Curse the Premier League and its homegroan-inducing stance

Matt Stead
AC Milan Chelsea

More English players in the Premier League was about the only obvious benefit of Brexit and they can’t even give us that.

 

Beyond “taking back control,” the upsides of impending Brexit don’t exactly jump out at you like Peter Schmeichel in a one-on-one.

The potential for souped-up game-time for English players in football’s top flight after the UK left the European Union was one of the more apparent positives but the Premier League is apparently refusing to accept Football Association plans for a strengthening of homegrown player squad rules.

The FA have proposed increasing the number of homegrown players in each Premier League squad from eight to 12, a suggestion which has been met by strong opposition from Gloucester Place.

Indeed, the FA focus on increasing playing chances for young English players dates back to Greg Dyke’s England Commission of 2015, which suggested the limit of 13 non-homegrown players per squad, citing ‘a lack of opportunities for homegrown players to play competitive first team football between the ages of 18 and 21’.

The homegrown definition is already pretty forgiving, pertaining to players of any nationality developed at an academy of a club in the English football pyramid for at least three seasons prior to their 21st birthday.

Despite the Premier League pointing to a 5% rise in starts for England qualified players last season the average figure still hovers at a measly 35% of total players in the top flight. This despite rich Premier League clubs having access to the top youth talent from the EFL via the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP).

Those figures were skewed by the transfer ban on Chelsea, meaning the Stamford Bridge club had to blood more homegrown prodigies. Now the ban has been lifted, Roman Abramovich is on an international spending spree.

Back in January, details of an FA report were revealed, claiming ‘the current system means that the England squad is ‘short of key players in key positions compared to most European nations’.

Moreover, the report said that the FA wished to avoid ‘mediocre overseas players blocking opportunities for up and coming talent,’ and ‘benches of young English talent not playing’.

In a week when Gareth Southgate named a patchy England squad, the Daily Mail asserted that the Premier League were demanding ‘EFL backing on homegrown player quotas after Brexit before they will agree to offer financial support for struggling clubs’.

This follows on from claims in 2011 made by Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish that EPPP was finessed through the EFL via ‘veiled threats of money being taken away’ by the Premier League.

Take away the morality of allegedly asking for something in return for helping EFL clubs on their knees due to the Covid-19 crisis and it seems the Premier League is about to flunk its big chance to readdress the balance of English players in the top flight.

One of the main gripes about the FA’s homegrown quota plans appears to be that they may not increase game-time for English players. Conversely, there is no guarantee that they won’t and it makes sense that Premier League clubs would make more use of the myriad cheap, capable academy players at their disposal if regulations were changed.

Again, it’s ‘use them or lose them’ time with regards to able young players in the Premier League. It’s not a case of fielding English personnel for the sake of it but the sensible progression of the player pathway for hundreds in highly accomplished and amply funded Premier League academies.

Either accept the FA’s plans or scrap EPPP and allow EFL clubs to develop homegrown talent to maturity via weekly 90 minutes as they used to. There’s no better way to spread the wealth than by top-tier clubs paying a fair price for native talent.

Thirteen non-homegrown players in the FA’s plans; 13 foreign club owners out of 20 in the Premier League. Bat away the FA’s modest homegrown requests and the line that the Premier League is an overseas league of overseas owners will continue.

Tom Reed is on Twitter