LONDON – England’s Football Association said on Thursday that it wants to limit the number of non-European Union players in Premier League teams to two in a bid to bolster home-grown talent.
A report produced by a commission set up by FA chairman Greg Dyke also proposed an overhaul of the work permit system and the creation of a new division for Premier League ‘B teams’.
The work permit proposals include a blanket ban on non-European Union players for clubs outside the top flight, bringing England in line with other European countries.
There are currently 66 English players eligible to represent England playing regularly in the 20-team Premier League and Dyke has set a target of increasing that number to 90 by 2022.
A BBC study published in October found that English footballers accounted for just 32 percent of the minutes played in the Premier League, compared to 59 percent for home-grown players in the Spanish Liga and 50 percent for home-grown players in Germany’s Bundesliga.
Dyke set up his commission in October to investigate why the number of English players in the Premier League is falling.
“This decline is a problem in countries right across Europe, but it is a significantly bigger problem in England than anywhere else and if the trend continues, we fear for the future of the English team,” Dyke said.
“If this cannot be reversed, a future England manager will have fewer and fewer top-level English players from which to choose.”
Dyke wants to insert a new fifth tier into the English pyramid system — a ‘League Three’ — which would feature 10 B teams from the Premier League and 10 teams from the current fifth division, the National Conference.
Several European countries, including Spain and Germany, allow B teams from top-tier clubs to play in their lower leagues.
The 10-man FA commission, which included Dyke, England manager Roy Hodgson and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, produced an 82-page report after speaking to more than 650 people from across English and European football.
- ‘Too little training’ -
One aim of the study is to improve the England national team, who have qualified for the semi-finals of only two major tournaments since winning the World Cup on home soil in 1966.
Hodgson, who names his 23-man England squad for the World Cup on Monday, gave his backing to the report.
“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,” he said in a statement.
However, the Football League, responsible for England’s second, third and fourth tiers, expressed reservations about the proposals.
Chief executive Shaun Harvey said in a statement that while the report’s aims were “laudable”, the report does “not contain a solution that is acceptable at the current time”.
He added: “We should continue to engage with the commission to establish whether there is a solution that meets its stated objective, but does not leave The Football League carrying a disproportionate or unreasonable burden.”
Dyke says that the B team plans have the backing of several high-profile Premier League clubs.
“Liverpool have no problem with me talking abut it, the Manchester clubs have no problem with me talking about it, Stoke have no problem with me talking about it, Tottenham too,” he told a press conference at Wembley.
Meanwhile, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes that the only solution to England’s problems is to improve the quality of youth coaching.
“For me the competition has too much importance, and the training too little,” the Frenchman said on Thursday.
“I have seen too many kids come to the age of 17 or 18 and they cannot head the ball, they have no left foot, because they have not practised enough.”