‘Home-grown’ rule affecting English football

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles
Arsenals Cesc Fabregas would count as a home-grown player

Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas would count as a 'home-grown' player under the ruling

English right-back Glen Johnson switches to Liverpool. The injury prone Michael Owen joins Manchester United. Chelsea sign the highly-rated Daniel Sturridge.

The common theme? Three of England’s biggest clubs opting to sign British talent this summer, as opposed to buying young starlets from abroad. A knee jerk reaction to the ‘home-grown rule’ which will be introduced in time for season 2010-11?

Over the last couple of years, the poaching of highly-rated youngsters from youth academies abroad has infuriated UEFA bosses. Examples of this can be seen in the three clubs named above: Daniel Pacheco from Barcelona’s youth team, Federico Macheda from Lazio and Miroslav Stoch from FC Nitra.

This system of purchasing 16 and 17-year-olds from abroad has undoubtedly affected the fortunes of the national team. Home-grown talent now has to compete with prodigies from abroad. It is also unfair on the clubs who nurture potential stars from an early age, only to see the fruits of their labour wasted as big British clubs lure them to England.

Barcelona are an example of a club that has suffered the loss of many talented young footballers to the hands of English football. The most obvious example is Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal. The Gunners captain is now one of Europe’s best talents but was poached from the Barcelona youth system at the tender age of 15.

Fabregas along with Gerard Pique, Daniel Pacheco, and Fran Merida have all been ‘robbed’ from the Catalan giants at an early age. However this trend may be coming to an end with the new home-grown rule set to influence the purchasing strategy of the big clubs.

On May 12, 2009, Richard Scudamore, the Premier League chief executive, announced that the majority of clubs in the league had voted for the implementation of home-grown quotas come the start of the 2010-11 season.

This means that clubs would need a specified number of home-grown players in their squad. It would be similar to the current UEFA regulation where clubs must have at least four players trained by their clubs for three years, and at least an additional four players trained in the club’s home country for the same period in order to able participate in the Champions League or Europa League.

The plans for a quota within European football was first proposed by former UEFA boss Lennart Johansson in 2005. The idea grew from the federation’s frustrations at English clubs fielding overseas players in their teams. At the time, English clubs fiercely opposed the idea, but it has gradually been phased in.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has suggested a 6+5 system where for every five international players there would need to be six domestic-based players. This was widely rejected by the football community. It was deemed to contravene European legislation on the free movement of people.

Indeed EU laws prevent clubs from choosing players on the basis of nationality. Hence, when UEFA uses the term ‘home-grown’, it refers to players who have trained at the club for at least a 3-year-period between the ages of 16 and 21.

The adaption of the quotas for the Premier League in 2010-11 now reflects how the stance of English clubs has changed. Compared to rivals in Europe like Italy and Spain, it has to be said England aren’t producing the same quantity of quality youngsters.

This new quota will hopefully encourage clubs to trust in British youngsters being developed in their youth systems. Scudamore argues that since the formation of the Premier League in 1992, England haven’t performed badly on the international stage.

Indeed in last season’s campaign, a total of 531 players were used. Out of these 203 were English (38%). Maybe not as bleak a ratio as some pessimists may suggest and the quota would undoubtedly help to increase this ratio.

Yet, there is the other view that it could actually worsen the already growing trend of snatching youngsters from abroad. The only difference being that clubs would lure players at an even younger age to their youth academies in England.

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