I already know that some of you will read the headline and scoff with disdain at the thought of a draft. And that there are traditionalists out there that will consider this blasphemy. However, the point of this article is not to install a whole new way in which clubs build their rosters, but instead to think of another way to create competitive balance within the league. Instead of the big clubs being able to go out and buy first team talent or buy every youth player available, a draft would allow for the clubs that lack financial resources to acquire players.
An amateur draft is a very American concept, as all the major sports leagues in the states have them in place. It is very different than the way that the rest of the world goes about building their sports franchises. Each way has its own advantages and disadvantages. The draft allows for teams with the worst records to obtain top talent. On the other hand, the athlete has no real say in where he is going to apply his trade and usually has no bargaining power.
Before I get into my concept for a football draft, let me first say that I would not want the youth academies affected. I think that the academies are a great way for clubs to build a football philosophy and have players train the correct way from a young age. Instead, the draft pool would consist of players whose contracts are up at the academy or those players who have been with a club for a number of years without a call up to a first team. These players would have the option of resigning with their current club or be drafted by another to continue their careers. Clubs with the worst records in the league would have first choice of drafting these players. If a club does not want to make a draft choice, they forfeit the pick, and the next team in the draft order gets to make a selection. The number of draft rounds would be determined by how many available players are in the draft pool.
This concept is very similar to the Rule 5 draft that Major League Baseball has in place. Any players that have been in a team’s minor league system for five years and have not been added to the forty-man roster are eligible for this draft. This prevents a player from being held down in the minors for too long and it keeps teams from stockpiling talent. Before the Rule 5 draft, wealthy teams like the New York Yankees could go out and buy all the young talent and then detain them down in the minors for as long as the team wanted. But with the advent of the Rule 5, the players now have more freedom and all the teams have an opportunity to attain talent.
Again, I realize that this is a radical idea, but one that should be considered if we want all clubs to have a chance at winning the Premier League title. The league already has the “Big Four” and now the so-called “Sky Six”. As fans, do we really want the EPL to turn into La Liga where the difference between the haves and have-nots is so severe that there is virtually no competitive balance?
Instituting a draft may not solve all of football’s problems, but it would be a step in the right direction. This along with the Financial Fair Play Rules that are supposed to go into effect in the coming years could go a long way in giving every club in the table a shot at glory.