THE INSIDER: Newcastle could still achieve top academy status

First published in Sport

DESPITE reports yesterday suggesting Newcastle United had once again missed out on Category One status in the Premier League's Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) academy categorisation, the Insider has learned that a final decision will not be taken until the end of the season.

Last July, Sunderland and Middlesbrough were awarded Category One status, while Newcastle were initially graded as Category Two, a situation that had the potential to seriously hamper their ability to attract young English players.

The Magpies appealed against the decision, and the Premier League effectively granted them a grace period to make some changes before another assessment.

That is why Newcastle United are playing in the new Barclays Under-21 Premier League, a competition that is only supposed to be open to Category One clubs.

Yesterday, a series of reports emerged suggesting Newcastle had once again failed to achieve Category One status following a reassessment process.

However, The Insider can reveal those reports are incorrect as Newcastle are not due to be assessed until later in the season.

A decision is expected before the end of the campaign, and Newcastle officials remain hopeful they will be upgraded to full Category One status.

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WITH 2013 likely to be the biggest year in their history, Durham CCC have announced a strengthened management line-up.

David Harker will step up to the new role of group chief executive and will guide the next steps in the continuing redevelopment of Emirates Durham ICG as a major sporting venue.

Richard Dowson becomes Durham's chief operating officer and will lead the management team through a year that includes the club's first ever Ashes Test.

Dowson has been the operations director throughout the period that has established Emirates Durham ICG as a major international venue and the team as an ever-present in the County Championship first division, which they have won twice.

Rebecca Graham is promoted to become finance director. She has been with the club since 2011 and brings considerable additional experience of development and regeneration from her earlier career.

Scott Sherrard becomes commercial director. A long-time advisor to the club, Sherrard ran two of the UK's largest advertising and communications groups, Grey London and CDP, before moving north.

Rachel Harwood becomes operations and events director, with her recent experience in managing the Kassam complex in Oxford adding to the skills base of the management team.

Durham chairman Clive Leach said: "This is an enviable team to have put together as we embark on this exciting year. I am especially delighted that it is a combination of home-grown talent and wider industry experience and one that will continue to build on the momentum that has taken the club so far in only 21 years."

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THE Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has been named as Stephen Harmison's benefit charity for 2013.

The Stephen Harmison Benefit Committee made the announcement at a launch event in Newcastle attended by Stephen's family and friends, his Durham CCC team-mates and coach Geoff Cook, and Sir Bobby Robson's three sons Paul, Andrew and Mark.

Former international cricketers Michael Vaughan, Phil Tufnell and Andrew Flintoff and Newcastle United's John Carver and Steve Harper were also in attendance to show their support.

Former world number one bowler, Harmison, who has two Ashes wins and two County Championship titles to his name, was named as 2013 beneficiary by his county, Durham, towards the end of last year.

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