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Last Updated: Monday, 14 January 2008, 15:08 GMT
A league for club and country

Last week, Fifa president Sepp Blatter told BBC Sport the Premier League was hurting England's international hopes. Premier League boss Richard Scudamore disagrees and hits back at Blatter's criticisms.

Richard Scudamore
By Richard Scudamore
Chief executive of the Premier League

I am a Bristol City fan first and foremost and I would rather see Bristol City promoted than England win a particular match.

But my second love, like everybody involved in club football, is England. These things are not mutually exclusive.

When I say I would rather have this than that, that is the extreme dilemma. What you really want is for both to be successful, your club and England. There is room for both.

Blatter talks about quotas for overseas players but if only it was as simple as that

The Premier League's success has not come at the detriment of others. The Football League is in excellent health, with attendances and revenues up, and the Football Association is in good shape too. There is no reason why you cannot have a successful league and a successful England.

The Premier League has two main responsibilities towards the national team; to respect the international calendar and to provide the best possible stage for English players to perform on.

In terms of the former, our relationship with the FA and other national federations has never been better. Much of the "club versus country" hysteria about call-ups is complete nonsense. Our rule book is entirely clear on this - there is nothing to stop a Premier League player from pursuing his ambition to play for his country.

BBC Sport's Matt Slater
In terms of the latter, we put on the best possible show, with the best possible talent and in the best possible stadia. That is our virtuous circle and from that all else flows. It creates public and commercial interest, it generates attendances and income, and that gets reinvested.

In our view, that sits comfortably with what England and the FA are trying to achieve. We believe our league has the best players in the world and that English players benefit from competing in this environment.

The Premier League's business model

Nobody is more disappointed about missing out on Euro 2008 than me but, if you look at the first team, we think that player for player they are good enough. We believe our virtuous circle is capable of producing the 30-40 players that England teams have historically been picked from.

The Premier League is now the world's league - we attract talent from everywhere. If, as a result of this, England's best centre-half is only the second best centre-half at his club because the world's best centre-half plays for them too, then so be it.

Sepp Blatter talks about quotas for overseas players but if only it was as simple as that.

It is a very complex issue because the phrase "home-grown" is not, I think, what Mr Blatter is talking about. He is talking about being qualified to play for the national team.

"Home-grown" means something else. It means you have been developed in this country. Under the home-grown rules, Cesc Fabregas is home-grown and Owen Hargreaves is not.

Mr Blatter runs world football and his interests are aligned with international competition. In the club versus country debate he is always going to be in favour of things that protect international football - just as I am going to protect the interests of club football.

Perhaps it is time for a really radical look at coaching and youth development in this country

It is important we recognise where each of us is coming from. The complication, however, is that Mr Blatter is trying to tinker with European and national law.

A colleague from another national league (I will not say which one) told me recently that he thought it was outrageous that two Brazilian players, who had played in his league for five years, were now eligible to play for his country.

But this is quite difficult. If a government decides you are a national of that country, and therefore qualified to play for that country, it is pretty hard for us to say otherwise.

The problem with Mr Blatter's logic is that you can get yourself into a difficult jingoistic, nationalistic, almost racist debate about who can and cannot play for your country. If the law of the land says you are nationally qualified, you ARE nationally qualified, no matter what Mr Blatter says.

He also asks if footballers are the same as workers. Well, of course they are workers. Footballers are employed and they have contracts. Footballers already have a special status in EU employment laws but it is not unique and you cannot argue that they are not workers.

Owen Hargreaves and Cesc Fabregas
England's Hargreaves is not "home-grown", Spanish ace Fabregas is
Why are Mr Blatter and Uefa president Michel Platini wasting their energy and huge influence on this issue when they know that European law will not budge? Why knock your head against a brick wall, when you could be using your time to persuade the regulators to do other things for football?

Fifa and Uefa talk about voluntary quotas but what will they bring? If all they get you is protectionism, what is the point? It is surely not right to bring in a rule that gives a player a chance that he would not get on merit. That is not the path to quality.

We believe in making our coaching and youth development structure as good as it can be. Our clubs are intellectually and financially committed to that. We want our talented youngsters to develop so they come through on merit.

Perhaps it is time for a really radical look at coaching and youth development in this country. I think we would all acknowledge that we have not developed coaching systems that are commensurate with other areas of progress in the English game.

But these trees will take a long time to grow. No review of the youth development system is going to help us qualify for the 2010 World Cup - that is down to Fabio Capello working with the players we have here and now.

Anything we do in terms of youth development is a long-term project. But the sooner we start, the sooner we will bear the fruits.

  • Richard Scudamore was talking to BBC Sport's Mark Pougatch and Matt Slater

    Scudamore rejects Blatter plans
    14 Jan 08 |  Football
    Scudamore rues manager turnover
    11 Jan 08 |  Premier League
    Time to focus on country, not club
    07 Jan 08 |  Football
    Blatter wants EU to allow quotas
    26 Nov 07 |  Football
    Foreigners not to blame - Beckham
    23 Nov 07 |  Internationals
    Abject England fail to qualify
    22 Nov 07 |  Internationals
    Gerrard joins foreign quota calls
    14 Nov 07 |  Football
    Brooking fears for England future
    03 Sep 07 |  Football


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