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Does Parent Club Rule distort Premier League?

Saturday 19th August 2017
The parent club rule has existed for over a decade. Big clubs use it to exploit smaller ones while preserving a competitive advantage. How is that fair?

You know the rule. It's the one that mandates any player loaned between Premier League clubs cannot play against the club that owns him, his parent club. The rule's origins can be traced back to 2004. Fernando Morientes, on loan from Real Madrid to Monaco, scored goals in both legs of a Champions League quarter final between the two clubs, ultimately leading to Real's elimination.

Lesson learned. Clubs sending players out on loan began to include clauses prohibiting those players from competing against them. Such clauses were certainly clever. Now they are compulsory, as well. As squads have grown, traffic on the loan market has increased. In that environment, the question exists whether these clauses create a competitive distortion.
Premier League Champion Chelsea have over 25 players--an entire squad--on loan in various leagues. Within the Prem, they have loaned out Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Crystal Palace), Kurt Zouma (Stoke), Tammy Abraham (Swansea), Kasey Palmer (Huddersfield), and Izzy Brown (Brighton, pending injury news). In practice, any of these players could potentially score or prevent a goal being scored in any match excepting against Chelsea. Each smaller club is disadvantaged for two matches, not counting any players they may have on loan from another top club. Meanwhile, Chelsea gain an advantage in ten matches because they have loaned out five players.

Some might argue these are fair rules. A loaned player receives valuable first team football at no risk (but every benefit) to the parent club. The club leasing the player receives a talented asset for a specified term at reduced cost, usually just all or part of his wages.

On the other hand, critics increasingly argue this creates an imbalance weighted towards wealthier clubs with the resources to employ deeper squads.

Look at Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The Londoner could potentially score a match winning goal, or a leveler, against Manchester United, City, Arsenal, Tottenham or Liverpool. Yet, he wouldn't even be in the squad against Chelsea. Palace is weaker as a result. Chelsea, as though they need it, is strenghtened. If parent clubs are benefiting in terms of minutes they can't afford to give a young player, shouldn't they pay a price? Why should the small clubs providing a service suffer?

Chelsea is not the only the only side to loan players to other Premier League sides. They simply do it most often, raising another contentious point. Is it fair for bigger clubs to hoard players, at academy or senior level, creating an artificial two-tier system? Remember, when these players are eventually deemed surplus to requirements at their parent club, smaller teams are often stuck. They can't match the wages the parent club had been subsidising.

Chelsea have won the Youth Cup four consecutive seasons. Not one player form those winning squads has broken through to the first team. Loftus-Cheek, Abraham, Brown, must continually go on loan to find first team football. Nathaniel Chalobah and Dominick Solanke have left the club permanently to seek greater opportunity. Nathan Ake, too.
Compare that glass ceiling with another monied club: Manchester United. The Red Devils last won the Youth Cup in 2011. Regardless, Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba are now first team regulars at United. Going further back, Jonny Evans, Darron Gibson, and Tom Cleverley all had extended runs at Old Trafford before being sold on. Of course Pogba left because he wasn't afforded an opportunity, then was bought back for a world record fee. Jesse Lingard had several loan spells before his breakthrough, although none were at Premier League clubs. It's difficult for youngsters to break into United's first team, yes, but it is possible. The evidence says not so at Chelsea.

It is the neglect for young English talent detractors oppose as much as the disadvantage for smaller clubs. In their minds, removing the parent club rule will help level the playing field for both.

You can't really blame bigger clubs for protecting themselves but the parent club rule does indeed distort competitive balance. The rule exists across most major leagues, as well. Sadly it's difficult to imagine the Premier League acting unilaterally to abolish it.
Jonathan Kahn

I love the Premier League and I am a season ticket holder at Manchester United. However, I do follow my local club Bury FC as much as possible. I'm a lover of all things related to football, especially like the odd game of FIFA and more than the odd game of Football Manager. If you don't find me talking about actual football you will usually find me talking about Fantasy Football. I'm a self-confessed addict. 

I'm definitely a football addict.


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