You may have noticed that this season the Premier League has imposed rules that they say are designed to increase the number of ‘home grown’ players in the League and therefore, in due course, improve the pool of talent available from which the national team manager can select his team.
The rules involve clubs naming twenty-five man squads which must include at least eight ‘home grown’ players.
It sounds all pretty good in theory but if you look closely at the new rules you have to ask whether it will make the difference the Premier League says they are trying to encourage.
Clubs must register a squad of up to twenty-five players, which must include at least eight ‘home grown’ players, at the end of each transfer window.
‘Home grown’ players do not have to be English. ‘Home grown’ players are defined as those who “irrespective of nationality or age, have been affiliated to the FA or Welsh FA for a period of three seasons or thirty-six months prior to their twenty-first birthday”
This means, for example, that Arsenal could class Cesc Fabregas as ‘home grown’. Before his sale, Manchester United could have done the same with Cristiano Ronaldo.
Clubs can supplement squad with unlimited number of players under the age of twenty-one.
I would say the important word in the above rule is ‘can’. There is no compulsion on the clubs to do so.
It also means that the likes of Chris Smalling, the Da Silva twins and Danny Wellbeck at Manchester United don’t have to be included in the twenty-five. The same goes for Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs at Arsenal. All of these players could be added as a supplement to the main squad of twenty-five.
On the whole the rule changes are a good thing for the England national side as there should be more young English players included within the squads. However, when you see the amount of money the top English clubs pay for young teenagers from overseas, it is certainly true to say that at the top of the Premier League, the ‘home grown’ players are still likely to be from somewhere other than England.
I don’t want to sound cynical as I support this move by the Premier League as a step in the right direction. My cynicism is aimed more towards the top clubs who are likely to carry on pretty much as they are despite the changes being implemented.
At the World Cup we saw a final between Germany and Spain whereby all twenty-two players play in their own country. The same was true of England whilst this might help in the long run, it will take a lot more than these rule changes to bring the quality of English players into line with that of their European cousins.