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March 2021

Current rules make matters difficult for youngsters trying to become professionals, and FA aspirations are not helping.

By Tony Attwood

In a recent piece about why it is hard for most PL clubs to buy new players in the January window, I made the point that there is not just a limit on the number of players that can be registered with a team (25 who are over 21 years old) but also a limit on how many of them are allowed to be non-home-grown players.  In fact each club can have only 17 non-home-grown adults in the squad, the rest of the 25 have to be home grown.

But now the FA wants to change this further as they want to increase the number of home grown players in the squad to 12, with two of the 12 having come up through the youth team system.

Furthermore although home grown players have to have been with an English or Welsh team for at least three years before the age of twenty-one the FA now want to reduce the age to 18.   This would mean a teenager would have to be with the club at a maximum age of fifteen.

But players are not allowed to move across national boundaries until they are 16, meaning that if a foreign player joined an English youth academy at sixteen, in three years time he would be nineteen. Thus said player would fail to qualify as a homegrown player due to the fact he would be older than eighteen.  So in the future players like Coquelin could not come to Arsenal at a young age, let alone come and then be recognised as “home-grown”.

But now there is another problem on the horizon: The Elite Player Performance Plan.  This idea was adopted by the Football League in 2011, and introduced a system of fixed prices for young players (instead of a tribunal system which previously set the fees).

Players who join an academy now normally sign a contract which means that if the player changes club the new academy pays compensation to the original club; in short they are trading in children.

The original idea was that youngsters should only be on this system (known as YD10) which allows transfer fees, where the original club is seriously expecting to retain the player.  The aim is to stop youngsters signing and then deciding to change clubs on a whim.  This is a particularly difficult area with the sort of inexperienced young person’s vision that says, “the club I am with is rubbish, any other club would be better,” just because there is something the young player doesn’t like.  Like having to stick to the dietary regime and train regularly.

That might seem the child’s fault, or the family’s fault, but the massive scandal of child sex abuse in football, means that many youngsters might well have good reason to want to move away from a particular club, but not be able to express those concerns openly.   The current system simply freezes the child out of football

Where there is a transfer the annual fixed fee for a player above the age of 12 who plays for a club at the highest level (such as Arsenal) is £40,000 for every year they have spent at the club. For players aged nine to 11, the annual fixed fee is £3,000, for all clubs.

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The important point is that under England’s youth development rules this compensation fee is due when a player registers at an academy, not when he signs a pro contract.  As a result the system can lead to significant compensation fees being required for young players if they ever want to change clubs.   So even if the player has a falling out with his club (as adults and teenagers often can do) the player might be refused the right to train with the club, but is unable to move on to another club, because no one else is willing to pay the compensation fee.

As a result there are suggestions that significant numbers of young players who have fallen out with one club are simply being frozen out of football.  They can move into non-league football, but they can’t move and sign up with another league club.

In one example, a player is reported to have fallen out of favour with a club, and the compensation fee has been insisted upon before the youngster can be released.  The player is not allowed to train or play for the club, creating a situation where the youngster is unable to sign for another team, who baulk at the compensation fee, but cannot work with the original academy either.

There are even cases in which clubs are said to have dismissed a player for disciplinary reasons, but then retained the registration unless another club pays the full fee.  The clubs are not really losing out by doing this, because the cost of training youngsters is mostly incorporated in the cost of building the training centre, not in the cost of taking on one extra player.  So there is actually an incentive for taking on and signing more and more players even if the club is not sure of their potential.   By signing on a lot of players they increase the chances of signing up a real gem, but the loss to them is minimal.

Football League guidelines suggest that families should take advice from a solicitor or the PFA when faced with the possibility of signing up a child, but few do this.   Under Fifa regulations on international transfers, compensation is due for a player only when they sign their first professional contract, or each time the professional is transferred “until the end of the season of his 23rd birthday…. Under the Youth Development rules, however, that compensation is due as soon as the player registers for a new academy.”

All in all it looks like another mess, the net result of which is that some young players of talent will be lost to professional football simply because of the way the initial contract with children is organised.

And meanwhile the FA wants the clubs to take on more players before they are 16.  It does not bode well for the future of English football.

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7 comments to Current rules make matters difficult for youngsters trying to become professionals, and FA aspirations are not helping.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Can Stoke slow down the flying high pressing game winning Liverpool team tonight at Anfield? John Walters early goal for Stoke looks promising for that slowdown of Liverpool to happen for Arsenal to become even on point with them in the table going into the New Year Day games. I’ll love that to happen. Lalana has just been allowed to equalised for Liverpool by Stoke’s poor defending. I hope Stoke will find another way to score the 2nd goal in the game or hold Liverpool. Stoke are not blocking Liverpool dangerous shots to their goal.

  • colario

    Not seen this before today. I have sent it to my friend who supports Well Beaten Again. 🙂

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Early looking promising Stoke City attempt to slowdown the high flying pressing winning game Liverpool team has turned to a hopeless promising game for Stoke City team as they fell apart like a pack of cards to Liverpool’s supreme attacking prowess.

    The fallout from this game as far as Arsenal are concerned is Arsenal have a lot of catch up work to do in their upcoming games to take any slip-up advantage in the table by any of their title rival teams during the early weeks of the January PL campaign should it happens.

    Arsenal MUST not stuttered in their PL matches anymore after losing thrice in their campaign this season. A fourth lose in the League could see their title season over in the face of the unrelenting winning run by Chelsea and Liverpool. Man City could also constitute a threat to them if they too can have a mostly winning run as Chelsea & Liverpool are currently having.

    Therefore, haven watched Arsenal played a telling high pressing game for 90m + to dismantled the WBA parked bus defending, it has become pertinent Arsenal should polish the kind of the 90 minutes plus high pressing game which they played against WBA at the Ems yesterday to perfection so as to be dismantling teams game by game till season ends.

  • Leon

    Is there any other football blog where you can read about Arsenal while watching a Two Ronnies video? WTF is going on with that guy?

  • AllanC

    Typical FA ! More restrictive rules instead of tackling the root problem of the lack of qualified coaches. In fact they hamper the whole coach training process by charging people for the privilege. It is unbelievable that we have this situation with all the millions of pounds that is being thrown at the game. When the bubble bursts the game will be in a worse state than it was in the first place. And the FA will have stood by and watched it happen.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Once upon a time there was a bear and a rabbit. The bear was taking a shit in the woods when he asked the rabbit if he had problems with shit sticking to its fur.
    The rabbit said no .so the bear wiped his arse with the rabbit.

  • Gord

    I hope that wasn’t the bunny that Alexis found near Barcelona. See story at