Chelsea Football Club today announces that Neil Bath, our Director of Football Development and Operations, has decided to step down after more than 30 years at the Club.

For the past three decades, Neil has built a richly deserved reputation as one of the leading developers of youth football and coaching talent across the world. His legacy extends well beyond the gates of Chelsea Football Club, with a vast alumni of players and coaches whose careers across the continent have flourished due to Neil’s influence.

Neil has gone on to transform the Club’s youth set-up into the most successful academy in English football, cultivating a winning mentality and culture of improvement and development.

Having initially joined in 1993 on a part-time basis, Neil’s dedication, eye for detail and passion for youth development was recognised when he was appointed assistant Academy director in 2002 with responsibility for the Under 8-16 age groups.

Two years later, he became Academy Manager and, as part of that role, Neil oversaw the restructuring of our youth development programme.

Neil set the gold standard for academy football with sustained success at this level and, in 2010, Chelsea claimed the FA Youth Cup for the first time since 1961. The following year his role was expanded to oversee the Reserves/Under-21 set-up as head of youth development.

The work undertaken by staff in the Academy under Neil has resulted in a packed trophy cabinet, including the run of six FA Youth Cup victories in seven years in 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Neil was appointed Director of Football Development and Operations in November 2022, with his remit increased across our Cobham training ground while also overseeing the Under-21s and first development loans.

Neil said: ‘After 30 years working at Chelsea, I feel it is the right time for me to have some time off and take a break from a job that I have put so much time into. I intend to rest and have some time away from the game, however I will continue working over the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition for the organisation.

'As an Academy, we have enjoyed fantastic backing from the Club throughout my time here, without which none of our success would have been possible.

'I would like to thank every single person - player, parent, colleague, supporter - who has been on this journey with us. We achieved everything we could possibly have dreamed of - five Youth Cups in a row, countless debuts, homegrown players helping the team win the Champions League - and we did it together.

'In particular, I have to mention Jim Fraser, who has assisted me for the past 20 years and played such an important role in everything we have achieved.

'As a boy from Battersea who grew up on the Shed watching our teams of the 80s, it has been my greatest privilege playing a part in the club's success over the past two decades. I have made memories and friends that will last a lifetime. I hope we have made people proud and left the club in a better place to move forward.'

The Chelsea Ownership Group said: ‘Neil built the foundations for the Chelsea academy at Cobham and his unwavering commitment, dedication and pursuit of excellence set unparalleled standards across the sport. His legacy will live on and the most fitting tribute we can give to him for more than 30 years’ service is to uphold those standards in the years to come.’

Sporting Directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said: ‘Neil’s legacy in football will stand the test of time. His contribution to not only the success of our Academy but youth football across the world cannot be understated. He has been a pleasure to work with since we joined the Club, illustrating the very highest of work ethics and commitment.’

Neil will always be warmly welcomed back to the Club and will continue to work during a transitional period. He will also remain a trustee of the Chelsea Players’ Trust, whose work he is so passionate about.

Thank you, Neil, from all at Chelsea Football Club!