These Rooneys in the making could net their school a healthy profit

28th January 2011 at 00:00

When young footballers make their first high-value transfers to the country's top clubs, it is usually their agents who lick their lips at the prospect of a percentage of the fee.

But one London secondary is also making money from football deals, thanks to its partnership with nearby Championship club, Watford FC.

The Harefield Academy, a specialist sports college, is believed to be the first school in the country to broker a deal to take a 1 per cent share of a transfer fee if one of its former pupils is sold.

The academy, which sits just a stone's throw from Watford's home ground, Vicarage Road, takes on young Watford players who enrol as part of the school's gifted and talented programme.

Harefield vice-principal Paul Quinn said the programme has been a huge success since it started in 2007, with the first of its pupils breaking into the first team last year.

"We receive a one-off payment of #163;1,000 from the club if one of our players makes his debut in the first team, which happened with Gavin Massey last season," Mr Quinn said.

"We also take a small percentage of any transfer fee, should a player who attended Harefield be sold on to another club."

The school will be hoping to find it has produced another Ashley Young, the former Watford player who was sold to Aston Villa for nearly #163;10 million four years ago.

The partnership between Watford and Harefield means the 35 young players who are on the club's books have a specialised timetable. The boys are bussed or taxied in to school from across the county in time for the start of lessons at 8.15am.

They have three training sessions a week during school time, held by six full-time football coaches during the day. The boys then catch up with lessons after school, and go home at 6.30pm.

The relationship allows Watford FC to train its young players for up to 20 hours a week rather than just six hours, as is the case at other clubs, while having as little impact on their studies as possible.

If a player is lucky enough to secure a professional contract, they are enrolled in Harefield's sixth-form, where they take a two-year BTEC course or study for A-levels.

The set-up has had dramatic effects on the school's behaviour and, not surprisingly, its success in football tournaments.

"This opportunity is a huge incentive for the young players to behave in school, and the other students often look up to them so it has a knock-on effect," Mr Quinn said.

He added: "We are seeing more and more success in our school teams as well. We have won the England Schools' National Football Competition twice in the last three years, and last year both our Year 10 and our Year 11 sides won their year groups, which has never happened before."

Nick Cox, Watford FC's academy manager for 12 to 16-year-olds, who oversees the boys' development at the school, said the money it would be paying out was nominal, and that the set-up was about a working partnership.

"The system means the club can have more contact time with its young footballers, while the boys can gain a better education. Before the scheme there was a real conflict between football and school, and both suffered," Mr Cox said.

"It's no secret that before this it was a failing school, and now it is doing very well. The boys are real role models at the school, and have been achieving fantastic results, with 100 per cent gaining five A*-Cs, including English and maths."



Harefield Academy may be rubbing its hands at the prospect of earning a cut of any transfer fee from Watford's player sales, but the sums are insignificant compared with the slice taken by agents.

The biggest is Jorge Mendes, the Portuguese former DJ and nightclub owner who acts for the world's most expensive player, Cristiano Ronaldo, and his manager Jose Mourinho.

Mr Mendes helped broker the deal that saw Ronaldo move from Manchester United to Real Madrid for #163;80 million, a move that reportedly pocketed the agent #163;8.5 million.

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