The Fife Elite Football Academy (FEFA) will officially cease operations at the end of 2021 due to a lack of funding.
FEFA chairman Henry McLeish confirmed the decision in a letter sent to parents and players ahead of the closure on December 31.
Forty young footballers have earned contracts with either Dunfermline, Raith Rovers, East Fife or Cowdenbeath since FEFA’s inception in 2014.
The former First Minister of Scotland cited an impending reduction in the academy’s grant from the Scottish FA as a major factor.
Dunfermline have announced their intention to create their own youth system and will join the Club Academy Scotland system from next year.
East Fife also withdrew from FEFA.
Although Rovers and Cowdenbeath were keen to continue supporting FEFA, the Blue Brazil made it clear they were in no position to help fund it.
That would have left Raith paying around £200,000 in 2022 alone — simply unmanageable for the Kirkcaldy club.
Rovers director and former chairman Bill Clark told Courier Sport: “The SFA were already reducing funding for FEFA quite drastically — but the final nail in the coffin was Dunfermline deciding to go it alone.
“Their new German investors are very keen on having their own training ground and academy.
“Without their support, we couldn’t keep it going.
“It put us in a difficult position and it’s a shame because we’ve had some excellent players come through FEFA.”
Kieron Bowie — sold for a six-figure fee to Fulham last year — and Dylan Tait are Rovers’ most successful FEFA graduates, while Aaron Arnott and Kieran Mitchell are considered fine young prospects in the current squad.
Clark added: “We just need to find a solution and different way to identify players.”
A £400,000 price-tag
That solution is likely to see Raith rigorously scout local boys’ clubs and amateur sides.
They will keeping tabs on youngsters released by top-flight clubs, particularly in Tayside and Edinburgh.
Strategic partnerships with local youth sides are also being considered.
But launching their own academy, like Dunfermline, does not appear viable.
Clark continued: “We had one estimate done last season which suggested it would take £400,000 to create our own academy.
“So you ask: are you better running an academy or adding the £400,000 to your budget, and looking to recruit young players wisely?”
Clark, however, is calm about the situation and remaining patient.
He added: “One of the things that will determine our next step is whether the SPFL run a youth or reserve league in 2022/23.
“There is no point in us recruiting a whole lot of youngsters with no games to play.
“That has given us some time to consider our options.
“I think we have until February or March before we need to make any concrete plans. It’s very early days.”