Quota idea looks doomed to failure

November 15, 2007

Gerrard celebrates scoring against BeskitasExcuse me if I’ve missed something, but why has a debate suddenly started about increasing the number of home-grown players appearing for England’s leading clubs via a quota system?

Reading’s erudite manager Steve Coppell kicked it off  earlier this week, Steven Gerrard supported it on Wednesday and it’s immediately a hot issue.

Now the great and the good, including FIFA president Sepp Blatter, UEFA president Michel Platini, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and none other than the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, are all involved.

According to reports, discussions involving senior advisors to the prime minister will try to develop what The Guardian calls a “consensual British solution” to the apparent decline in the number of British and Irish players in the nation’s top sides.

Having so many foreigners is, according to Coppell, one of the few men in football with a University degree, having a damaging effect on the England team. If it hasn’t already, it will do soon.

Arsenal, the best team in the country right now, have been singled out by Platini for fielding so few English players. They did not start with one Englishman in the side when they beat Coppell’s Reading 3-1 on Monday. Arsenal manager Wenger totally disagrees with his countryman, and says that the foreigners coming here have improved the standards of English players playing alongside them.

“I have only been here since 1996 but between 1966 (when England won the World Cup) and 1996 you had 30 years without foreign players and you still didn’t win anything,” said Wenger, and you can’t argue with that.

In any case, the argument is flawed.

After the Bosman Ruling of 1995 when the barriers came down on cross-border movement of players within the European Union*, English clubs signed up almost anyone with two half-decent feet and a clever agent for far less than an English player would have cost them. Gradually many of the world’s best players came to England for huge salaries funded by clubs cash-rich from huge TV deals.

So the English game, whether it be the FA, the Premier League, the major clubs and even those lower down the scale all benefit because of the glamour the overseas players bring.

Yet, the argument goes, the English game is suffering because there are too many overseas players here and not enough home-grown talent. You can’t have it both ways. Also, as everyone from the Prime Minister down knows: under EU law you cannot prevent a Polish footballer playing for a top club, any more than you can prevent a Polish plumber fixing a leaky tap in Plumstead.

Saying you MUST start with six English-born or home-grown players in the starting line-up would also not be tolerated by the likes of Wenger or Alex Ferguson. They want to pick the best players available to them on the day.

The authorities have tried before to get round the EU laws without success. I don’t think they will do any better this time.

Mike Collett, Reuters Football Correspondent, London

* See here for a full explanation of the Bosman ruling and a look at the surrounding issues.

PHOTO: Gerrard celebrates his goal against Besiktas in the Champions League, November 6, 2007. REUTERS/Phil Noble


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surely the simple issue is that british players like the british people need to adapt to the new world and venture outside their own towns – if non british players are over populating the british leagues, why don’t british players ply their trade abroad and impress there instead of complaining about the need for protectionism

Posted by JK | Report as abusive

I disagree. The problem is not the number of foreign players in the Premiership, but the number of foreign players in the Championship and lower leagues AND the academies. Too many clubs are filling up their academy sides with players from outside England. This can be prevented and would not contravene EU regulations. The way that the clubs nick the likes of Fabregas, Pique, Rossi, Senderos and all the others that never make the grade is quite appalling really – sometimes bringing the whole family over lock stock and barrel, but mostly not. If academy places were reserved for English players only it would be a start.

Posted by Footy Betting Blogger | Report as abusive

Very good point Mr Footy Betting Blogger …. I agree with you there. I cannot for the life of me understand why league clubs are bringing in 15,16 17 year old players or younger from all over Europe when there is a wealth of English talent in their local catchment areas. Of course you are going to get the odd genius coming through here and there, but I doubt if there is a MASSIVE gulf in quality between the players coming in and those living two miles down the road from Old Trafford, White Hart Lane or Vicarage Road for that matter. But it still comes back to the central point … no-one can legally enforce quotas or restrict workers (footballers) crossing borders and if they TRY to impose competition only quotas (max 4 foreigners in Prem Lge, 6 in League Cup, 5 in FA Cup….) they would be entering a legal minefield.

Posted by Mike Collett | Report as abusive

I agree with Footy Betting comment. FA should be make a quota for foreign player, since in Football Academy for junior team. The English young player need the experience, before they play as a Professional player. If they always have an opportunity to be starting line up in junior team, their ballskill will be grow up, so they could be competitive with foreign player. I’m sorry, I live in Asia, so I didn’t know how the weather in England. I have read, from Fabio Capello comment, that the weather in England always windblow everyday, so they only practice football with physical in big portion. As we know, in modern football need good physical and technique. Wihout it, they will be left behind from foreign player. The young player have to practice football with technique. If they have a good technique, I think they will be competitive with foreign player in Professional League, like Chamkpionship, Premiership, or may be in another league out of England. If it’s happened, I think the national team didn’t have a crisis like now. I hope, the English Football system will be changes, so they could be have the good team like 1996 team.

Posted by Leo | Report as abusive

what about a quota on foreign managers as well

Posted by bernie | Report as abusive

That’s a good point, Bernie. Difficult to see how you’d get one without the other.

Posted by Kev | Report as abusive

Agree with Footy Betting Blogger on limiting foreign players in the Academies. May I also suggest FA “nationalise” U21 players from the clubs to form a 25-man squad to play as a team in the Premiership. Financials can be worked out between the FA and the contributing clubs. Once they breached 21 years old, they are returned. Helps to have them play together frequently.

Posted by Mo | Report as abusive

Yeah, spot on, Footy BB. Liverpool have just signed two new teenagers, dani Pacheco from barcelona and Gerardo Bruna from argentina, via real madrid. Both of them are supposed to be the new Messi, which is a bit optimistic. Probably turn out to be two new Bruno Cheyrous (or perhaps the plural should be Brunos Cheyrou… (??)

Posted by London | Report as abusive

Just cant understand why all this has become an issue!!! Is is because England is almost failing to qualify for Euro? Anyway, Platini, Sepp et al are simply being hypocritic-trying to impose artificial rules to achieve…heaven knows. I will always agree with Proff Wenger when he says lowering the passmark from 50% to 40% does not make weak students better. It only makes them weaker. Wenger, Fergusson, Mourihno, Coppel will want to use the best available resources to get the best results. Just like anyone else.

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive

Also, maybe Arsenal supporters will disagree now, but I prefer to identify with a team featuring mainly English players (and even better mainly players who have come through the system and supported the club as kids). Take David Beckham for example – only ever wanted to play for Man Utd and thanks to working his conkers off – he did. Whether a quota system at top level would increase the standard of the England team is unknown, because it hasn’t been tried yet. But would fans identify with their players more and would there be less moaning from the stands about overpaid carlos’ kickaball’s not caring for the shirt – yes! And that’s surely a good thing.

Posted by Footy Betting Blogger | Report as abusive

[…] has been a lot of talk lately about quotas but unless and until the Premier League has such a system in place isn’t it time for the […]

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