What Does the Home-Grown Rule Mean to Premier League Football?

It probably doesn’t matter that Clint Dempsey’s now-famous daisy-cutter turned poor, hapless Robert Green into the best football punchline since Titus Bramble.

See, even in the wake of the U.S.’s 1-1 draw vs. England at the 2010 World Cup, one of the few solaces English fans probably still have is looking down their noses at the “Colonies” and sneering at the Yankee approach to the game. English fans in need of a pick-me-up can just dial up three letters — MLS — and console themselves.

For all their insecurities and self-doubt produced by the continued failures of the Three Lions at big tournaments, English fans will always have Americans to kick around. At least for the time being.

One easy way for Americans to get even with the English — cut them down to the core, in fact — is to call out their decades long quest toward producing the first major trophy for England since 1966.

The latest cure-all for England’s international woes is “youth development” as if this blanket term will lead England to soccer’s Holy Grail.

Since the turn-of-the-century a chorus in England has grown louder-and-louder that Premier League clubs need to start developing their own young players, as opposed to spending major money on foreign imports. The England FA has looked at models in Holland, Spain, France and around almost all of Europe — it’s got to be the system, not the players themselves. (Remember England fans either a) think the team should win every game it plays or b) think they’ll never win another game they play.)

It’s a noble intention that’s almost taken on a life of it’s own. Yet to think a foreigner-heavy Premier League and lack of youth development is the sole reason England has flopped on the International stage is beyond myopic. Remember Middlesbrough publicly committed to building through its academy and was eventually relegated in 2008-09.

Finally in May, under pressure from Michel Platini’s UEFA “home grown” campaign, Richard Scudamore and the rest of executives at the Premier League acquiesced and accepted some change was necessary.

Beginning with the 2010-11 Premier League season, clubs must have at least eight “home grown” players. In short, players under the age of 21 who’ve been registered with the club at least three years.

All-and-all, not a terrible idea.

Will it eventually increase the number of Englishmen in the Premier League? Probably.

Is this necessarily a good thing? Hard to say.

Will it ever lead England to Euro or World Cup glory? We’ll see.

What’s most interesting about this development isn’t the home grown portion of the rule. It’s that Premier League clubs are only allowed a squad of 25 players from the start of September, which cannot be changed until the January transfer window. Players under the age of 21 don’t count toward the cap.

Can’t you imagine that someone during the Premier League’s executive meeting — looking something like the fictitious Sterling-Cooper boardroom from “Mad Men” — just before the meeting adjourned and as everyone began to step away from the conference table someone sounding like Bert Cooper let slip, ” … and oh by the way, gentlemen, we’re setting the squad limit at 25.”

It’s hard to look at this any differently than a rider tacked on and attached under pages of other ideas. At the time the Premier League announced the “homegrown” amendment, the roster cap was certainly buried under the bigger news and forgotten.

Perhaps it’s true the only way clubs will actually be forced to play these home grown players was under a roster cap. It wouldn’t have been hard for the big teams like Chelsea, Liverpool, the Manchester duo, etc. to fill their quota of eight players, keep them with the reserves and continue doing business as usual.

That said, tying home grown players to roster caps seems doesn’t seem like the most well-thought out idea in the history of English soccer, which is saying something. Tying it to the noble intention of local level, youth development is one of those proverbial, “robbing Peter to pay Paul” scenarios.

The new found roster cap rule came to a head over the weekend when numerous stories were filed during Manchester City’s summer tour that the club would have to release, transfer or loan out at least 20 senior side members.

As it stands today, Roberto Mancini’s club is at 37 senior players. That’s peanuts compared to Liverpool, where Roy Hodgson walked into Rafa Benitez’s free-spending, mass transfer policy, left the club with nearly 45 player under contract. Rules or not, is there any good reason for the Reds to have six goalies on the books at Anfield?

Think this is only a problem for the “big” teams with deep cash reserves? Wolves, a modest club by most accounts, has nearly 40 players in the squad.

And what of all the players deemed surplus parts? Will they be loaned or farmed out to the Championship? Kept around for training sessions?

It’s not only player numbers and movement that’s puzzling on the roster restrictions.

As we know, players end up injured in the Premier League at a rather alarming rate. Will there be an injured reserve list, like we see in American sports? Simply plugging in a raw 21-year-old reserve player, which is allowed without counting toward the 25-man cap, doesn’t seem like the best solution. Eventually, yes, maybe when club’s devote more time to their academies, but right now?

Will we end up with a situation where clubs are forced to keep players around almost exclusively for European or Cup duty, where the restrictions aren’t in place. Sure you could argue Arsene Wenger already does this at Arsenal, but that’s usually to give his younger players first team minutes, not by necessity.

Granted, these are arguments that might cause managers to whine about, but since all 20 clubs are playing under the same rules are fair.

Last season, looking at the top seven clubs from the 2009-10 table, the restrictions might not be a huge issue. Arsenal had 21 players make over double-digit appearances (including subs), while Aston Villa only had 14.

What the roster limits are more likely to do is force managers to axe any players with lingering injuries or take less gambles on foreign players who may or may not adjust to life in English football. Clubs won’t be able to afford carrying dead weight like they have in the past, so there’s nothing necessarily wrong with curbing that.

In the long term this might help level the playing field, or at least clubs with smaller, cohesive squads who have to battle with teams with seemingly unlimited funds for backups and part-timers. The trouble will likely arise in the big clubs playing concurrently in Europe as they juggle their rosters over the crowded fixture lists.

No matter how it breaks, can’t you already picture an angry Sir Alex Ferguson sometime in November, sarcastically talking about the rule while his club battles with would-be injuries to key performers? He’s gone his whole adult coaching life at Old Trafford with a squad however big he deems fit, not some arbitrary rule.

Overall the Premier League’s new rules to develop and play more homegrown talent is, at it’s core, a noble if not jingoistic idea. In the long term it’ll likely help curb club spending and end the death spiral of debt that is eventually going to catch up with the league.

Yet tying it together with an arbitrary roster limit doesn’t seem all that well thought out and will certainly have clubs and managing screaming bloody murder by the crowded Boxing Day fixtures if not sooner.

In fact, to the horror of English purist, the move to limit rosters is if anything — an American professional sports idea.

Editor’s note: You can read more of Mike Cardillo’s articles on his blog, That’s On Point. Plus, you can follow Mike on Twitter @thatsonpoint

28 thoughts on “What Does the Home-Grown Rule Mean to Premier League Football?”

  1. Wow, you managed to take quite an interesting topic and do a shit job with it. We don’t really need to read 6 paragraphs on the America vs England game and Rob Greens mistake and how England looks down their noses at America’s MLS, we already know that. You might be looking for a pick me up after the so called ‘all stars’ got their arse handed to them and your number 1 team L.A got smacked 4-1 by some little island team but I’m afraid I don’t need to read about it.
    Stick to the facts, 25 man squads and the ‘home grown’ rule in the Premier League for the 2010 season.

    1. wow, poker, i agree with you?!?! As much as i enjoyed that incident on June 12th 😉 we definitely didnt need to hear all about yet again.

      My take on the situation: its bad for the league. There. I said it. I love the Premier League because it is undoubtedly the greatest league in the world. To be the greatest league, you need the best players playing for each club, regardless of nationality. If the precious english players cant make it in the Prem, they only have themselves to blame. Putting restrictions on foreign talent is an absolutely terrible way to try and get England’s national team up to the level of a legitimate world cup contender. Not only will this fail for the FA, it will weaken the league as well.

      1. He was attempting to make a link from the US team drawing to English fans still looking down on the MLS to the Premier League looking more like MLS.


        1. It seems like nearly EVERY article on this website has to somehow mention England’s world-cup performance. I’ll admit I haven’t read through the whole article, because while I clicked on it expecting to read about the Home-grown rule, instead I had to wade through the same cliche opening paragraphs that have been included in about 50 articles over the last month and a half. In particular, I would just like it if an article could be written that could avoid the following cliches:

          (1) England fans like to “sneer at the colonies” or disparage MLS. As far as I’ve ever experienced, this is generally not true. Sure you might get a few internet idiots trolling for responses, but real life England fans don’t look down on the US.

          (2) England’s fans or football authorities think there is some simple “cure-all” to fix our problems. Again, for the most part, I think very few people think that any one single action could rectify what has essentially been 40+ years of being a middling team.

          (3) England fans expect to win every game they play (or “expect to win the World Cup”, or however it’s rehashed in various articles). Again, completely not true. I don’t think anyone would “expect” to beat any of the top 8 sides in the world. We might “hope” to win (with various levels of reasonableness), but I’ve never heard anyone say we “expect” to win such games (or the world cup itself).

      2. absalute rubbish if i had my way i,d restrict the foriegn players to a maximun of 3 per club this would then mean our clubs would have to find talent at home clubs might survive finacially and it would like it used to be either english irish scottish or welsh players making up the numbers. To much greed in the game with greedy prima donas wanting more and more milking their clubs and seeking glory whats happened to the great one club players like Bobby Moore and Johnny Haynes.

    2. You just can’t resist taking a swipe at the U.S., can you? Does it make you feel better about yourself? Is your life so pathetic that tearing down someone else is the only way to make yourself feel better?

      “Sneering at the colonies,” indeed.

  2. “Beginning with the 2010-11 Premier League season, clubs must have at least eight “home grown” players. In short, players under the age of 21 who’ve been registered with the club at least three years.”

    Just an FYI, this is actually wrong, its 8 players who were trained in england or wales for 3 years prior to turning 21, this means a player who is say 24 years but was trained in england between the ages 18-21 will count as one of these 8, THEY DO NOT have to be under 21 to count. Ironically this was probably introduced in part to stop clubs like Arsenal fielding no english players, well Arsenal have around 10 players which count for the home grown, and no more than half are english.

      1. Umm, you are wrong. Whale is a large mammal that lives in the ocean. Wales is a country.

        Home grown = Trained in England, N. Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Rep. of Ireland.

  3. Platini wants this rule because he is sick of the Premier League dominating by the money it has, he knows that this will not change as long as the Premier League is able to buy in who they want. He thinks that by limiting the clubs to a squad of 25 and forcing this Homegrown rule on them it might make it a more of an equal playing field.
    The problem is E.U law plays a massive part in football, you cannot just say a team must have 8 English players in their squad, you cannot stop players or any worker from working in another country within the E.U, and you are not allowed to do anything that makes it more difficult for them to work in another country, (saying 8 players must be English would fall under the bracket of making it more difficult for European players to play in the Premier League).
    Without turning this into a 5000 word essay, I want to see English players playing more in the Prem because I am English and want what’s best for the National team, but it’s never going to happen that way. This rule is the best they can come up with and Homegrown means a player of any nationality that has spent 3 seasons in England before turning 21. To me that does little to increase the amount of English players in the Premier League. Under the rule Cesc Fabragas is ‘homegrown’ and Arsenal make the quota quite easily.

    The only thing it will do is stop the likes of Man City having a squad of 50 players

  4. The roster limit is actually better for both the league and the development for england players.

    First, it even’s the playing field between all teams. Richer teams can’t pack the sub roster. The only thing better than seeing a great game is seeing an amazing upset. Second, it gives youth a chance. What is the point of having a home grown rule without a roster limit? England isn’t developing players well and it is starting to show.

    How many english players play abroad? Now compare that amount with other countries. It’s amazing to see most teams in the premier league have, maybe two or three, quality english players in their squad. Looking at Arsenal, do they even have any? What the point of a English club team featuring no english players?

    Youth development is crucial to international success.

  5. This is an all around good rule and will serve to make the league more competitive and possibly help the national team out a bit too.

    A big key here is the “sub-rule” that allows under-21s to not be counted towards your squad number. Get a great academy producing and you can have a great advantage over other teams (even the big spenders).

    Also, I love the idea of restricting teams to 25 over-21 players. Otherwise, Manchester City was about to get silly with the roster this season.

    We talk about Arsenal “playing” the home-grown rule here by having players that aren’t English but are home-grown but I think this will be gradually fixed. I think we’ll also see this get more and more strict / English-centric in the future. It’ll be gradual but I would be surprised to see a rule in 15 years or so that has 10 of the 25 players be British-born. In other words, this is a first step of many.

    1. “It’ll be gradual but I would be surprised to see a rule in 15 years or so that has 10 of the 25 players be British-born. In other words, this is a first step of many.”

      I’m guessing you meant “wouldn’t”. How would that be permissible under E.U. law as noted by Rakeback?

      1. Agreed with Poker and Sir Guy – there’s no way that they could make a rule stating that a certain # of players must be English born without violating various British and European Employment Laws.

        1. I did mean “wouldn’t” – sorry about that.

          You can’t come right out and say only British players but you can further modify the “home-grown” definition to make it 4 years or 5 years training in England in order to fit that definition.

          Most people don’t want a Premier League with teams like Arsenal (maybe one or two English players that hardly ever start or even play) nor do they want something that will see all English players (and thus diminish the quality of the league). What we need is a healthy middle.

          Like I said, I think that this rule is just the first step of many to get young, British players back in the game. I think it’s a good thing as long as it doesn’t go too far.

  6. One thing this will mean is that clubs in England will throw mega money at their youth systems and you can bet your bottom dollar they will become the best in the world by a mile in the future.
    My only issue with it is whether they will benefit English players or will we just see 14, 15 and 16 year olds snapped up from all over the world?

    1. Poker – I think the net result might be both – we will see more 14-16 year olds from around the world, AND the better facilities and coaching will benefit the young English players.

  7. Poker is spot on with that last comment. Stoke and Tony Pulis have been generally indifferent about the youth system so far. However we are flaunting our position at the moment to snap up promising youth players from other academies and abroad and have spent around £6m on a new training facility to act amongst other things as a magnet to continue to attract these younger players.

    I’m not overly interested in the national team but one thing I’ll guarantee is the best thing that has happened to England lately is this failure at the World Cup. It’s forcing issues to be addressed and in time the fruits of this failure will emerge and hopefully lead to an improved youth development and coaching system in the UK. It’s too big a cock up to ignore and do nothing about.

  8. Something the FA chiefs haven’t thought about, and the players union hasn’t mentioned, is that these measures will lead to hundreds of players being forced out of the game. If the big clubs have squads well in excess of the 25, many of their fringe players will be pushed out into the lower leagues which might improve standards there, but existing players at these clubs will be pushed out of the game to make way for this influx. It’s already difficult for discards at this level, and this phasing down from the top will deny many the chance of a potential career in the game…

    1. How many clubs are there in England? 200? 300? I doubt this rule is going to affect the career of any decent player

        1. Dave C, that’s only w/in in the football league, there’s at least another 100 w/in the FA (think of all the teams in early round FA cup matches)

  9. PR is right, the result of this rule will be more and more child trafficking by English clubs, not an improved English national team

    “As it stands today, Roberto Mancini’s club is at 37 senior players. That’s peanuts compared to Liverpool, where Roy Hodgson walked into Rafa Benitez’s free-spending, mass transfer policy, left the club with nearly 45 player under contract. Rules or not, is there any good reason for the Reds to have six goalies on the books at Anfield?”

    Is there any reason for you to intentionally distort Benitez’s record and continue to take baseless swipes at him? Of the 45 players under contract almost half are U-21s and academy players. Six goalies? only three of them are over the age of 19 and Itandje spent last season on loan and will likely be sold/released.

    As the roster currently stands LFC have 27 players who could count towards the cap. Seven of those are homegrown and 20 are not. So Hodgson will have to cut all of 3 non-homegrown players, plus making allowanced for any players brought in. Included in those that are likely to be cut are players such at Itandje, Brouwer, Zhar, Degen and Plessis. This 25 man cap isn’t going to be a burden on most clubs, in fact I expect several clubs to name less than 25 players to their roster.
    I found this site via the podcast, unfortunately the vast majority of the articles don’t live up to the quality of the podcast

    1. Rosati, that’s okay, tell yourself what you want because I guarantee the USA will win a World Cup next before England will.

      USA = The Future of Football (Soccer).

      England, forever living the past.

  10. The homegrown rule is what England has needed ever since Chelski happened.

    I remember watching a Man Utd vs. Arsenal match. You could hear the Arsenal supporters singing, “We’ll race you back to London” to the Man Utd supporters. The Man Utd supporters began singing in response, “We remember when you were English.”

    I’m not sure who had the last laugh.

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