WANDERERS are about to downgrade their youth academy – which could save them more than £1million a year – but insist standards will not suffer.

The Bolton News understands a decision has been made not to renew the Category One licence, which was awarded by the Premier League in December 2012, and to move voluntarily to a Category Two academy, becoming the first club ever to do so.

The switch will not mean a loss of jobs, although the club could potentially reduce the player-to-coach ratio at junior level which was mandatory as a top-flight academy.

The rules also allow for a reduction in the number of hours of coaching given to younger players, although Wanderers have given assurances to parents and footballers in the system that the highest level of training and education will continue to be provided.

There has been understandable concern among Whites fans about what downgrading could mean for the future of the club – which has only recently seen a bumper crop of home-grown players such as Josh Vela, Zach Clough and Tom Walker burst through.

But in the last couple of years there has been a growing consensus of opinion from Lostock that Category One status was not all it had cracked up to be.

Certainly there is a considerable financial saving in becoming a Category Two Academy.

The original Elite Player Performance Plan recommended Category One clubs had an estimated annual budget of around £2.4million for their academy, reduced to just under £1m for Category Two clubs.

It has often been reported that the Eddie Davies Academy costs in excess of £1m a year to run, although costs are understood to have increased once the Whites were awarded the Category One licence two-and-a-half years ago to around £2.5m a year.

While that figure was seen as a ceiling price when EPPP was introduced three years ago, the vast sums invested in academies at Manchester City - whose budget is thought to be in excess of £8m a year - and Chelsea mean parity is almost impossible.

It is no surprise that Wanderers are having to tighten their belts as they enter into the final year in which they will be granted a parachute payment from their spell in the Premier League. Cost-cutting at first-team level has been well documented but must now apply across the board.

But the reasons are not all financial. Competing against quality opposition such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea has also taken its toll on results at youth team level, and some believe it has affected the development of young players.

Dropping down to the second tier of competition will still see Wanderers face clubs of comparable size in Nottingham Forest, Birmingham City, Leeds United, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday.

Ipswich Town – who lobbied strongly for inclusion as a Category One club a few years ago – are tipped to re-apply and potentially take Bolton’s place.

Although perhaps some solace can be taken from the Suffolk club, who remained in Category Two this last few years and have continued to produce some excellent young players.

One disadvantage to dropping down a category is that Wanderers would lose some compensation should a bigger club manage to sign one of their young talents.

A structured system – weighted towards Category One clubs – was put in place when the EPPP plan was introduced which guaranteed payments for signed players over the age of nine years old, depending on the number of years he had been registered.

The way Wanderers recruit talent would not necessarily change after dropping down a level and the 90-minute travel rule for young players – which exists for Category Three and Four clubs – does not apply.

Quite what affect the changes will have on the academy simply cannot be predicted at this point but they do allow the Whites to make adjustments while finances are tight, whilst still staying within the rules.

They retain an enviable infrastructure and base at Lostock, managed by Jimmy Phillips and including highly-rated coaches like David Lee and Nicky Spooner, who hold the club close to their heart.

But club sources say by voluntarily stepping down a category there will be more flexibility for Neil Lennon to exert his coaching methods further down the system, giving a degree of continuity that the club have not had for some time.

And after finally seeing young players start to emerge into the first team, Lennon will be keen to see disruption kept to a minimum and the flow of talent continue into Iain Brunskill’s Under-21s.

Wanderers believe that can still be the case.