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How clubs are getting around the homegrown player rules

Friday 28th July 2017
Each and every club in the Premier League must have at least eight homegrown players in their registered 25 man squad for the season, according to the FA's rules, but it seems as though many of the teams are a long way shy of this number these days. Free spending clubs are importing more and more players from overseas to bolster their squads but are they in-keeping with the rules?

As it happens, even the heavily European influenced clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United are maintaining at least eight home-grown players in their squads, thanks to very specific parts of the terms and conditions surrounding the rules.

If you consider two Spanish players who have both been in England for a number of years, Cesc Fabregas and Juan Mata, could it be said that either qualify as a home-grown player? Surely not as they were both born in Spain and would, therefore, be homegrown players for Spanish clubs, wouldn't they? You'd be correct for Juan Mata as he played for both Real Madrid Castilla and Valencia before his 21st birthday but Cesc Fabregas doesn't qualify as homegrown for any Spanish club, even Barcelona where he began his career.

As it happens, Fabregas qualifies as a home-grown player for any English club as he made his debut for Arsenal in October 2003 aged 16 years - three seasons later he was 19 years old and qualified as a Homegrown player for the Gunners. Now, he contributes towards Chelsea's quotient of homegrown players even though he is 30 years old - it's a funny old game...

To fully explain the rule, any player who is registered with an FA club for three entire seasons before their 21st birthday qualifies as a homegrown player. The period does not need to be continuous either, so RB Leipzig's Oliver Burke could return to England this summer before his 21st birthday and qualify as a homegrown player (if he doesn't already from his time at Nottingham Forest).

With this in mind, it actually means that Manchester United's squad features no less than 20 homegrown players (at time of writing) including the Dutch Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Portuguese Joel Pereira, Uruguayan Guillermo Varela and Brazilian Andreas Pereira - very few of the United squad are actually considered outside of the FA's homegrown ruling but there are few who are making regular appearances in the Starting XI.

This is clearly how the clubs are getting around the Homegrown player ruling as you will regularly read stories of Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea and various other clubs signing players as young as 16 and 17 years old. It isn't necessarily their prodigious talent they are interested in, more the potential for the players to enable them to sign other foreign players who are too old to qualify for the ruling.

Consider it this way: Manchester United could've signed Alvaro Morata but he would occupy a spot in the squad that may need to be offset by a homegrown player as he is too old to qualify for the ruling. Practically speaking, to sign Morata, Chelsea will need to remove a foreign player from their squad to accommodate the Spanish striker - it's very much a one in, one out policy.
Kristian Webb
A Manchester United fan who actually knows where Manchester is; I'm the chief writer for AccumulatorTips, ForzaSwansea and a contributor to WhatCulture's video game section. I'm a professional proofreader, content author and SEO Expert but that doesn't mean there won't be the odd grammatical error!

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