Farm team: Wikis

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In sports, a farm team, farm system, feeder team or nursery club, is generally a team or club whose role is to provide experience and training for young players, with an agreement that any successful players can move on to a higher level at a given point. This system can be implemented in many ways, both formally and informally.

The term is also used as a metaphor for any organization or activity that serves as a training ground for higher-level endeavors. For instance, sometimes business schools are referred to as "farm clubs" for the world of business.

Contents

Contracted farm teams

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Baseball

In the United States and Canada, Minor League Baseball teams operate under strict franchise contracts with their major league counterparts. Although the vast majority of such teams are privately owned and are therefore able to switch affiliation, players remain completely under the control of their affiliated Major League Baseball teams. Minor league teams are usually based in smaller cities and players are typically paid significantly less than their Major League counterparts.

Most major league players start off their careers by working their way up the minor league system, from the lowest (R) to the highest (AAA) classification, with the rare exceptions usually being those players signed from Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball. Jim Abbott, Al Kaline, and Dave Winfield are notable exceptions to this, however. This process is formally referred by most MLB teams as "player development". However, minor league affiliates are often informally referred to as "farm teams" and a major league player's misfortune of being sent back to the minors is sometimes described as being "farmed out".

The farm system as it is recognized today was invented by Branch Rickey who -– as field manager, general manager, and club president –- helped to build the St. Louis Cardinals dynasty during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. When Rickey joined the team in 1916, players were commonly purchased by major league teams from independent, high-level minor league clubs.

Rickey, a keen judge of talent, became frustrated when the players he had scouted at the A and AA levels were sold by those independent clubs to wealthier rivals such as the Chicago Cubs and the New York Giants. With the support of Cardinal owner Sam Breadon, Rickey devised a plan whereby St. Louis would purchase and control minor league teams from Class D to Class AA (the highest level at the time), thus allowing them to promote or demote players as they developed, and "grow" their own talent.

The talent pipeline began at tryout camps that St. Louis scouts conducted throughout the U.S. "From quantity comes quality," Rickey once observed, and, during the 1930s, with as many as 40 owned or affiliated farm teams, the Cardinals controlled the destinies of hundreds of players each year. (The reserve clause then bound players to their teams in perpetuity.)

The Cardinals would win nine National League pennants and six World Series championships between 1926 and 1946, proving the effectiveness of the farm system concept. Indeed, the second club to fully embrace such a system, the New York Yankees, used it to sustain their dynasty from the mid-1930s through the middle of the 1960s. When Rickey moved to the Brooklyn Dodgers as president, general manager and part-owner in 1943, he proceeded to build a hugely successful farm system there as well. Moreover, the teams that ignored the farm system in the 1930s and early 1940s (such as the Philadelphia A's and Phillies and the Washington Senators) found themselves falling on hard times.

The existence of the minor league system is due in part to MLB's ability to include a reserve clause in its contracts with minor league players, which gives the major league team exclusive rights to a player even after the contract has expired. In a landmark 1922 Supreme Court decision, Federal Baseball Club v. National League, baseball was granted a special immunity from antitrust laws. Despite the advent of free agency in 1976, which led many to predict the demise of the farm system, it still remains a strong component of a winning baseball strategy.

Ice hockey

The teams of the National Hockey League also have their own farm teams. They are primarily in the American Hockey League. For example, the Binghamton Senators are the farm team for the Ottawa Senators. However, many teams have additional affiliates in the ECHL.

Unlike baseball, not all the players on the rosters of the minor league teams are owned by an NHL team. In fact, the majority only have a contract with their minor league team.

Internal feeder teams

Association Football

In many clubs, there will be internal feeder teams. These may be age restricted teams, such as an 'Under-18s' team, or an 'A team'. For example, in international association football, national teams also operate youth sides, - see England national under-21 football team, for example.

In many sports, these feeder teams will compete in their own leagues, though in some cases they compete with other 'full teams' at a lower level. In Spain, B-teams can compete in the lower leagues; Villarreal B (affiliated to Villarreal CF) currently competes in the Spanish Second Division, for example.

It is also getting more common for football clubs to arrange formal deals with other clubs with which they originally had no connection. The feeder/parent club connection could have many functions, and be very beneficial both for the feeder and the parent club. For bigger clubs, it is common to arrange agreements with the minor clubs in the area. The smaller teams can provide the bigger team (the parent club) with young talents, and the mother club have an opportunity to send their young players away on loan to these teams.

In addition to local connection, it's also getting usual to have feeder clubs in other regions of the country or in other nations, in order to gain further knowledge. Prominent European clubs are often making intercontinental deals with other clubs for the same reason. AFC Ajax have for instance a connection with the South African team Ajax Cape Town, Manchester United have a connection with the Australian team Wollongong Wolves and the Belge team Royal Antwerp, and Lithuanian side FBK Kaunas have loaned many of their younger players out to their Scottish parent team Heart of Midlothian in the hope of securing them a deal at a bigger club in the future. Having a feeder club in wealthy countries, where football is gaining a gradually better reputation, has also proved to be very beneficial. Countries such as USA, Canada, Japan, China and South Korea are good examples. Alternatively, some clubs within the EU have used feeder teams to sign non-EU players and then naturalize them in an EU country, to overcome visa regulations.

League-owned farm leagues

Basketball

The NBA directly owns an entire farm league: the National Basketball Association Development League. The elite NCAA basketball teams have often been referred to as "feeders" because they tend to produce many NBA players.

American Football

The National Football League, similar to the NBA method, used NFL Europa as a place where NFL teams can send under-developed players. Many players in the Canadian Football League and Arena Football League later advance to the NFL, but no farming contracts exist among any teams officially, even though some NFL team owners (Jerry Jones (NFL and AFL Dallas), Bud Adams (NFL Tennessee and AFL Nashville) , Arthur Blank (NFL Atlanta / AFL Georgia)) have an "unofficial" development deal as they own Arena teams in their cities, as a byproduct of a time in the early 2000s when the NFL purchased an interest in the Arena league.

Independent Teams

Some sports allow the operation of independent feeder teams. In professional cycling, for example, feeder teams such as Vendée U, which acts as a feeder for Bouygues Télécom, compete at levels below the UCI ProTour. Most pro-cycling teams use this format.

Such agreements may be less formal; in English football, for example, the operation of an external feeder team is prohibited. However, casual relationships may exist between teams to allow a sharing larger clubs' resources with smaller clubs, in return for the smaller teams taking young players on loan. This allows both clubs to maintain separate identities, and to exit from the arrangement if necessary. Such an agreement exists between Preston North End and Holker Old Boys, for example [1]. Alternatively, clubs may use teams playing abroad, particularly if they want to follow the progress of players who they cannot sign due to work permit regulations. Please see List of feeder teams in football for a comprehensive list.

Professional wrestling

Professional wrestling utilizes a farm system that allows wrestlers to learn the craft and gain experience in smaller, often regional, promotions before they are "called up" to perform on a national stage. Generally called farm leagues or developmental territories, some of the more notable ones for World Wrestling Entertainment include Heartland Wrestling Association (late 1990s) - which was also a developmental territory for World Championship Wrestling, International Wrestling Association (1999 - 2001), Memphis Championship Wrestling (2000 - 2001), Deep South Wrestling (2005 - 2007), Florida Championship Wrestling (2007 - 2009), Ohio Valley Wrestling (2000 - 2008). In addition, smaller companies such as Ring of Honor, or the now-defunct Extreme Championship Wrestling can act as unofficial feeder leagues, seasoning wrestlers until a larger company offers them a contract.

Indoor Soccer

Premier Arena Soccer League is a farm system for the Premier Arena Soccer League PRO League.

See also


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