Home Groan – The EPL’s New Rules

Written by  //  August 19, 2010  //  Sport  //  2 Comments

The Premier League’s ruling on Home Grown Players spells disaster for English football

Last May, when the domestic football season ended all across Europe, I didn’t feel the kind of emptiness I normally associate with summer. There was a world cup to look forward to, and on either side of it, a transfer window which I was convinced would be the busiest one in a long time. Almost every big club quite visibly needed reinforcements, and the only one that didn’t, had it made it very clear that it would give the tabloids enough rubbish to print as they went on and on about bringing Catalan DNA back from North London.

Now, the world cup was underwhelming, to say the least. True, high-profile international matches tend to be tactical, cagey affairs, but these ones were particularly dreary. Such a high proportion of 1-0 victories (more often than not arising out of a goalkeeping blunder) can’t be healthy for the game. Anyway, enough has been written about the despicably round Jabulani, the ugly but indispensible holding midfielders, and the cosmic conspiracy about how the absence of goal-line technology always goes against one’s favourite team – so let’s not go down that road again. My biggest gripe this summer has been the infuriating dullness of the inter-club transfer market, especially that in England.

It’s definitely not the money. Six of last year’s top 8 clubs have made no secret of the fact that they have funds at their disposal. (At the time of writing this article, it appears Manchester City will foot Craig Bellamy’s £90,000 a week wage bill even while he spends the season on loan with Cardiff City).It’s definitely not contentment with the current squad. Every manager has gone on record admitting that he’s on the lookout for fresh talent. Yet the tabloids have struggled to churn out the kind of will-he-won’t-he gossip that fuels pub conversations in the driest months of the year. And more often than not, these loose leads all turn out to be transfer non-events because there is a new binding constraint in place this year – the FA’s ruling on home grown players in the Premier League club squad.

Briefly, the ruling states that every club must name a squad of 25 players maximum that has to include at least eight home grown players. A home grown player is defined roughly as one who, irrespective of nationality or age, has been registered with any English or Welsh club for a period of 3 seasons before his 21st birthday. In addition to this squad of 25 players, each club may use as many under-21 players as they wish.

Where does this leave most English clubs? Well, for starters, Manchester City has enough players to name 2 full squads in keeping with the above rules. Which would explain why, for every Balotelli they buy, there’s a Roque Santa Cruz they need to offload. Chelsea aren’t much better, being perilously close to this limit themselves. A handful of clubs planning for the future have clung on to youth academy players who in previous seasons would easily have been loaned out to lesser clubs. Cash-strapped clubs find themselves unable to import inexpensive talent from Europe and South America while being unable to afford English players of comparable quality, whose prices have shot up due to the supply-demand imbalance in this imperfect market.

And what purpose does all of this serve? Ostensibly, the FA wants to see greater English representation, leading to a quality national team, with the end aim of landing a Euro or World Cup by the year 20_ _ (insert any number between 22 and 50). Realistically, what’s going to happen? A handful of clubs with well established youth academies will make a killing over the next 4-5 seasons, selling mediocre “developed” players to other English clubs at inflated prices. The forcible reduction of world-class talent will imply that these home grown players will consistently play against sub-standard opposition (i.e. each other). And English teams will struggle against the traditional European powerhouses who do not suffer from these constraints when looking to acquire foreign talent ineligible to play in England. Oh, and if due to all this, the Spanish, Italian or German leagues overtake the Premier League in terms of global appeal, the FA will lose a LOT of money.

Once every 5 years, these youth academies will unearth an Owen, a Rooney, a Wilshere –  precocious talents capable of breaking into any team in the world irrespective of the number of foreign players in the squad. And agreed, once in 5 years isn’t good enough. But the idea should be to encourage more, better-run, academies across the country, not to make it easier for sub-standard players from existing academies to break into the senior teams. Before the Premier League became all cool and glamorous in the mid 90s, it was dominated by Englishmen. It’s not as if the national team won any silverware then.

A counter-argument I’ve heard quite often relates to the IPL’s restriction on foreign players in the playing XI. In a way, that’s different – with no foreign league even coming close to rivalling it, there’s very little chance of losing the best international talent (and thereby TV, tickets and merchandising revenues) to a competitor. But in a way, it also corroborates my earlier arguments – the lower-in-the-pecking-order Indian cricketers who’ve made it to any XI due to constraints on foreign players are not the ones you’d see in the national team. The ones you see in the national team are ones who’d have walked into their respective IPL teams with ease. And it’s been like this for three years, where our national T20 team has shown no tangible improvement.

Anyway, I don’t think much of the home grown players rule. And when I look back on a dull summer plagued by transfer market inactivity and tired media rumours, I like it even less.

2 Comments on "Home Groan – The EPL’s New Rules"

  1. Satyajit August 19, 2010 at 6:47 pm ·

    Good call, mate. This rule is just going to ensure that financial powerhouses will raid feeder clubs for all the talent that may surface. It’s going to take a man of real faith to convince me Manchester City want to invest in a proper youth system.

  2. Wrozba Z Run September 10, 2010 at 12:30 am ·

    Nice post

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