The Premier League does the FA’s job and tries to promote gifted English talent

After England’s disappointing exit from the World Cup thanks to a thrashing at the hands of Germany the investigation began as to why a supposed golden generation of players could perform so poorly and what this meant for the future of the English game.

With an ageing squad that averaged 28.5 years, there were concerns for the future, as many of the star-studded squad would be not be making the trip in four years time to the World Cup in Brazil.

Usually after England exit from a major tournament the FA will step forward proposing a grand plan to secure England’s place at the top of the tree for all future competitions, but rarely has the country’s governing body delivered on their promises.

This is exemplified by Geoff Thompson, the former chairman of the FA, who promised a “root and branch review” of England’s failure after Steve McClaren’s side failed to qualify for Euro 2008, but the report never saw the light of the day.

The FA’s director of football development, Sir Trevor Brooking, released a coaching training manual ‘The Future Game’ before the start of the World Cup in an attempt to promote youth development in England, which is drastically needed, but is struggling for funding.

Personal memories of running enthusiastically around a full-sized pitch as a ten year-old taught me very little about the technicality of football and instead that a hoof down the line is the best method, so a review is certainly welcome.

However the FA is reportedly strapped for disposable cash as £6m a year is spent on Fabio Capello and his backroom staff and according to the BBC’s Dan Roan, only 1% of the FA’s £200m a year turnover is invested into the development of young players, with sponsorship from the Tesco Skills programme taking most of the burden.

Who then will take the responsibility of helping the development of young players? As even though the FA is seemingly well intentioned, they have neither the organisational skills nor money to implement such a scheme.

Surprisingly the knight in shining armour is the money-mad sponsorship-hungry business-whore that is the Premier League, as they recently announced the Home Grown Player (HGP) Rule that limits the size of a teams squad and from where the players are sourced.

The rule means that teams have to name a minimum of eight ‘home-grown’ players in their 25 man squads for the Premier League season to try and promote English talent.

Clubs will be allowed 17 foreign players over the age of 21 and 25 players over 21 in all, but they can have unlimited number of players under 21 irrelevant of their nationality in their squads.

“We believe the changes should exert a positive longer-term impact on the England national team by ensuring young players are given a chance at senior level” said Premier League general secretary Mike Foster.

The Premier League’s new HGP rule will surely be welcomed by Fabio Capello who in theory will have a greater choice of English players to choose from come the start of the season because of the ruling.

The recent signings of English youngsters Jonjo Shelvey and Raheem Sterling by Liverpool could be an indicator of the club attempting to comply with the ruling, as could Man United’s signing of Chris Smalling and City’s purchase of Adam Johnson.

Sepp Blatter had been a keen a promoter of a similar ‘6+5’ plan for many years, where six of any club side’s starting XI would be of the same nationality as the team, but his idea failed as it contravened European law on discrimination and unfortunately because of this law the HGP rule flounders a little in its attempts to provide young English players at a senior level in the Premier League.

So as not discriminate against a player of another nationality other than English and infringe European law, the rule allows players considered to be ‘home-grown’ to have been developed by an English or Welsh club for at least three years under the age of 21.

This means that Arsenal’s qualification of ‘home-grown’ talent includes Bendtner, Fabregas, Djourou, Denilson, Mannone and Clichy, all of whom are not English nationals, but qualify as they have been at the club for three years before their 21st birthday and help to expose a massive flaw in the system.

Despite this inevitable loop-hole in the rule to appease the law men in Brussels, the efforts of the Premier League should be recognised, as the FA has long been content to make grand sweeping statements without any follow up to their plans, but finally a governing body has the gumption and bravery to make a decision.

It has created an awareness of the lack of ‘home-grown’ talent and forced clubs to react to the problem and it is attempting to redress the balance for the benefit of the national team, although only time will tell if it will be successful, but at the very least they are willing to try and change things for the better, while the FA is seemingly content to remain in a self-congratulatory bubble where its members merrily dream up grand plans, but have no commitment to carry them out.

Tags: England, Premier League

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