NEWCASTLE UNITED are still hoping their academy will be awarded top category status despite the findings of a recent audit highlighting that more work must be done to achieve their goal.

Football clubs throughout the country have been - or are in the process of being - examined and assessed to determined which category status their academy will be granted as part of the implementation of the new Elite Player Performance Plan.

And while indications are that Middlesbrough could join Sunderland in securing Category 1 status, Newcastle have initially been informed they have fallen short of the criteria required.

Magpies sources claim over the next few weeks they are aiming to prove they can fulfil the aspects of the criteria where they did not come up to scratch when independent auditors, Foot Pass England, carried out their checks.

The finer details of what is being asked of Newcastle are unclear, but The Insider has learned they are optimistic they can still join Sunderland in being regarded as a Category 1 club. Middlesbrough, who say they are awaiting official results of the national audit, are hopeful of a rank alongside their Wearside neighbours.

Under the new EPPP rules there are a variety of changes, ranging from the access time clubs can have with their schoolboys to changes to the restrictions currently in place regarding the way young footballers are scouted.

Arguably the biggest of all the changes is the abolition of the transfer tribunal system at academy level. Under the EPPP, league clubs will instead be paid £3,000 for every year they develop a transferred player between the age of nine and 11. And a maximum of £40,000 a year for nurturing a player's career between the age of 12 and 16 depending on the club's youth system tier category.

Depending on how a club is categorised in the four-tier category, it becomes easier for higher ranked clubs to transfer promising schoolboys from other clubs lower down the tier system.

So Newcastle, whose owner Mike Ashley is keen to ensure they are in the best shape to attract leading young talents, are keen to convince the auditors they do deserve Category 1 status rather than 2.

Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough have all been pursuing top status and all hope to be in a position to challenge the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City for the best schoolboys around.

Otherwise a Category 2 club, which could be Newcastle, will be in a position where they may have to allow a Category 1 club, which could be Middlesbrough, to take their players for cheap, relatively speaking in professional football terms.

League One's Hartlepool United, who are not expecting to be audited until well in to next season, are hopeful of securing Category 3 status.