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Plea to FA over foreign players

The Football Association has been urged to research the impact of foreign players on English footballers after a new report claimed they do not harm the national team.

A target of increasing the number of English players in the Premier League from 32% to 45% by 2022 emerged in FA chairman Greg Dyke’s England Commission review , which also suggested allowing top clubs to introduce B teams and an overhaul of the work permit system in an attempt to boost the English game.

But a report released by the Adam Smith Institute today claims the success of the Premier League would be ” drastically harmed” by a crackdown on foreign players.

It argues that it found little evidence of a link between the total amount of minutes played by English players in the Premier League and the success of the English national team, as measured by Fifa rankings.

The report adds that it can find no similar links in the top divisions of Germany, Italy or Spain, while it also claims it has found that allowing more “foreign talent” into a league corresponds with how well teams from that division are expected to do in European competitions.

A series of calculations was carried out for the research, which considered factors including the number of minutes played by English footballers in the Premier League – plus a similar look at native players in the top division in Spain, Germany and Italy – a nation’s performance at World Cups and European Championships and the strength of a nation’s domestic teams in European competitions.

The figures account for the number of minutes played by English footballers in the Premier League since it began in 1992/93, while also considering similar data for Spain, Germany and Italy since the 2009/10 season.

It includes information provided by data specialists Opta as well as the author’s calculations.

T he paper concluded that the evidence is “not conclusive” and there are many ways the research could be developed to achieve a “more complete picture”, including whether young foreign footballers help or hinder their English counterparts in youth academies.

It added: “But for now, the state of the published research suggests foreign players enhance competitiveness and the quality of the league and do not harm the national team.

“The FA must do this extra research or keep the current state of the literature in mind as it sets football policy.”

The paper does not offer an alternative view on why England perform worse at international tournaments.

Ben Southwood, author of the paper and head of policy at the Adam Smith Institute, said he had spent between four and five months compiling the report.

He said: “It is widely believed that England’s perceived under-performance at recent international competitions owes something to the reduced fraction of minutes English players are playing in the Premier League, but up until now no-one’s really studied the question with any kind of rigour.

“My numbers are not final but they suggest there is no real link between the amount of football English players play in the Premier League – or across the top four European Leagues – and English international performance.

“If the reduced quantity of experience is a problem, then it is being balanced out by the massively improved quality – or something else.”

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