(London) FA chairman Greg Dyke has announced his ‘radical and ambitious’ recommendations for the reform of English football. Announcing the publication of his England Commission report, Dyke detailed plans that would drastically reinvent the structure of English football, limiting the number of foreign players clubs can buy in so that young English talent has the chance to shine.
What are the recommendations?
- Premier League clubs should enter B teams into a new Third Division of the Football League. These teams would be populated with promising youth squad players. They would be prohibited from winning promotion beyond League One, however.
- Premier League clubs should systematically enter into strategic loan partnerships with lower tier clubs, sending out their best and brightest youth team players to smaller outfits to ensure they receive the opportunities they need to acquire valuable first team experience.
- Clubs should increase the number of home grown players in their 25-man Premier League squads, up from the current eight to as many as 13 by 2020.
- Tighter work permit restrictions for players from non-EU countries should be enforced, ensuring that only ‘truly exceptional players of the highest calibre’ are granted permits, making it tougher for clubs to fill out their squads with mediocre overseas imports.
Why are these proposals being made?
Since the formation of the modern Premier League in 1992, which brought in unprecedented levels of new investment from TV revenue and sponsorship, English football has seen a steady influx of foreign players.
Many of these overseas imports have set the league alight and become legends with fans, from Eric Cantona and Dennis Bergkamp to Gianfranco Zola and Luis Suarez, but others have proven decidedly less successful. Ricky van Wolfswinkel, look away now.
The Premiership is now dominated by foreign players to the point of over-reliance and to the detriment of clubs’ youth systems, which are supposed to scout raw home grown talent and encourage its development. Cheap foreign players who have already learned their trade elsewhere are seen as a sounder investment.
The resulting scarcity of English talent in turn hinders the progress of the national team on the world stage. Rival nations such as Spain, Germany and Italy have long understood the importance of fostering young prodigies and their efforts have routinely born fruit at major tournaments.
Will these recommendations be implemented?
If Greg Dyke’s ideas were to be acted upon, 45% of players in the English top flight would be English by 2022. However, the FA chairman’s suggestions are likely to prove controversial and will face opposition from teams across the top division, who would be reluctant to jeopardise their performance in the short-term by having to make team selections based on quotas rather than player ability or current form.
The all-important popularity of the Premiership as a global brand also relies on instant success and exciting acquisitions and may not be able to withstand a dip in form while a generation of less experienced English players find their feet. Especially while competition from the Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A remains so fierce.
The logistics of a B team winning League One, knowing in advance they will ultimately be denied promotion, has also been questioned, although the success of Barcelona B in Spain in recent years is undeniable.
What impact will the recommendations have on the England international squad?
The Commission’s findings have been broadly welcomed by England manager Roy Hodgson at least. Hodgson commented: ‘We are much wiser now than when this process began, and now have a strong body of work that will stop us wondering how we compare to other countries…
‘My undoubted focus has been on qualifying and preparing my England squad for the World Cup in Brazil. But we all have a responsibility when called to answer the question, how can we provide a better platform for the young England players of the future.’
More English players in the Premiership would give Hodgson or his future successor a great deal more choice when it comes to picking squads for friendlies, qualifiers and international tournaments, which would undoubtedly make the international team more competitive at European Championships and World Cups and increase our chances of passing beyond the quarter finals. Or even beating Germany on penalties.