Think about this comment for a minute. There has been much talk about the number of foreign players that compete in the Premier League. FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter has said that he wants a ‘quota’ system to limit the number of foreign players in squads, and UEFA President Michel Platini, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Reading Manager Steve Coppell and Liverpool Captain Steven Gerrard have all agreed that this appears a good idea. It was pointed out today that 55% of Premier League players are foreign. Leaving aside the legal difficulties with imposing such a quota, limiting the undeniable input of foreign players into the English game is not the answer, for reasons explained below.
Any football supporter, when pressed, will be able to name a handful of French, Italian and Spanish players that compete in the Premier League. However, ask that same fan to name a handful of English players that play in France, Italy or Spain and they will struggle. Our young players are simply not good enough to make the grade, either in our own league, or abroad, as Wilkinson pointed out in his comment above. The former England Manager outlined that there are perhaps just 70 players that Steve McClaren has to choose from when forming an England squad and, when you add injuries and suspensions, that number is substantially reduced. A panel of Managers consisting of Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), Sam Allardyce (Newcastle United), Alan Curbishley (West Ham United) and Lawrie Sanchez (Fulham) agreed that not enough young English players are coming through the youth player development system.
Clearly, something needs to be done about this problem to halt the decline of the England national team. A delegate from Tottenham Hotspur pointed out that French and Portuguese children of between 12 and 16 train eight times a week, compared to between three to six times a week for English children of the same age. “This is not a football problem [in terms of responsibility], however this is where it has got to”, said Allardyce, who complained about the decline of sport in schools, expressing hope that London’s hosting of the 2012 London Olympics might spur some investment into the development of youth sport.
‘Future of Football: The Conference 2007’, organised by Circa Group, provided an excellent environment in which to identify and discuss some of the main issues affecting football today. The issue of foreign player quotas was perhaps the most pressing ‘legal’ issue, however if you would like some more information on other issues raised, please get in touch.