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Are Premier League Clubs Holding the Football League to Ransom?

richard scudamore1 Are Premier League Clubs Holding the Football League to Ransom?

The EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) is about to set in and is due to drastically change the way youth players are developed in England.  The changes will begin in the 2012-2013 season and it will mean that academies are set up in a four tier system and it will also see every club gain funding for at least four years, with amounts differing depending on the level of the club’s academy. However this could have serious effects on both Football League and Premier League clubs, with Premier League clubs allowed to pay considerably less for youth players. It could also affect the England team, with the possibility that now due to lower prices the Premier League teams will buy more English youth players rather than one from abroad.

Clubs from the Football League did vote the changes through with 46 members voting in favour of it. However this was probably largely due to the fact that the Premier League threatened to cut its £5.3 million of funding to the Football League clubs for their youth development. It seems that due to the threat of losing this funding that Football League clubs voted it through, showing that in essence the Premier League is blackmailing them. Peterborough Chairman Barry Fry certainly thought so telling the BBC “What frightens me is that a lot of clubs will pull out of having a youth system altogether.”

When a Premier League team buys a youngster from the lower leagues at the moments the transfer fee is decided by tribunal but with the new rules being brought in, they will now only have to pay compensation for the player based on a sliding scale of age thus not really factoring in the talent or experience of the player they are buying. For example Chelsea recently bought the 14 year old Oluwaseyi Ojo from MK dons for £1.5 million, but if that transfer would’ve gone through after the rule changes then Chelsea could buy him for under £150,000.

Premier League clubs will of course buy more English youngsters but it isn’t that likely that they will actually play. Due to the high stakes of the Premier League and the financial pressure and incentive it brings as we see at the moment, it is not always the case that managers blood youngsters effectively because of the threat of relegation or them losing their top four place for example. We have seen the likes of Everton and Arsenal, although most of their youngsters were not English, bring youngsters through well but just not enough clubs do it. Even with the chance to bring in young players from the Football League more cheaply I still don’t think that many of the” bigger” clubs will have the guts to let young talent come to the fore. If the money in the Premier League wasn’t so important then maybe we would see more home-grown youngsters being fielded. What are the odds a large majority of players bought under this system will be loaned back to clubs in the Football League?

It will almost certainly not benefit Football League clubs as some really depend on the money they get from selling their talented youth players. In the case of Watford and Crystal Palace, bringing through youth players and being able to sell them has played a large role in keeping the two clubs afloat.  The lack of money for the players could also lead to many clubs having to drop their youth setup which won’t help anyone. These Football League clubs will not have enough players coming through and this could lead to the youth setup being completely centred towards the Premier League. Now, of course this could have a positive effect as training players at Premier League clubs could make them better and give them more confidence but yet again who knows how many will go onto play for the first team and how many will find themselves at lower league clubs.

Now of course the Premier League has to stop bringing in as many foreign youngsters but this system is going to disadvantage the 72 other professional clubs in England. It would mean that some clubs who have the money to spend on the players, who have had no history of youth development, will be able to source the best young players.  A better way would to be paying money to the Premier League or higher tariffs on foreign players under 21 being brought in. Then if Premier League clubs did decide to pay the higher price of bringing in someone from abroad then the extra money could go to the Premier League to distribute between the Football League clubs to use on youth development. The major problem in sight for an idea like this is the EU who will probably put a stop to this.

Lastly many in the Premier League are saying that this system will benefit the England team which is still a major bone of contention.  The argument is that due to the lower compensation players will be snapped up by better teams and be able to reach their full potential. However I don’t think it will have a major impact on the England team. Players who have proven quality, and are the ones likely to go on to play for England are often bought by higher placed clubs anyway, due to the impressive scouting network.

If a Premier League wants a young English player who will be able to play for them in the near future then they can easily do it. Lowering the compensation will just make it cheaper for them in my opinion. And if players are not snapped up by Premier League clubs initially, they will later. Take Ashley Young as an example, who was in the Watford youth academy. After impressive performances and being given the freedom to play, they are bought and if these footballers are good enough they will go on to play for England. It would be better to change the way we train the players physically and mentally to improve the England team.

The centre of excellence in Burton is a huge step forward but players need to develop a love for the game which some of them don’t have due to the pressures of training and how it sometimes takes over their life. If we can fully utilise this centre of excellence and instil a nationwide style of play for the national team from a young age then it is likely England can move forward, with players moving up the England age groups with a team spirit and cohesion that will benefit English football in the long run.


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