The football landscape changes every season, however this year promises to be one of the most interesting since the inception of the Premier League in 1992.
Last year, the 20 top-flight clubs in England agreed to the ’home-grown’ rule. It goes into effect at the beginning of the campaign and it ‘could’ potentially benefit English football for years to come.
So just what is the ‘home-grown’ rule?
Here is a brief list of the most important points …
• Clubs must now register a squad containing no more than 25 players, which must include at least eight ‘home-grown’ players, at the end of each transfer window. The current window ends on August 31st at midnight.
• ‘Home-grown’ players DO NOT have to be English. ‘Home-grown’ players are defined as those “irrespective of nationality or age, have been affiliated to the FA or Welsh FA for a period of three seasons or 36 months prior to 21st birthday.”
• Clubs can supplement their squads with an unlimited number of players under the age of 21.
• Changes can only be made during transfer windows although in exceptional standards, moves may be allowed.
• These rules only apply to Premier League matches. It is, as you were, for UEFA Champions League, FA and League Cups.
Chief Executive of the Premier League Richard Scudamore believes that the England national team will be the ultimate beneficiary as top clubs will no longer hoard young foreign talent, stating, “It’s not in the club’s interest to stockpile players. It will make buying ‘home-grown’ talent more attractive.”
To me this just smacks of lip service to an ever weakening Football Association.
The Premier League’s main interest is to make their product attractive the world over. It is not to develop youngsters for the English national team. I can guarantee you that the 20 clubs who have agreed to this also feel the same way. It is not their job to service Fabio Capello. It is their job to stay in the top flight.
Looking at the ‘big boys’ of the Premiership, most clubs are in good shape, while a couple of others may have to do a certain amount of massaging before the deadline comes into effect.
Premier League Champions Chelsea currently have eight English players and four foreigners who would qualify under the ‘home-grown’ rule in their firsst team squad. Don’t look for Carlo Ancelotti to play any favors for ‘young’ English talent, though.
Manchester United has typically always had a core of English players. As we witnessed from their recent U.S. tour, that production line of ‘fledglings’ does not look like slowing down, so this ruling will have very little effect on the club.
Arsene Wenger has prided himself on producing youngsters, however they’re rarely English. The Frenchman has in fact been one of the biggest critics of the ruling. He feels that it will not help improve the England team and that it will impact his ability to bring in the kind of players he wants. In other words, English isn’t good enough for the Professor and in all honesty, he does have a valid point.
Tottenham, who finished fourth last term, have no worries as they seemingly have more English talent on their roster than the previous three clubs combined. Harry Redknapp will be forced to leave some of these youngsters out though because of the size restriction on the squads, which sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
Rounding out the big players in the division are Manchester City and Liverpool. Despite all their recent transfer activity, City has nothing to worry about, but the Reds on the other hand could be scrambling.
Former boss Rafa Benitez bought often and bought foreign during his tenure at Anfield. This is going to force new gaffer Roy Hodgson to submit a weaker squad in the Premiership as some untried and untested youngsters will have to be named to comply with the ruling. Unless of course, Hodgson gets exceedingly busy in the wheeling and dealing market over the next few weeks.
As much as I want the England national team to improve (it must after that abysmal showing in South Africa), I want to see the best players compete for spots. The old adage ‘if you’re good enough, you’re old enough’ still works for me.
Yes, I applaud the Premier League for trying to change the current climate and we have to give it a chance, but it just feels that they’re not trying that hard. I’m sure in the fine print of this document, there are numerous loopholes that clever clubs will exploit — and not for the benefit of ‘home-grown’ players.
I’m going to revisit this subject at the beginning of the January transfer window and see if young talent is being given a chance to express itself in the toughest league in the world.
Nick Webster is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the Barclays Premier League and the English national team.