24 Oct 2016, 07 mins ago

The FA, led by Chairman Greg Dyke, have announced plans to cut the number of non-EU players playing in England. Dyke believes that tightening the regulations will prevent overseas players from stymieing the path to first team football for English youngsters.

Proposals include limiting non-EU imports to players from countries ranked in FIFA’s top 50, prohibiting non-EU players in the Football League, banning the loaning of non-EU players and a tightening of the present appeals system.

At present, a non EU player requires to have played in 75% of his country’s previous competitive internationals in the two years preceding the application, that country must also have been ranked on average, within FIFA’s top 70 and the player himself must be of ‘the highest calibre’ – something of a subjective test.

Earlier this season, the PFA referred to the Premier League as being a ‘finishing school’ for elite players, the inference being this was at the expense of local players.

Clubs do not want to be spending vast sums on foreign imports, they would much prefer having a sustainable conveyor belt of ‘free’ talent via the youth teams, but the reality is, that the best talent often comes at a price.

Dyke argues that the number of foreign players in England’s professional leagues has damaged the national team. Media friendly sound bite indeed but not statistically correct. England’s performance at the finals of both the European Championships and World Cup has been relatively consistent since 1966 – read The Numbers Game by Chris Anderson and David Sally for further information.

The plans will not prohibit clubs from signing players from a country ranked outside the top 50, a George Weah springs to mind, but instead, the rule can be circumvented provided the transfer fee is sufficiently high (the precise figure has yet to be determined).

Furthermore, prohibiting Football League clubs recruiting non-EU players also sounds like a positive, but in fact there were, according to Home Office statistics, only 23 visas granted to non-EU players throughout the Football League across the last five years.

The current appeals system has also come under scrutiny with a perception being that appeals simply go through on the nod. This is not actually the case – generally speaking appeals come about because the rules are too inflexible and not fit for purpose. The proposed amendments to required international appearances for non-EU players are welcomed and while this will result in a reduction in appeals, it is unlikely to impact considerably on the number of foreign players.

We at Gherson do not share the view of Greg Dyke that there is a link between the national team and the number of home grown players playing every week – the statistics do not support it. Serie A in Italy has had a quota system for some time (each club is permitted to sign two non EU players per season) and this has had little impact on the Azzurri, which has failed to get beyond the group stages of the previous two World Cups.

Our concern is that if an appeal is only permissible on a technical point, that we may find exciting players who benefit the game cannot come here to play.

Football ultimately is a form of entertainment, something it is easy to forget in a day in which commercialism dominates the game, and whilst reform is welcomed if it benefits the game at large, the current proposals are unworkable in practical terms because they have so many loopholes (a necessity otherwise the clubs would not accept them) as to render them pointless.

Please contact a member of the team for further information.

Neil Peterson


24 October 2014