FA Commission seeks changes to improve development of English footballers

Out-Law News | 12 May 2014 | 12:49 pm | 3 min. read

Premier League football teams in England should have the option of deploying a 'B team' into a lower division, a panel of experts have recommended.

The FA England Commission outlined plans to allow Premier League 'B teams' full of youth players to compete within the same league structure as their main team. The 'B team' proposals are just one of a number of changes the Commission recommended be made to help increase the number of young English players breaking through at the top level and improve the fortunes of the England national team.

The FA England Commission's report (84-page / 5.63MB PDF) said that the "biggest problem" facing elite football in England is the fact that many young players fail to progress from the youth academies at their clubs into first team football and said that the same problems do not exist to the same extent in other European countries.

"Players signed from overseas at an older age have usually had this experience in their home countries when they are younger," the report said. "Since they have played more competitive games between the ages of 18-21, this makes them more attractive propositions for a Premier League manager or coach than the product of his own academy."

The report said that countries such as Spain and Germany "are picking from larger talent pools of more experienced players" and that "a direct relationship can be drawn between the numbers of available players playing regularly at the highest level in the best performing teams and the performance of a national squad".

To address the problem and improve the prospects for the England national side, the Commission made four broad recommendations.

The Commission said Premier League clubs should be able to field a 'B team', comprised of youth players, within a new lower division which would be created within the league structures of the English game to accommodate the increase in the number of competing teams. Ultimately it said it hopes the new system would mean that nine additional English players would break through into Premier League first team football every season.

The new 'B team' proposals were accompanied by a further recommendation that clubs in the Premier League and Championship, which is the second top division, enter into "strategic loan partnerships" with clubs lower down the league structure. The partnership would see clubs loan players and coaches and could help further increase "the supply of players with greater competitive experience", the Commission said.

In addition, the Commission said that the Premier League should cut the number of "non-home grown players" that its member clubs are allowed to list in their squads, so that by 2020 at least 13 of the 25 players in clubs' Premier League squads are English or otherwise have trained as young players for at least three years prior to their 21st birthday with a club in England or Wales.

The Commission further called for a tightening of the "non-EU work visa process", including preventing clubs operating in divisions below the Premier League from signing players of non-EU nationality. Only "exceptional" players from outside of the EU should be able to play for an English team, it said.

"We believe that no players coming in on non-EU visas should be allowed to join clubs in any league in England other than the Premier League," the report said. "Furthermore no players on overseas visas should be allowed to be loaned to other clubs in England even if they are in the Premier League. In addition, a cap of say two players should be introduced on the number of non-EU players allowed in any one club, squad or team sheet. Many countries, including Spain, Italy and France already have this rule."

The Commission said that it believes the changes it has recommended are "in the interests of the clubs".

"Many of the clubs we spoke to were very clear that they are making significant investment in the development of players and are at present getting little return," it said, "This is a market failure of our game and must be addressed to ensure the long-term sustainability of the academy model. We believe it is in the interest of our young current and aspiring players. Young, talented English footballers should be able to have their chance at the top level of football in their country – increasingly this is denied to them. Ultimately this is about the future of English football not just football played in England."