Should the Premier League Adopt an Amateur Draft?

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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.

37 thoughts on “Should the Premier League Adopt an Amateur Draft?”

  1. I think that is unnecessary there are very few players who sit on a teams reserve side for 5 years. Most get loaned out to smaller clubs and end up making those loan moves permanent or ask for a transfer if they are not getting first team chances. Hull have a number of former Manchester United trainees and Mancienne just moved to Hamburg after being frustrated by the lack of first team opportunity at Chelsea.

  2. IMHO, this wouldn’t change a lot. I am not sure whether you realize that players from the academies eventually will be released/sold when the managers realize that they won’t make it to the next level. Also there will is a limit of 25 squad players over the age of 21 to play in the Premier League which makes it difficult to have a huge squad.

    If the contracts are up, they are free to go and sign with anyone, right ? So why we need to have a draft ? It’ll create a mess with rules and regulations (minimum salary, etc). I am not sure where you’re based on (US or UK) but I’d hate to see things become a legal mess.

  3. I don’t get it. MLB has a draft, something like one bazillion rounds. Yet, Boston and New York are always competing for the World Series because of the money they have. Teams and markets with the money are the ones that are typically most competitive in the major sporting leagues in the US. The former Montreal Expos had one of the best draft/developmental programs in MLB, yet they never had the money to hold onto the talent.

    The idea that the draft makes teams more competitive is fallacious. Even if a Stoke City or Bolton were to develop the next Wayne Rooney, they couldn’t afford to keep him.

    The problems of football? Man. United didn’t clinch the title until very near the end of the season, relegation was determined until the final whistle of the season. Every game mattered. Games at the ends of the seasons in the NHL, NBA, and MLB are typically trivial for almost every team.

    1. Boston and NY Yankees dominate major league baseball, so that draft is a joke.
      The NFL has a draft, but more importantly revenue sharing and a revolving salary cap are what allows a small-city team like Green Bay to compete with the likes of the NY Giants or Dallas Cowboys.
      That is what the BPL really needs.
      So Man City and Chelsea, with owners who don’t care if the team loses money, can’t buy their way to a title.

      1. Salary cap will hurt EPL teams when competing against foreign clubs. IIRC the tax rate in the UK is 50% while in Spain it’s 30%.

        It’s good for domestic competition but it will hurt in the European competitions.

  4. I have just read the headline and scoffed with disdain at the thought of a draft. And for the record, I consider this blasphemy.

  5. The draft works in the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB for the most part because (1) it is collectively bargained otherwise it would be illegal…I’m not sure that anti-competitive law would apply in other countries and then primarily (2) it is a closed shop. If you are a top-flight tackle football, hockey, baseball or basketball player there’s no other country that realistically competes for money and marketing.

    In Soccer however, a quality player can choose from good teams (and most importantly rich teams) in many quality leagues.

    Even if, say, Wolves get the top pick, whoever that would be, how would they compete against the likes of Barca, Real, Bayern, AC Milan, or Inter, or the many other wealthier sides?

    1. I agree. It is the monopolistic nature of US sports that allows for a draft. The rules that prevent NFL and NBA players from entering the draft are a restraint to trade and would be deemed illegal.

      I would also echo Dr G’s comments regarding the disincentive for some poorly run teams to do well. The lack of relegation means teams can quite easily make money by paying the minimum salary cap and putting a poor product on the field/court/ice.

      The current system is football does have flaws which hopefully the squad size and financial fair play rules will remedy but those rules, particularly financial fair play, may magnify the gaps between large and small market(revenue) teams.

      Squad salary caps have been mooted but the harmonization between leagues and countries would be difficult.

      Increased revenue sharing could help but larger clubs would have to agree that a more competitive field increases fan interest and revenue for all teams makes up for the short-term loss of revenue now (large slice of smaller pie versus a smaller slice of a bigger pie).

      It is interesting debate since some American leagues have had a lot of different title winners.

  6. Attaturk is absolutely right that a draft system won’t work in soccer because there are too many leagues all over the world competing for players. It would be totally unworkable.

  7. The flaw in this thinking is the pyramid system in England. So players turning pro are only able to be selected by the Premier League teams? Does the Football League then become a “minor league system” for every Premier League squad, with Championship through League 2 “loaning” youngsters from the top 20? What happens when three teams swap places in the Premier League and Championship each season…do the relegated teams give their rights to one of the teams ascending?

    Not trying to make this sound harsh, interesting thought exercise, but it would cause a real headache IMO.

  8. ANd even though I said previously that the BPL might consider revenue-sharing and salary cap like the NFL, that totally ignores the international competition for players from Spain, Italy etc.
    Yeah, I guess the revenue-sharing and salary cap really would be a tough slog to make work given that, wouldn’t it.

  9. There is a no counterpart to the NCAA in european leagues. The best players do not attend college and compete with each other. Instead they have several divisions of clubs below the top rung.

    The concept of the draft is somewhat silly the way it pertains to american sports anyways. It provides a disincentive to do well. If teams play poorly on the field, they should be removed. This ensures the best competition possible. Instead we have a handful of major league teams in baseball that should fail by virtue of poor receipts and poor results that continue to exist as a whipping boy for the big guns.

    Next thing you are going to recommend would be a playoff system that moots a whole season’s worth of results and boils it down to a handful of games.

    1. BUT, even though it probably wouldn’t be possible to have a draft for the BPL or revenue sharing to the extent that it exists in the NFL because of the international competition for players, SOMETHING should be done to better enable all teams to make the final four or final six. At least the american sports teams have renewal and change at the top.

  10. Another idiotic “let’s adopt something American sports do because *mumble mumble*” article. This one assuming that the Premier League exists in isolation. Cretinous.

  11. No. These drafts are just bloody TV circuses.

    Here’s a counter to the argument – how about US sports have a shot at relegation & promotion?.. where there are, you know, actual consequences for poor performance…

    1. Well said. The NFL draft is a joke. For every Peyton Manning there is a Ryan Leaf. The evaluators, commentators seem to have no clue as to who is any good. Tom Brady anybody?!

      Stupid f*cking idea that does not deserve any airtime on a football blog like this one.

      Promotion and relegation on the other hand would be something to see in American sports. Just imagine how ESPN might cover the relegation of the Mets to the minors. Never happen though.

    2. Because promotion and relegation are f**king stupid and marginalize entire regions and cities in a country.

      An entire pro league consisting of LA, Dallas, NYC, and Chicago teams. Sounds great.

      1. I did say promotion AND relegation, so there would be other teams promoted to whatever division/league to fill the gaps.

        I realise it’ll never happen though – the owners won’t allow it.

      2. What’s more stupid is teams here play like garbage, year after year, without repercussions. Let relegation put the fear of God back into their psyche.
        Yes, I’m talking to you, Detroit Kittens.

      3. Why would pro/rel lead to anyone outside the major metropolises being “marginalized”. Wouldn’t it give smaller teams a way to play their way to the top league? I’m pretty sure Swansea aren’t feeling “marginalized” right now, nor Blackpool or Hull before them (none of which are traditional footballing powerhouses).

    3. The main reason a draft wouldn’t work in England is the same reason why promotion and relegation can’t work in the US, though I would love it if it could! The systems are nearly carved in stone. The minor leagues are not independent of the major leagues and that can lead to conflicts of interest with promotion and relegation. MLB is really the only league that has the teams to do it. The NHL is close with a couple minor leagues. But the NFL and NBA use the collegiate system for their minor league. So there wouldn’t be anyone to promote if you even wanted to.

      Promotion and relegation gives meaning to the whole season, especially for teams near the bottom of the top flight. But as things stand in the US, the minor leagues are entwined with the major league teams, so it wouldn’t be practical to start promotion. Oh, just imagine if it were possible, the LA Clippers or Washington Nationals being relegated and having some small franchise taking their place.

  12. Why does the Premier League need American-style parity?

    I understand why MLS has it, because otherwise the league would not be around. But any other league is just stupid for having enforced parity or salary cap crap, or the idiotic draft.

    Look, all these clubs get a helluva lot of money via the EPL TV deal. The clubs also get money from ticket sales, merch, and various other ways. If that money is not enough to get the better talent, than so be it.

    Why should a Manchester United be punished because they can sell 75,000 tickets every time out? Why should Chelsea be punished for having a billionaire owner? Why should Arsenal be punished for advancing deep into the Champions League, thus earning more TV dollars, ticket sales, and other monetary benefits?

    I have no problems with the Premier League at all. None. It’s perfect as is, with no stupid salary cap, no enforced parity, and with promotion/relegation to reward success and punish failure.

    Please, I come here for serious, intellectual discussion on the best domestic league on Earth. Quit posting this “Let’s Americanize the EPL” crap, or I’ll stop reading the blog.

    1. Is this a bad time to bring up commercial breaks during game play? The EPL would benefit from having a commercial break after each kickoff. :^P

      Parity isn’t a bad idea. You want a league to consist of squads where people show up at the games. I think the past two seasons has shown some serious amounts of parity, with so many squads within relegation territory, so late into the season. A squad like Stoke City was playing for 10th or better, but was still a short losing streak away from relegation! Tottenham got to the Champions League. I think there is parity. That only four or five teams have a real chance at the Title is an economic reality, not the result of a lack of parity.

  13. Jeff,
    Yes, read only the stuff you agree with. That will get you ahead in the world.
    You’re right though the Premier league won’t work like American leagues, but simply because of the international aspects.
    I love the league, but when a title is for sale the biggest spender, it has a problem. Everybody cheers for one of the top four (as well their local club) because they know their local club with 20,000 seat stadium will have to sell their best players to survive and have no real prospects.
    It could be more competitive that’s all. But compared to the other leagues in Europe, it’s waaaaay better.

    1. So if the Miami Heat win the Title this year instead of Cleveland, money had nothing to do with it?

      Or that small teams rarely ever play for the World Series title, money had nothing to do with it?

      And just as a reminder, Man City spent a fortune… and didn’t win the title. Didn’t even come close.

  14. Premiere league teams changes every year. How would this work each year?

    How many players would be worthy of drafting each year? These kids would want mega bucks right away.

    Just don’t see a draft working in the England with their system. In the US we have a defined number of franchises in each league and the league wants to have every franchise be successful so they can make money.

  15. Looks like we’re in nearly 100% agreement that this is a dumb idea.

    Seriously, every now and then (especially in the lazy days of summer), EPL Talk resorts to an article on “Why the EPL should alter an established and successful formula in order to be more like American sports.

    Here are a few of my suggestions:

    Why the EPL should have cheerleaders!
    Why Macho Man Randy Savage should play for Everton!
    Why goal keepers should wear helmets!
    Why EPL teams should sing the national anthem before each game!
    Why EPL should allow unlimited subs and special-teams units!
    Why soccer should have three points for a goal from outside the penalty box!
    Any more?

  16. It’s cool to hate anything American. However, the reasons why the draft wouldn’t work in the EPL is why promotion and regulation wouldn’t work in MLS. However, the Euro snobs will force it down our throats. They are just now shutting up about the MLS having a playoff system to decide the champion.

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