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safeguarding the future?

September 16, 2009

Jack Rodwell, Everton.
The Premier League has this week announced that the twenty Premier League clubs have agreed that next season will see the introduction of a homegrown quota which will ensure that each club may have a maximum of 25 players registered of which 8 must be ‘homegrown’ – with a homegrown player being defined as being one that has spent three seasons training/playing for an English/Welsh professional club between the age of 16 and 21.

This has been in the works for some time now, ever since the amount of foreign stars joining the Premier League increased from a trickle to a flood it has seemed inevitable that it would eventually become necessary to regulate the amount of English players involved in the league, and England’s failure to qualify for Euro 2008 has simply accelerated that process. However, I think this is little more than a first step in a larger plan.

The introduction of a quota is essentially motivated by the FA’s desire to safeguard the future of the English national team. Our failure to qualify for the last European Championship was nothing short of a national disaster, and so to know that more English players will, from next season, have more opportunities of playing football at the top level and therefore to progress well, becoming international quality players.

However, the new quota rules as currently enforced will still allow English clubs to sign foreign youngsters – as long as they get them aged 17 or 18 they will, by the time they are 21, meet the requirements to be classed as a homegrown player and thus be eligible to be registered as part of their senior squad. So although some more English players may get an opportunity, it seems that little may actually change, with managers like Arsene Wenger still free to hoover up the best talent from around the world.

It seems on the surface then that the new rules may have only a very slight impact on the Premier League. Sure, the limit on squad size will prevent the money-bags of the league (here’s looking at you, City) but if they then simply use their considerable financial power to convince the world’s best youngsters to join them early, then they will continue to gather together squads of the highest quality.

However, I’m not so sure that the effect of these changes will be so slight. Because, in light of the recent verdict delivered on Chelsea over their acquisition of Gael Kakuta, it looks as if the transfer of players below the age of 18 is likely to be looked into in the near future. Considering the fact that transfers and dealings such as those conducted by Chelsea for Kakuta have been going on for years on football, the punishment handed out seems very severe and sends out a clear message.

It seems obvious to me that before long the transfer of players under the age of 18 will most likely soon be banned between clubs from different countries at the very least, and if this does happen it will then severely limit the pool of homegrown talent available for Premier League clubs to access. This will increase the price of young English players even further (and Liverpool already paid £18m for Glen Johnson this summer!), and will not please the top clubs one bit, as it will mean their years of neglecting youth systems will have hurt them.

Which is why I think it’s quite a cunning move to have gotten the Premier League clubs to agree now to these relatively small scale changes, safe in the knowledge that soon the game will see more drastic changes that will help them achieve their main goal, which is of course, to do all they can to make England’s national team successful in the near future. The big clubs would never willingly agree to limit their talent pool so significantly, it would completely undermine their current strategies for success.

Which means we have to credit the FA with a fair bit of ingenuity here. Usually pretty damned useless when it comes to implementing changes or improvements of any kind, I reckon that in this instance they’ve played a bit of a blinder. Especially as they’ve also introduced new stricter financial requirements so as to be able to keep an eye on the financial stability of all the Premier League’s clubs to ensure they are being viably run.

Which means that in one fell swoop the FA have pulled off three major changes to the game: restricting the power of the mega-rich clubs, ensured that the future of English football is bright and given themselves greater power to safeguard the future of the clubs who are in danger of being run into the ground by irresponsible owners who are determined to use football as a business manoeuvre to enhance their fortune.

Of course, there will be side effects, and I think that when the new rules first come into effect the overall quality of the Premier League will necessarily be compromised. After all, when clubs like Chelsea and Man City etc. can no longer guarantee a match day squad filled with high salaried international players, there will be always be slightly less flair and quality to the league as a whole.

Indeed, Arsene Wenger and Rafa Benitez have already, surprise surprise, voiced their opposition to the move suggesting that they don’t consider where a player hails from, they only consider the quality of the player and that they feel that this is how it should be. Of course, they have the best interests of their club and their club only at the foremost of their minds, but as foreign managers in England, I think they have an obligation to their country of employ as well as simply their club.

And overall, I think that these new measures will be a damn good thing for the future of the English game. I for one am excited about seeing a new generation of English players being given an opportunity. I’ve been proud to see the likes of Wayne Rooney, Leon Osman, Tony Hibbert and  Jack Rodwell progress through Everton’s youth setup and into the first team, and it will be great to see similar progression taking place at other clubs.

So well done to the FA, let’s hope that at long last, the future of English football is in the safe hands that it deserves.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. September 16, 2009 12:12 pm

    Firstly, I don’t think the FA give two shits about the national team. If they did they would have a mid season break, give the England manager more time with his squads and play less games in a season.

    Secondly, i sit well and truly in the camp that does not want to see foreign restrictions. This new rule will once again bump up the prices of English players as they become essential commodities.

    Thirdly, i have never got the link between how such a ruling can aid the international side. If you are good enough you will play for your club first team…IE if Ben Foster proves his worth he will be the number one..if not then he will sit on the bench. Its not so much about nationality, but quality. England failure to qualify for the Euros was because of bad management and poorly motivated players..the quality of the players is not in doubt so i do not see the link

    Lastly, I find nothing about Tony Hibbert exciting at all! I wouldn’t even let him scrub the boots at Old Trafford!! ;-)

  2. September 16, 2009 12:24 pm

    Thinking that the FA doesn’t care about the England team is incredibly naive. I’m sorry, but they just do, the England team is their asbolute main concern given that they have pretty much zero control over the Premier League and so all of their work at grassroots level is done to benefit the national side.

    Your third point: Ben Foster is 26 years old, he’s only just starting to get first team football because up until now Alex Ferguson has been able to go out and buy readymade foreign replacements who already good enough to play in the first team. No player will emerge from the youth/reserve team fully ready for life in the Premier League. They have to learn their trade at that level too but with the system as it is, few get that chance, and Ben Foster’s development has without a doubt been stunted because of that.
    More on Foster here if you’re interested.

    And finally, Tony Hibbert isn’t the most exciting player in the world: granted. But he’s a quailty, no nonsense right back who has done a good job at the top level for Everton for many years. He’s no different to the likes of Gary Neville and Nicky Butt at United – a good, solid homegrown player who gives/gave 110% for the team and, despite not being as naturally talented as some other players, is an excellent servant to their club. If he’d come through at Old Trafford, Alex Ferguson would be just as much of a fan of him as I am.

    Oh, and of course fans of the ‘big four’ will oppose the move more than any other football fans, because you are, for once, part of a minority that may lose out. But this is, whether you like it or not, for the good of the game in the long run.

    • September 16, 2009 5:43 pm

      Well i do not see how my opinion on the FA is naive. All the FA care about is money..this is why the Burton School of Excellence is yet to come to fruition. Everyone understood the influence Clairfontaine had on France’s success in the last 20 years..so the FA said we will do that for the English game….and have taken 10 years to even come to a decision after closing down the national schools of excellence…oh but Wembley..yes we will spend £800 million building that cos that will make us cash. I think my point is well and truly proved just with those two facts..i wont bore you with any more.

      The difference with Hibbert and Neville/Butt is that despite not being stars they were international class, and would have got into any team in the league in their pomp. I dont believe the same can be said of Steven Gerrards best pal.

      My view may well be biased towards my club, but my honest opinion is that there is no link between foreign quotas and the stunting of English youth football (which effects the national side) Teams should not be forced to play a player because he is English. It is ridiculous. It wont aid England in the slightest. It is a restriction of trade …why does football have to be so different to every other industry?

      • September 16, 2009 5:55 pm

        oh one more point..

        Our youth set up at United is as deep as it gets…these new rules will not effect us. Teams like Portsmouth and Bolton will suffer alot more, and the Burnleys of this world will not stand a chance..that is the reality. The bigger teams outside of the top 4 will benifit the most…rich enough to have a good quality academy, while still having the money to buy the Fellini’s of this world..so good times for Everton, Villa…Arsenal (lol!)

        You have brought through some great young players at Everton..i like Rodwell alot (we should buy him). But if we look at the bigger picture it will allow sub standard players to get a foot up where their quality does not befit such a success. I really dont want a Hibbert at full back for England ;-)

  3. September 16, 2009 8:06 pm

    i think the quality of the football will suffer next season but in the long run, it could go either way – it may or may not improve the quality only time will tell. what the foreign players bring is competition – this might not be a good example, but since ballack joined chelsea lampard has been quite consistent, and deco was frozen out for most of his first season in the premier league.

    and i think its discrimination to other european union members, under the EU laws you should be allowed to work for any business within the EU.

    fortunately, the quota is 8 homegrown players in 25 so there are still 17 spots left – it could be worse. and its pretty flexible imo.

    • September 16, 2009 9:18 pm

      i hear what your saying yj

      all that will happen is United et al will pick the kids up when they are 13 or 14 from Europe/S America/Wherever and by the time they are pros they will be naturalized and therefore considered “homegrown”..i just think this is a token effort by the FA to be seen to be “doing something” about a subject UEFA are all hot and bothered about…why dont we just go the whole hog and say that you can only play for a team in the country of your birth! That would stir things up!

      I have no idea why you can work anywhere in Europe doing any profession without restriction…thats unless youre a footballer. Chronically wrong

  4. Matilda permalink
    September 17, 2009 4:55 am

    Just so we have the facts straight Bolton have 17 homegrown players. They won’t even really be affected by this rule. Smaller clubs have many more English and young players because they don’t have the flash to buy from abroad. I tihnk this will only hurt the bigger club and it will level the odds a bit which should make next season more interesting. I am not positive that this will actually help the English team that much. I do believe that if the players were good enough they’d be playing for their club or they’d get loaned out. But I also am a firm believer in hte magic of match experience, even the greats need a couple of matches to get their touch back after injury and such. I’ll be very interested to see how it goes, I am leaning towards the conclusion that it won’t really help the national team, but who knows, it could. And I’d be pretty pleased if it did.

  5. September 17, 2009 5:36 am

    I think in the short term, it might hurt the quality of the EPL. However, in the long term, I don’t see anything but success for England. Unlike before when they had no hope at all of playing at the likes of MU and Arsenal, at least now they see an opportunity and will work hard to compete with the rest. My case in point would be Wazza and Fat Lampard. I don’t see anyone in their respective clubs overtaking them anytime soon.

  6. George permalink
    September 17, 2009 11:05 am

    I’m sorry but did I just read Gary Neville would get into every Premier League team, and Steven Gerrard wouldn’t?

    Gary Neville fits into the Frank Lampard category.

    • September 17, 2009 11:27 am

      I think Gerrard would get in almost every side in the world. 5 years ago Gary Neville was the best right back in the Premier League but not now!

  7. September 17, 2009 1:26 pm

    Club youth football is not a problem, there are plenty of English youth players but the problem lies in the training of these individuals.

    I’ve been to a few FA schemes and seen 10-14 year olds working on skills in their first session. Abroad kids are taught very differently, this sounds stupid right? How else can they be taught?

    Well I’ve seen Dutch kids not being taught drills but actually just kicking the ball for the whole session. Boring? Well no, years ago kids learnt their football on the streets and this way is no different except this way they are being watched over by a trained coach who can spot “individual” talents.

    Over here if kids don’t perform well at these drills then that’s it, they don’t play. They aren’t actually being able to develop. Admittedly abroad they start their coaching sessions at clubs at as early an age as 4 years old but if that’s what works.

    It sounds I guess pretty simple; give them the ball and let them get on with it.

    The national side will be fine, although it still annoys me that it takes an Italian to get the team playing and believing that they could win the World Cup. I say that in hoping they remain injury free…

    • September 17, 2009 2:32 pm

      Sarah has hit the nail right on the head..i was going to write a piece soon on this exact subject. The coaching we give kids in this country is shambolic. At 6 years old, their parents stand on the touchline screaming at them hell fire in what is a kick and rush load of trash on a full size pitch. In Holland, the kids are not allowed to play 11 a side until they are 14..so from when they can kick a ball they play 7 a side on smaller pitches and only concentrate on ball skills…not fitness, not who is the biggest..as has plagued the British game. I watched the Ajax kids train once when i was there and it is mind blowing! Children learning to covert the ball and retain posession…not be lung busters charging up and down the pitch like here…

      i once put this to a fellow dad screaming on the touchline and his words…”well the Dutch have never won nuffing!” ..and there is your problem..

      We have got it all wrong here. We should follow the lead of the Dutch, but we wont for some reason..if the FA cared about the future of the national side, they would be putting in measures now for the kids to be given the correct development…and that wouldnt cost alot of cash. All they care about is politics, and that is why they are towing the line with this foreigner rule…they also want to stage a money generating World Cup, so they will do whatever UEFA want from them

      • September 17, 2009 2:58 pm

        Rob, I look forward to reading the piece!

        Something I forgot to add about the Dutch way of training is that they try to make the ball become an extension of the kids body, enabling skillful dribbling. They keep the ball so close to their feet, that is what they are taught. It’s amazing it really is, fascinating to be honest.

        But the FA have been around the world to look at these other training camps (or so they say) and they came back and still said “Let’s continue as we have already done so”. Idiots!

        I’ve heard good things about the David Beckham Academy though which is fantastic news for England’s future.

  8. September 17, 2009 2:56 pm

    Oh here is the conclusive proof that this will not help the national side

    “a quota system that will force clubs to register 25-man squads containing at least eight “home-grown” players. Under the regulations, “home-grown” is a player who has trained for three years under the age of 21 by a club within the English and Welsh professional system. For example, Cesc Fàbregas, who joined Arsenal as a 15-year-old, will qualify as home-grown, but Owen Hargreaves, an England midfield player who spent his formative years with Bayern Munich, will not.

    Scudamore said: “This rule will clearly encourage youth development and the promotion of young players, but — and we don’t apologise for this — it goes nowhere near a nationality test because we don’t believe that is right.”

    So, Cesc can play but an England international cant….utter poppycock

    • September 17, 2009 8:25 pm

      Well spotted Rob. However, if you actually read and understood my article you’d see that I argue that this rule that the FA ha just introduced will work hand in hand with the inevitable rule that UEFA will soon bring in to restrict the movement of players under the age of 18 to benefit the national side.

      Thanks to the Gael Kakuta affair, this is now high on UEFA’s priortiy and it’s pretty obvious that soon transfers between clubs from different countries of these kids is going to become much more difficult.

      When that happens, Owen Hargreaves still may not count, but Cesc Fabregas won’t make it to England, thus creating more opportunities for English youngsters who will have to be given a chance and with eight of these homegrown players needed in the first team squad, their likelihood of going all the way through will be increased, along with their chances of playing for England.

      I agree that for years the coaching of English kids has been poor but to say “the Dutch are better at it than us” is a massive generalisation. When I was a kid I got excellent coaching in Shrewsbury, with no focus on fitness whatsoever, and lots and lots of ballwork.

      Also, I was only allowed to play 8-a-side football on small pitches until a certain age which is exactly what you marvel at when it happens in Holland. While there are plenty of coaches here bringing through big, hard, old fashioned English players, that’s not the whole story.

      To suggest that the FA has control and responsibility for every single coach all across the country is ridiculous. They’ll do what they can to encourage clubs at grassroots level to coach in a well rounded way, but they can’t force them to, ultimately it comes down to the coaches themselves – not all of whom have FA training.

      I’m not saying that the FA is perfect – they certainly aren’t. However, this witch hunt against them is ridiculous and full of massive generalisations. I maintain that this move will be good for the English side and in the long run probably good for the Premier League, which will gradually be filled less with mercenaries playing for cash and more homegrown and hungry players passionate about their club.

  9. September 17, 2009 8:46 pm

    OK Adam that is your opinion, and you’ve made your point eloquently

    You talk of generalisation, and it is my point about what is general practice and not what individual coaches are doing. I played for the youth set up for Crystal Palace as a kid. I have also done some coaching over the years following FA guidelines. The FA has had many opportunities in the last ten years to improve the domestic game beyond recognition but have turned their noses up at it. If they had built Burton it would have been the correct commitment to our kids. They didn’t..so they take the flack for that im afraid. Im sick of the hair brain schemes the FA has dreamed up the past 20 years which amount to nothing more than excuses

    One more point. Do you think the new plans will really stop clubs pillaging talent from abroad. All that will happen is that the Fabregas’ of this world will be tapped up alot younger (that cant be a good thing) It is mad to assume that our talent is compromised by young foreign talent..if we were that good then the Spanish and Italians would be poaching our kids..I think UEFA will get taken to court if they restrict any movement of trade and in this day and age they will lose.

    If youre good enough, you will make it..we’re all Europeans to the EU anyhow

  10. Nick permalink
    September 18, 2009 9:33 am

    @Rob: I think you’re slightly missing the point. You say that players will simply bought a lot younger, or that you’ll (Man U) simply buy other young English players from other young clubs, as you suggested with your suggestion that Man U should buy Rodwell. You and Sarah don’t seem to be looking into the long term enough. The England team will certainly not benefit quickly rom this scheme, but ultimately, all English clubs will now be FORCED to put more money and effort into their youth systems. As I believe someone pointed out, there are already lots of good young players coming through the English clubs (Lampard and Gerrrd were mentioned). This rule simply means that the time and effort put into these players, will be put into a lot more, because with this ruling and the upcoming UEFA ruling restricting movement of youngesters it will become much more unfeasible to simply go out and buy ready made players.

    @Sarah: You first complain about the FA’s coaching methods and conclude that we should adopt the Dutch’s methods. If that’s your opinion, fair enough. But how can you then complain about the fact that its taken an Italian to come in and get results from the England team? If the Dutch’s training methods are good enough for English youngsters, what is so bad about having an Italian coach for the national team? I personally can see very little difference. It almost sounds as though you’re not pleased that the England team are finally performing quite well.

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