Only 2 days ago did i publish my last blog on England and their vast amount of young talent- but how it could go to waste. According to some (Ferguson, Gerrard and some revered journalists), Brexit- a word that literally makes your shoulders sag and eyes loll- may actually have a positive effect on English football and promoting player development. Others, though, (Gareth Southgate, and Matthew Syed ) disagree to the extent that it’s consequences will be alarmingly contradictory.
For those who haven’t been following the football news recently, due to the political context of Brexit, the FA will be forced to strike a deal with the Premier League whereby all foreign imports who get a contract with a Premier League will be given a work permit (technically known as a Governing Body Endorsement). In return, the Premier League will reduce the quota on foreign players for each club from 17 to 12 players out of the theoretical 25 man squad. If the deal fails to materialise, EU players will have to fulfil the same criteria as non-EU players do now in order to get a work permit. This criteria includes Fifa ranking of country, fee size and amount of international caps- which would have particularly serious ramifications on the smaller, poorer clubs who can’t afford the stars. The FA hopes that that this deal will boost the number of homegrown talent without diluting the quality of the Premier League.
A fantastic opportunity
The Premier League has an “awful lot of bog-standard foreign players,” said Greg Dyke in 2015, the then chairman of the FA. He speaks for the people. A lingering concern of English football fans is that we are hindering the progress of our young players by stockpiling foreign import. At the Manchester Derby at the weekend only 1 Mancunian started the game: Marcus Rashford. 2 weekends prior, only 28% of players playing in the Premier League were English. A staggering statistic. Our typical English bemoaning may appear ungrateful given that ever since the 1995 Bosman ruling, which lifted the cap on foreign players across Europes leagues, they have revolutionised English football and changed the face of the Premier League. It wouldn’t be the best league in the world had Zola not departed Parma to teach us what a No.10 was, or if Henry hadn’t rebranded the role of a lone striker, or had Ronaldo not kickstarted the inverted winger trend. As a result, one could argue that limiting these foreign players will reduce the competitiveness of Premier League clubs in Europe and the general appeal of the league? But is that really the case ? Nobody wants to ban foreign players as a whole but are Danilo, Elaquim Mangala, Davide Zappacosta, Divock Origi and Victor Wanyama really adding anything to our league or just making up the numbers and welcoming the high salaries? Surely it would be rather more beneficial to give Phil Foden, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Rhian Brewster some solid minutes ? Exposure to regular first team football will no doubt accentuate development. The proposal would also improve the quality of other, smaller leagues whose star players are regularly pinched, enticed by the riches- only to sit on the bench, talent marginalised. One thinks of Alexander Sorloth (Starring for Midtjylland in Denmark, now on the bench at Palace), Jurgen Locadia (Once flourishing at PSV, now languishing at Brighton), or Ramadan Sobhi (once lighting up Egyptian football, now rotting at Huddersfield). Though Not that the FA is the slightest bit concerned in them.
Getting fat on paydays
Humans thrive when competition is at it’s fiercest. Fact. And this simple platitude represents the basis of anti-quota supporters such as Matthew Syed who recently wrote a column on this topic in The Times. Between 1968 and 1992- the days of POMO, ‘get it in the mixer’, and foreign-aversion, England reached the quarter-finals at major tournaments 4 out of 13 attempts. From 1998-2018- the Premier League’s international revolution we have reached the quarter finals in 5 out of 11 attempts and currently find ourselves getting sick of saying “a future star”. It is evident that this extra competition is motivating our players to fight for their position. And regular exposure to la creme de la creme is bound to raise self-standards. The Lawn Tennis Association tested a similar proposal to the FA. It failed drastically. When guaranteed a place at Wimbledon, homegrown players did not acclimatise to to the big occasion, or “skill up”, they lost the desire, the purpose, and got fat on paydays in the sun. Syed’s point is valid- but too blunt. He doesn’t take into account the agonising stories of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Dominic Solanke. It is not as simple anymore as “as long as your good enough, you’ll make it to the top”. No, young players are becoming victims of the pressure on managers for instant success. It is an inevitable burden for the best league in the world. And it is insidious. Transfer expenditure in the Premier League has risen every year from 2010 to 2017 where it reached £1.4bn. And even so, this summer saw Fulham pay a whopping £132m on new players (3rd most in Europe)- unprecedented for a promoted side. Meanwhile, relegation favourites Huddersfield have completely ditched their academy. There comes a point when enough is enough.