England: Why the Home-grown Players Rule is Doing Nothing to Help the National Team

Premier League clubs named their 25 man squads for the season last week in compliance with the ‘home-grown’ player ruling that was introduced to the Premier League at the start of the 2010/11 season. The rule, which states that clubs must name no more than 17 foreign players in their squads, was seen as a way of preventing the influx of players moving from abroad into the league, and instead to promote home-grown talent. It was seen as the answer to the England national team’s long suffering at major tournaments, and should help to bring through more English stars in a similar way to which Spain and Germany have now seen their young talents win glory on the world stage.

But now in its 5th year, how effective is the ruling? England’s 2-0 win over Switzerland on Monday night has helped to heal the cracks that had developed after England’s dismal World Cup and an unconvincing 1-0 win over Norway last week. Many questioned Roy Hodgson’s squad selection, but he can only choose what’s available to him.

Firstly, let’s take the positives. The rule does ensure that when it comes to transfer policy there is always one eye on the amount of foreign players a club can bring in. Jose Mourinho faced the dilemma this summer, knowing he had to offload a non-British player in order for his 25 man squad to qualify.

Chelsea incidentally have the fewest number of home-grown players over 21 in the league with 3- Gary Cahill, John Terry and Cesc Fabregas. Fabregas qualifies as home-grown having spent 3 years in England before his 21st birthday, as the ruling does not take in to consideration nationality. This does mean Chelsea have to promote young under 21 British players in to their squad, but have named only 2 English players from the 6. There’s an increasing trend amongst clubs to bring in academy players from overseas at a younger age which in turn results in them being classed as ‘home-grown’ when they turn 21 irrespective of their nationality.

Other big clubs in the league have been investing in English players however, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Danny Welbeck to name a few have made a move this summer to a top team, important for their development and the national squad. 18 of the 22 players picked by Roy Hodgson for the Norway and Switzerland games were from the top 7 clubs in the league and is a statistic Hodgson will be keen to replicate in future, as England’s success will depend on the number of players who are playing at the highest level.

Hodgson has stated he’d like to see more English players make a move abroad to join a big team in Europe should they not be playing regularly for their club. No-one from Hodgson’s latest squad does, and no-one who currently plays abroad is in serious contention to.

Despite Manchester United having offloaded several English players this summer, they still lead the way amongst the big clubs with 12 home-grown players, and that doesn’t include under 21 players such as Luke Shaw, Adnan Januzaj and Tyler Blackett. Local rivals Manchester City have 8, Liverpool 9, Arsenal 8 and Premier League newcomers Burnley are out in front with 19.

Whilst the statistics aren’t completely damning on the face of it, when it comes to helping out the England national team, the home-grown players rule does not go far enough.

As mentioned previously, the rule is irrespective of nationality. Wojciech Szczesny, Gael Clichy and Gylfi Sigurdsson are all part of the group of foreign players who class as home-grown having spent their teenage years in England. They are never going to play in an England shirt however, so why should they not count towards the 17 foreign players in a squad?

In addition, perhaps if we want to provide the national team with more English talent, only English players should be categorised as home-grown. It may be fair that clubs can have an unlimited amount of Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish players but it doesn’t provide any help when Roy Hodgson selects his England squads.

The same home-grown rule applies to Champions league squads, and despite Manchester City being penalised for breaching financial fair play rules, their reduced squad of 21 players only has to feature 5 home-grown players. Keeping that home-grown number at 8 would have sent out a clear message to clubs of the importance to invest in youth as opposed to overspending on foreign talent and would have been a more fitting punishment.

There have also been calls for a minimum of 3 home-grown players to start each game, although there’s a fear it would turn managers and investors away from the Premier League. There is an issue that only 1 home-grown player has to be named in an 18 man match day team though.

The introduction of the home-grown player rule was a good first step towards helping the national team. Now, 5 years on it needs to go further in order to provide England managers with a wider selection of players.


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