Falkirk withdraw from Forth Valley Football Academy to chase Premiership

Falkirk players celebrate their 0-0 draw with Livingston
Tuesday's 0-0 draw with Livingston means Falkirk have yet to win under Paul Hartley

Falkirk are to withdraw funding from the Forth Valley Football Academy to concentrate on promotion, leaving a question mark over the body's future.

Despite receiving praise for their youth policy, the Bairns have spent eight years in Scotland's second tier.

And chair Margaret Lang revealed that it has led to "unsustainable" losses.

"We want to be a Premiership football club and, to achieve this, our first team needs to be our absolute focus," she told her club website.

"As a result of this, the decision has been taken to prioritise the use of available resources in our first team.

"From 31 December onwards, Falkirk Football Club will therefore cease its funding of the Forth Valley Football Academy.

"This was not an easy decision and means that our focus on youth development will, for the time being at least, significantly reduce."

The academy is shared with League Two neighbours Stenhousemuir and Lowland League club East Stirlingshire.

In a statement in response, the youth body said it would "meet shortly" to agree its next steps and would be contacting the parents of the children involved as "this has implications for the future of this academy".

Falkirk's decision to withdraw their funding follows "a significant strategic review of the club" entitled "Towards the Premiership".

Falkirk assistant Jimmy Nicholl and manager Paul Hartley
Jimmy Nicholl is Paul Hartley's assistant at Falkirk Stadium

The Bairns have only finished outside the top three once since being relegated from the top tier in 2010.

But they parted with manager Peter Houston after having "underperformed significantly" this season and presently lie second bottom of the Championship under his successor, Paul Hartley.

"Over the past 10 years, our business model has become more and more reliant on player sales, finishing higher than top four in the Scottish Championship and a strong run in cup competitions," Lang said.

"Since the successful run to the Scottish Cup final in 2015, the club has made losses over the past two years at an operational level, even after player transfer income has been taken into account.

"This is likely to continue in the current year given how we have performed in the season so far.

"Ultimately, this model is unsustainable."

Lang said the change in direction comes after exploring "many different models" and visiting clubs in England.

As a result, Falkirk "are also reviewing our continued involvement in the SPFL Development/Reserve League from the end of the current season".

Dunfermline Athletic, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Rangers, for one season, have already withdrawn from the development set-up.

"We want to ensure we have the recruitment structure in place to identify the best possible individuals who can help us not only reach the Premiership, but to stay there and allow the club to grow to its fullest potential," Lang added.

Falkirk's statement came the day after they announced that 22-year-old full-back Tommy Robson would sign on a six-month deal on 1 January after being released by Sunderland.

In response to the Bairns' decision, a spokesperson for the SFA acknowledged it would have a "significant impact" on Forth Valley.

"We appreciate this has been a difficult decision not taken lightly by those involved with Falkirk," the spokesperson added.

"However, our overriding concern at this time is for the young footballers that could be affected by this change in strategic direction.

"With that in mind, should it be the case that players are left without a club, the Scottish FA have committed to funding and staging a showcase match to ensure as many as possible can find an alternative platform to continue their individual progression."

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