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Greg Dyke and the FA Commission – So close, yet so far

Monday 12th May 2014
Last week, Greg Dyke and his Commission divided the footballing community in England with their report on the current state of English football and their blueprint for future international success. Finally we have a debate on how our game must change at the right time, but the plan of how to improve has been applied without conviction and consideration for all.

This season, England place alarmingly behind Spain (59%), France (57%), Germany (51%) and Italy (45%) in the percentage of home grown players playing in the top flight, with just 32%. For too long now, action has failed to be taken as the power and wealth of our globally famous Premier League has steamrollered English based academies and youth development leaving a huge, empty void of home grown talent. It truly shows the extent of the problem when one of Dyke's hopes is to see 45% of home grown players in the Premier League by 2022, which would only equal that of Italy who currently sit above us in the major European leagues.

The best young players, from 8 or 9 years old up to their late teens, based throughout the country are lured and snapped up by the elite Clubs in the land. From there, they are trained and developed but this is where the imbalance is created. Academies now contain players of all cultures and Nationalities bought in at a premium cost, all competing with the English players to ‘break through'. On top of that competition, the culture amongst Clubs with cash is to buy first team players for immediate success and instant results at over inflated prices and on ever increasing wages. This means that the youngster showing promise in the youth team has to compete with those of a similar age around him, who have been bought from another country and schooled by the Club, and with the mentality that spending big brings reward. Surely, this is where our players are being filtered away and seeing there chances of an opportunity diminish.

If an 18 year old John Terry were to be in Chelsea's youth team now, would he be allowed an opportunity to prove himself and develop or be crowded out by multi million pound signings? This is where Greg Dyke has a serious and valid point, and one that all supporters of English football should agree with. Yes, our product of the Premier League is the best and most exciting in the world, but the turnover of foreign players and repulsive spending culture developing in the game is far from appealing. That is why one of Dyke's proposals is to limit Clubs to having 2 non-EU players per squad. Dyke and the Commission could, and maybe should have been even more forward with their plans and proposed a rule of a set number of English players in a match day squad.

The spearhead of the Commission's plot is to introduce a ‘League 3', which would contain a mixture of League 2 Clubs, Conference teams and ‘Premier League B teams'. This plan has been met with total contempt from fans and followers of lower league Clubs along with messages of defiance from Club officials. The idea is based around getting all the Premier League's young players away from the stagnation of Under 21 football and playing at a competitive level. Of course, everyone would agree that Under 21's playing competitive and regular football is the best way forward. However, the introduction of Premier League B teams would directly affect clubs within the Football League pyramid, distorting the standings of a Division over a season and adding another step in the ladder for those being promoted out of the Conference or dropping out of League 2. And what about season ticket holders that would find themselves watching their beloved club play Liverpool's reserve team? Attendances and interest in games against the B teams would drop away rapidly compared to a normal league fixture. Football League clubs, playing in a historical and exciting pyramid and laden with rich history, would suddenly become known as part of the solution, instead of being respected for what they are.

The B team solution has worked in other countries because of the smaller depth of teams and divisions within their systems. Spain, Germany, Italy and France don't have fully professional clubs in the fourth division with crowds of 10,000 and more, and they don't have a level of competition within the league structure that allows for any club of 92 to achieve success. The biggest flaw with this particular target point is that none of the league members that would be affected were even consulted before the release of the report.

A more immediate solution could be within the loan system, where instead of the wealthiest Clubs casting a trawler like net over any sign of talent before having to loan them out, they are only allowed to loan out home grown players. If that rule were to be implemented before the start of next season, the elite in our country would have to immediately get their house in order to not only reduce the huge playing staff but to comply with financial regulations. In time, this would stop knee jerk signings and allow young, English players to either be blooded on loan or given an opportunity to fill the gap which would otherwise be plugged by a so called proven, but well paid import with no experience of the English game. It may also allow from the smaller, less wealthy clubs to develop their own players without the threat of them being snatched from their grasp before playing a first team game. Surely the point of an Academy is to develop young players for the benefit of your first team, to save money in buying playing staff and then create it in potentially selling the player on.

The initial result of Dyke's report though, is positive. It has caused massive debate among English football fans, writers and Clubs and finally driven home the message that if we continued along the same path, there would be no home grown talent to chosen by our National manager. Finally, we have grounds for change and the faint glimmer of a bright future.
James Dean
A lover of football. Season ticket holder at Sheffield Wednesday and known as the "Andrea Pirlo of the North".

Total articles: 24

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