By Kieran Lovelock,
England has always been acknowledged as the place where soccer was born. But with the confusing new rules recently implemented by the English Premier League with regards to each team having a quota of homegrown players in their squad, their domestic game may soon be dead before anyone gets the chance to revive it.
In short the rules now state that each Premiership team must declare a squad of 25 players at the start of the season of which eight must be “homegrown.”
On the surface of things it appears that by installing this rule the English authorities have finally done something good for their national game. But once England fans start digging they will shortly find that it is simply another manipulative guideline designed to make the rich richer and their national team even worse than it already is.
To me and you the term “homegrown” means exactly what it says. It denotes the image of a young sportsperson tirelessly working their way through the local scene of their chosen sport to make it to an academy and then on to the highest level. Someone who is homegrown is an individual brought up where they were born and developed there, simple enough isn’t it?
Well apparently simple won’t do for English soccer and people like the Barclays Premiership CEO Richard Scudamore. Because, according to him, homegrown can mean getting educated thousands of miles away from your parents in a totally different culture. What officially counts as a homegrown player for him is one that has simply been registered with the club in question for three years between the ages of 16 and 21. Mundane aspects such as having the correct passport, speaking the language and, most importantly of all being born in England and therefore being able to play for the England national team, are apparently irrelevant.
To properly gauge the level of sheer absurdity the whole concept carries let us reverse the roles. If your son was a talented soccer player who was born and bred in the USA, and he was signed by a club in Rio De Janero aged 18 to attend their football academy for three years, would you then count him as being a homegrown native despite being unable to speak Portuguese and never getting a Brazilian passport?
For years now England soccer fans have been crying out for regulations to be put in place to promote the need for clubs to breed local players and for them then to be used in league games. Things truly hit rock bottom for them last season when 22 foreign players took to the field in a match between Arsenal and Portsmouth, and with the national team getting truly embarrassed in South Africa this summer, never before have such regulations been needed.
But instead of installing wholesale changes designed at making things easier for the England national team nothing has changed, if anything things will now get tougher for the Three Lions. For what this new rule essentially does is encourage Premiership clubs, most of whom have the funds for a foreign scouting network, to keep trawling the globe for foreign youngsters rather than focusing on talent closer to home. The amount of local English youngsters available for academies to select will always be limited due rules surrounding who they can recruit dependent of their catchment area. Therefore, assuming finances and being able to use foreign players aren’t pending issues, why not simply go abroad where the choice is far greater and then stick them in the 25 man squad to fulfill the quota?
Why should an English soccer club bother putting real concentrated effort into developing local players that truly love the club when they can just recruit on mass from abroad and let the law of averages do the work in producing players adequate enough for the top level?
The truth of course is that until rock strong guidelines giving local English players priority are put in, the quality of soccer player available to the English national team will just continue to plummet like a stone.
The current population of the English city of Liverpool for example is currently at around 436,000. The rest of the world has 6 billion people in it so why should Liverpool FC bother looking at the tiny fraction of people that live in their city and try to develop them as soccer players that the national team can select, when they can just go abroad where they have so many more kids to choose from? If you were a business why would you ever limit yourself in who you could recruit if you didn’t have to?
The real question is that is why can’t English clubs bring themselves to focus on nurturing young talent when history shows that they clearly have the human resources to work with? This soccer mad nation has produced true worldbeaters down the years, so why can’t they do it now?
Bobby Moore, Gordon Banks, Stanley Matthews, Bobby Charlton, Kevin Keegan and Duncan Edwards were all true greats of the game, they were the best on the planet in their respective positions during their time and they came from English shores. More recently England fans have been treated to glimpses of greatness from the likes of Paul Gascgoine, Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole whilst Ryan Giggs can only be compared to AC Milan’s Paulo Maldini when it comes to having the ability to play at the highest level for so long.
The answer lies somewhere in the depths of the long list that contains the differences between the agenda of the English FA and the Premier League, but if these two organisations could come together for once there may be a solution. England fans love to see young English players play at the highest level and the Premier League have dwindling attendances- surely they can therefore help each other in some shape or form.
If they cannot come to a solution sooner or later the English FA may as well break all ties from the Premiership because the only place the England players will be playing are the leagues below it.