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Premier League sets sights on youth

Rafa Benitez will have think carefully about his recruitment in the summer
Rafa Benitez will have think carefully about his recruitment in the summer

By Ian Dennis
BBC Radio 5 live's senior football reporter

A Premier League play-off to settle the fourth and final Champions League spot was mooted last week and attracted various responses - negative and positive.

While that particular proposal continues to be debated, there will be definitely one change to the way the top flight operates next season - and it should have a major impact.

From the start of the 2010/11 campaign, all 20 clubs will have to adhere to new squad regulations.

They dictate that each club will have to select their 18 names on a team sheet from a pre-nominated squad of 25. In that list of 25, eight must be "home-grown".

The Premier League's definition of "home-grown" is a player who, while under the age of 21, spent three years in the English system.

In addition, clubs will be able to select an unlimited number of under-21 players they have registered.

The changes will not only benefit youth development but, crucially, will also force some clubs to sign several English players when the transfer window opens in the summer.

We want to try to create the best opportunity for young developed talent to have a chance of playing in the first team

Mike Foster
Premier League general secretary

"We want to try to create the best opportunity for young developed talent to have a chance of playing in the first team and we think this will give more opportunities for academy graduates to do that," stated Mike Foster, general secretary of the Premier League.

"Clubs invest a lot of money in youth development. I think at the last calculation the average spent was about £3m per annum per club in the Premier League."

In the long term, the league believes the changes will also have a positive effect on the England national team and provide a financial benefit to those clubs operating with a limited squad size.

Foster said the clubs have been very receptive to the changes.

"Clubs are great believers in youth development," he added. "You can see that when you go up and down the country and see the great facilities and commitment that is taking place."

Foster explained that the policy was first debated last summer by all the clubs.

"We spent a day looking at youth development and ways of enhancing what already takes place," commented Foster.

"The clubs agreed in principle to this type of measure. We fine-tuned it and brought it back to the clubs in September, when they approved the new rule unanimously."

Foster confirmed the league is happy with the outcome.

"There's been a lot of noise from Fifa for the past several months for a quota system, which we've objected to because it's illegal under European law," he added.

"That pressure hasn't necessarily gone away but we wanted to focus our energies on something that would fall within the legal framework of the EU as well as encourage our successful academies."

For some clubs, these new regulations will mean a radical change in approach.

Research has shown that on the penultimate day of last season, top clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool were among a of group of seven who did not have eight home-grown players on their team sheet.

Arsenal won the FA Youth Cup last season
Arsenal beat Liverpool to win the FA Youth Cup last season

In fact, analysis shows that Rafael Benitez's side were the worst offenders in the Premier League last season for producing home-grown talent.

Admittedly, it was not the final list but towards the end of last season Liverpool had used only 17% of their home-grown players in 2008/2009.

Relegated Middlesbrough, with Dave Parnaby at the helm of their successful academy, were top of the class with 69%, while Aston Villa and West Ham United were on 67%.

Champions Manchester United were at 42%, with Chelsea 28% and Arsenal 37%.

Arsenal, under Arsene Wenger, have been criticised in the past for not producing English talent but eight of the starting line-up that beat Liverpool in the second leg of the FA Youth Cup last season were English.

When you consider that particular crop of youngsters has been heralded as Wenger's best yet, then maybe Arsenal do not need to worry about these regulations coming into force.

Others may have a bit more work to do before August.


- Clubs must include eight home-grown players out of a squad of 25.

- A home-grown player is a player who, irrespective of his nationality or age, has been registered with any club affiliated to the Football Association or the Football Association of Wales for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the season which he turns 21)

- Changes to the squad list of 25 may be made during the period of a transfer window.

- Clubs will be able to supplement their squads with unlimited additional players under the age of 21.

- An under-21 player refers to a player under the age of 21 as at 1 January in the year in which the season concerned commences.

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see also
Fifa plans talks on player quotas
26 Feb 09 |  Football
Clubs vote for 'home-grown' rule
18 Dec 08 |  Football
Premier League 'hurting England'
11 Jun 08 |  Premier League
Fifa's quota plans concern Dein
01 Jun 08 |  Europe

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