LONDON: Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has unveiled his proposals to change the lower-division structure and revise the rules and regulations to enhance opportunities for English players.
His England Commission report has set a target of increasing the number of English players in the Premier League from 32pc to 45pc by 2022.
Dyke unveiled a raft of proposals at Wembley, aimed at boosting the number of English players at the top of club football, including the introduction of B teams in a new ‘League Three’, overhauling the work permit system and increasing the number of home-grown players in squads.
The target, which includes increasing the number of English players playing regularly in the Premier League from 66 currently to 90 by the year 2022, was described as “ambitious but realistic” by Dyke.
The report states: “There should be 90 English players playing over 50% of minutes in the Premier League (or any other top five European league) compared with 66 today – of these 30 should be playing in the top six teams in the Premier League compared with the 18 today.
“This is still lower than the figures being achieved in Germany and Spain today but it would take English football back to a figure last achieved in 2000”.
The most controversial proposal would be establishing a new League Three in 2016-17 made up of 10 Premier League B teams and 10 from the Conference. Of the B team squad, 19 of the 25 should be under the age of 21 and 20 of the 25 should qualify for the home-grown rule and no non-EU players allowed.
Many clubs have already expressed reservations about that plan.
In terms of home-grown players allowed in each Premier League squad, the Commission recommends a phased reduction in the number of non home-grown players in top-flight squads from 17 to 12 – starting in 2016/17 and reaching that target by 2021.
In terms of work permits, the Commission proposes a cap on two non-EU players per squad, and that no players on overseas visas should be allowed to play below the Premier League, nor loaned to any other club in England.
Dyke said: “This decline is a problem in countries right across Europe but is a significantly bigger problem in England than anywhere else – and if the trend continues we fear for the future of the English team.
“If this cannot be reversed, a future England manager will have fewer and fewer top level English players from which to choose.”
England manager Roy Hodgson said: “I welcome the proposals and I know that the chairman – and indeed everyone who is passionate about English football – would strongly advocate the findings and recommendations.
“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?'”
Dyke also announced a proposal for the development of “strategic loan partnerships” between a club in the Premier League or Championships and another club in the lower leagues.
Dyke told a news conference at Wembley that Liverpool, the two Manchester clubs, Stoke and Tottenham had all expressed interest in the plan for B teams in a new league.
He said: “There is a lot of interest and enthusiasm from the big clubs for this.
“Liverpool, the Manchester clubs, Stoke, Tottenham – they have no problems with me mentioning them on this – so quite a lot of clubs recognise the problem they have got.
“The evidence from clubs combined with our own investigations is the lack of playing opportunities for young English players aged between 18 and 21.
“Many of the clubs we spoke to called this the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ or ‘black hole’ of English football.
“The gap between the academy and the first team has widened significantly in 20 years.
“A B team is distinct from a feeder club, it is part of that club and as a result of having B teams 18 to 21-year-old Spanish players play two and half times more competitive football than their English counterparts.”
Supporters Direct (SD), a group that helps fans to set up democratic cooperatives to gain influence in the running and ownership of their clubs, also suggested there is a problem in terms of coaching.
SD said that needs focusing on rather than the B team concept – which it believes will “serve to reinforce the system of player development that currently results in the stockpiling of talent” – and called for broader distribution of wealth in the game.
A statement from SD detailing what it had said as part of its evidence to the Commission read: “The introduction of feeder clubs or B-teams will serve to reinforce the system of player development that currently results in the stockpiling of talent.
“We believe that the FA needs to take the lead on this issue as it is a whole-game concern.
“Player development is central to the success of the English game in the same way as the regulation of football clubs in the financial, governance and ownership sense.
“We have a depth in our professional football system that should mean we have the deepest talent pool coming through but it isn’t happening.
“That is not because we don’t have feeder clubs for the top clubs, it’s because the coaching and infrastructure is not right. This can only be changed with a strategic game-wide approach, overseen by the game’s governing body.
“Distribution of talent generally follows the distribution of money. In the English game, the vast majority of the game’s financial resources are vested in a small group of elite clubs who can afford to develop their talent.
“The game should be looking at ways to redistribute those monies more equitably so that there is the broadest possible base to access and nurture talent for the England teams.”
England Commission key points:
A target of increasing the proportion of English players in the Premier League from 32 per cent to 45 per cent by 2022 – and the number playing regularly from 66 currently to 90 by that date;
Introducing up to 10 Premier League B teams in a new ‘League Three’ in 2016/17 with the other 10 member clubs coming from the Conference;
B team squads should be no more than 25 players with 19 of these under 21. 20 of the 25 should qualify for the home-grown rule and no non-EU players allowed;
A “significant” financial settlement should be paid from the Premier League to clubs in the lower divisions to make sure they do not lose out financially from the reorganisation;
A cap on two non-EU players per Premier League squad, no players on overseas visas allowed to play below the Premier League, nor loaned to any other club in England;
Clubs allowed to set up ‘strategic loan partnership’ with up to two lower league clubs, loaning them up to eight players – all of whom would need to be under the age of 22 and home-grown;
Increasing the number of home-grown players in squads so that 13 out of the 25 players are home-grown by 2021, with at least four of these having come through the club’s youth system.