Is the Premier League harming English football?

10/07/2013 no comments »
England v Mexico - International Friendly

Photo: Wembley National Stadium Ltd

The English Premier League is seen by many as the best league in the world and attracts some of the best names in world football such as Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) and Juan Mata (Chelsea FC). However, not many people are aware of how it is affecting the English national teams and in particular young players trying to break into the first team and become better players.

Although top English players such as Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) and Ashley Cole (Chelsea FC) benefit from playing every week surrounded by the best players from around the world, it is the next generation of England players that are having their chances limited by the influx of foreign players. This summer’s UEFA under 21 Championships saw England exit at the group stage and a recent study showed that England U21 players only made up 2.28% of all minutes played in the Premier League in 2012/13.The amount of money involved in being part of the Premier League or finishing in the top four makes it much easier for a club to bring in an experienced foreign footballer rather than giving young English players a chance to prove themselves and become better players.

It is clear that lack of top flight football for young footballers is stopping promising talents developing into top players and preventing the national team from challenging teams like Spain and Germany. In 2009/10 over 11% of the total playing time in the Bundesliga was made up of members of the Germany U21 squad, perhaps explaining why Germany had a strong Euro 2012 tournament and are one of the favourites for the world cup in 2014. It is the same story at senior level with only around 30% of Premier League players eligible to play for England whereas over 50% of players in the Bundesliga are eligible to play for Germany.

Despite recent rules stating a Premier League squad must contain eight home grown players, I do not believe that enough is being done for young English players trying to break through into top flight football and that it is too easy for teams to bring in foreign players to replace these English players. One idea to help solve this problem is making the League Cup into an under 21 or home grown player only tournament for Premier League teams. This would give young players more experience in a more competitive environment with the opportunity of winning a trophy for their team. If England want to become a major force again it is clear something has to be done, even if it is not to the benefit of the Premier League.

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