English soccer’s governing body is proposing limits to non-European players in the country’s top leagues as it tries to develop young athletes and improve the national team.
Football Association Chairman Greg Dyke is trying to push through changes as part of his target of winning the 2022 World Cup. He raised concerns that only 32 percent of starting players in last season’s Premier League could play for England, down from 69 percent 20 years ago.
“We have a duty of care to English football and not just football played in England,” Dyke said yesterday at a news conference in London. “Our analysis shows that the biggest problem is the lack of playing opportunities for young English players between 18 and 21.”
Dyke’s panel of former coaches and players proposed the introduction of B teams for Premier League clubs that would share the parent club’s name and facilities but play in lower divisions, including a new fifth tier. Leagues in Spain and Germany have such a set-up, and Spanish 18-21 year olds get 2.6 times more first-team game time than English players, the F.A. said yesterday in the report.
The commission also suggested loan partnerships between teams in the Premier League and Championship and up to two clubs each below the top two divisions, to share players and coaching expertise.
Dyke said too many non-European Union players were getting into the country, especially “non-exceptional” athletes.
Rules that govern so-called home-grown players would be changed to require Premier League teams to field almost half their rosters from athletes developed through their youth teams instead of players imported from abroad. Spots for non-home-grown players could be reduced to 12 by 2020 from 17 now.
“Whilst accepting that the very best non-EU foreign players do bring great value to English football, many interviewees have argued strongly to us that too many mediocre players are getting work visas,” the panel said in its report. “The evidence appears to support that view.”
The final suggestion would change visa rules for non-EU players to ensure that only “truly exceptional players” were given work permits, the panel said. Non-EU players should only be able to join Premier League teams, which wouldn’t be able to loan them to lower divisions in the country. There could be a limit of two non-EU players per top-division club.
While the Premier League has the richest broadcast contracts, the success hasn’t translated into results in international tournaments. England, which is playing in the World Cup in Brazil that starts June 12, won its only title in 1966 on home soil.
“My undoubted focus has been on first qualifying, and subsequently, preparing my England squad and staff for the World Cup,” national team coach Roy Hodgson said in a statement. “But we all have a responsibility when called to answer the question: ‘How can we provide a better platform for the young England players of the future?’”