Saturday’s match against Leicester City.
The club secured a long-term lease for the academy site opposite its first-team training ground on Copers Cope Road, Beckenham, in December 2018, with planning permission for a major upgrade to facilities formally granted last month, with works well underway.
Palace chairman Steve Parish said: “Achieving category one status is the culmination of an immense amount of hard work from our staff, and it is an incredible achievement in such a short space of time since securing the land and planning permission.
“Our ambition is to have one of the country’s leading football academies to capitalise on the hotbed of footballing talent in South London. The investment in the playing facilities, education offering and player care provision will enable us to attract and develop the next generation of Wilfried Zahas and Aaron Wan-Bissakas.
“Furthermore, we are committed to having a transformational impact on the lives of the wider community and especially the 200-plus boys that are directly in our care at any one time, whether they make it to the professional ranks or not.
“The whole academy site will also be widely used by the club to enhance our presence in the community – not just the playing facilities. We are looking at ways we can positively affect the lives of young people using the education facilities for job training and further education.
“I would finally like to take this opportunity to thank the thousands of our supporters who have already generously committed to becoming academy founder members, helping us further enhance this magnificent project for the benefit of our young players for years to come.”
The enhanced site, which will be fully accessible, is to be made available for community use through the Palace for Life Foundation, as the charity continues its school holiday programmes, disability teams and community engagement initiatives, providing development opportunities for thousands of young south Londoners.
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