The FA’s proposed changes to the “home-grown” players rule

We outline the key features of The FA’s proposed changes to the “home-grown” players rule and discuss the next steps and initial reaction to the proposed changes.

In conjunction with recent changes to the work permit rules (please see this article for more information) for non-EU footballers, The Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Dyke has claimed there is an urgent need to remedy the “blockage” and improve the flow of young English players from academies and the Elite Player Performance Programme (EPPP) into first team squads. 

On this point Dyke noted that only 22 per cent of the players who started matches for Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United this season were eligible to play for England. Moreover, only 23 English players appeared in the UEFA Champions League group stage this season compared with 78 Spanish players, 55 Germans and 51 Brazilians. 

The Proposed Rule Changes

Accordingly, in order to remedy this, The FA has announced proposals to amend the home-grown players rules as follows:

  • A change in the definition of a “home-grown player” to any player, irrespective of their nationality, who has been registered with any club affiliated to The FA or Football Association of Wales for a period of three years prior to the player’s 18th birthday (as opposed to the current rule which requires them to be registered for three years before their 21st birthday).
  • A reduction in the maximum number of “non home-grown” players permitted in a club’s first team squad of 25 from 17 down to 13, phased in over four years from 2016. As a result, at least 12 players in a squad of 25 would have to be “home-grown”.
  • The introduction of a requirement that at least two “home-grown” players are also “club trained players” (defined as any player, irrespective of nationality, that has been registered for three years at their current club prior to their 18th birthday, rather than their 21st birthday, which is the case under the current rules).

The FA hopes that these proposed changes will result in the vast majority (if not all) of home-grown players being British. 

Premier League Approval

These proposals will be put forward to a vote by the Premier League and a two-thirds majority will be required for them to come into effect. However, it is understood that many clubs in the Premier League oppose increasing the quotas and would prefer to give the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) time to work, further to the £340 million investment made in upgrading academies. Moreover, if the proposed changes were implemented, there is a potential for them to be subject to legal challenge at the European Commission for breaching freedom of movement laws in the EU.

Criticisms of the Proposed Changes

Arsenal FC Manager Arsene Wenger has come out in opposition of the proposed changes as he believes the changes would only promote mediocrity and has stated that: 

“…we protect the mediocre or we produce the best players…if we want to sell the Premier League for a huge amount of money then we need to say: ‘buy this, this is the best in the world.’ You cannot go against the quality and what is at the heart of our job which is competition.” 

It remains to be seen what the Premier Leagues clubs will decide but it appears that Dyke certainly has a challenge in winning over their approval. While The FA could force through the proposed changes against the wishes of the Premier League clubs, so far Dyke has preferred to adopt a collaborative and consultative approach, rather than a confrontational one.

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