Arriving in Australia after beginning his career overseas, Melbourne Victory Academy Director Drew Sherman couldn’t quite understand why A-League clubs were charging members of their academies for the privilege – so he’s gone about changing things.
Drew’s employers this week announced that they were set to become the third side in the A-League – after Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers – to abolish fees for players in their academy, removing one of the largest impediments between talented youngsters and a place within the academy setups of A-League clubs.
Having made his initial forays into youth development in Britain – working with clubs such as Derby County, Everton, Aldershot Town and Southampton – the concept of paying for a place in an elite academy structure was a completely alien one to Sherman when he arrived Down Under.
One of the youngest ever recipients of a UEFA Pro-Licence, 32-year-old Sherman has also served as the Head Coach of the Cook Islands during his burgeoning career; guiding the Pacific nation to its first-ever wins in World Cup qualifying and its highest ever FIFA World Ranking.
Having been a part of the Roar academy when the Queensland club abolished fees for their youngsters, Sherman has now been involved in two of the three academy setups that have done away with the practice and said that the decision represented an important step forward for Melbourne Victory.
“I think we’ve made an investment as a club,” Sherman told FTBL. “Strategically, the academy is really important to us.
“With what is, I suppose, a landmark moment in terms of all of the academy teams being brought in, then, of course, it was a priority for us to make sure that when we talk about investing in developing players that we truly are investing in them – not charging them for that.
“It’s something that we felt was really important for us and ultimately we believe that we should be doing as part of our responsibility as a professional club.
“My history, my background is all in the UK, where all academies are completely fee-free; clubs do invest in developing the players.
“So, it was something I didn’t really understand, if I’m totally honest, coming to Australia and hearing that we ask kids to pay thousands of dollars. We say that these are elite players, it didn’t make sense to me.