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June 2021

How the home grown rule has completely failed to make any difference at all.

by Tony Attwood

In June 2010 I filled up an otherwise rather boring day researching what it was that made some international sides better than others.  Was it the number of players who played in their own country’s league?  The size of the country?  Or something else?   It turned out to be something else: the number of qualified coaches there are per 1000 people.  That original article is here.

The truth of this reality was not just in the figures but in the subsequent rise of Iceland as an improbable force in international football.  More qualified coaches per head of population than just about anywhere else.  England with a much bigger population but at the other end of the coaching scale.

In April 2015, taking no notice of my diligent research the then Football Association chairman, Greg Dyke, put forward a plan to increase the minimum number of homegrown players in club squads from eight to 12 and to change the homegrown rule so that to be homegrown the player would have to have trained in England for three years before the age of 18 instead of three years before the age of 21.

Just so you can see I’m not making all this up, that original article on that front is also still on line.

So I thought it was time to find out if the home grown rule is actually making any difference, not least because the international injury to Mustafi led to tales of crisis and a list of seven injured players (most of whom were not injured at all of course).  Arsenal (it was seriously proposed in a number of blogs and a couple of papers) was desperately short because of Wenger’s inept transfer policy.

Now I already knew that Arsenal had a full compliment of 25 players in the squad, and I started by wonder how this compared with other clubs.

Excluding players who are under 21 on the date given in registration (remembering it is not their actual age but the age on the nominated date each year), Arsenal have the full 25 players registered with nine of those being local.  The minimum number of locals required if you want to have a full squad of 25 is eight.  If a club has fewer than eight the total of 25 is reduced.

All of which means you can have a maximum of 17 “foreign” players in a squad.

Here are the numbers for the clubs who, at the start of the season were thought by most pundits would make up the top eight come the end of the season.  The final column shows what the club has to do in order to bring in one more player in this season’s winter transfer window.   Arsenal for example have to release a player to make space – but that player could be homegrown or overseas.  Chelsea must buy a homegrown player – they have their full complement of “foreigners”.  And so on.

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Club Squad total (max 25) Overseas (max 17) Homegrown players Next buy
Arsenal 25 16 9 Release anyone
Chelsea 21 17 4 Homegrown
Everton 25 11 14 Release anyone
Liverpool 25 15 10 Release anyone
Manchester City 18 14 4 No restriction
Manchester United 25 15 10 Release anyone
Liverpool 25 15 10 Release anyone
Tottenham Hotspur 20 16 4 Anyone

It is obvious that the three clubs that have failed to get to 25 players (Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur) have done so only in part because each only found a limited number of home grown players.  In fact Chelsea is the only club which, if not releasing anyone, must buy a homegrown player.

Otherwise the homegrown rule is having virtually no effect.  All the clubs except Chelsea could buy anyone (homegrown or overseas) as their next purchase without worrying about the home grown rule.  Which suggests that clubs are buying the players they want and who want to come to them, up to the 25.  Out of these eight clubs, seven are in a situation in which their next buy could of any nationality or upbringing.  It is the limit of 25 that stops them buying more, not the ethnic or national origins of the player.

What this actually suggests in turn is that at least in the eyes of the managers of these clubs, there simply are not enough players around.  It is not a case of “not enough home grown players” but “not enough players”.   To put it bluntly in the cases of Chelsea, Man City and Tottenham they either couldn’t find the players they wanted, or couldn’t agree terms, or found the players they wanted simply didn’t want to come to that particular club.

Manchester City and Tottenham could have reached the 21 player mark as Chelsea have done, and still had only four home grown players.  Given that Manchester City and Chelsea have loads of money it is curious that they did not bring in more players.  Why they didn’t is a completely different issue.

So what are the implications here?

First, and most obviously although clubs might have some players in their 25 who are unlikely to play, unless they have a real upturn in their playing ability or the club have a big run of injuries, it is obvious that Chelsea, Man City and Tottenham are each taking a big risk having smaller squads, but only in Chelsea’s case is the issue their inability to find young “homegrown” players.

Tottenham have only got four home growns in their first team squad (funny how the media made so much of Arsenal’s “foreigners” but this issue of Tottenham’s is never mentioned).  Unless the official record book of the Premier League is wrong their home growns in the 25 are Davies, Kane, Rose, and Trippier.

But they could still buy another foreigner or another home grown as their next purchase.  It is not the home grown rule that is stopping them, it is something else.  Lack of money for the transfer?  Lack of ability to find the right player and persuade him to play at Wembley for a year?  Lack of desire among players to join a club that last won the league 56 years ago?  Belief that only Arsenal get injuries?

Second there are five clubs in the same position as Arsenal – if they are going to sign and use any more players who are over 21, they have to let someone go.  But having done that, they could sign another foreigner or another home grown.  The home grown rule will have no impact on that choice.

It is the limitation of 25 players that has an impact on most clubs.  I don’t even think the wages regulations are having an impact because they don’t stop clubs spending all their increased income from broadcasting on player salaries.  I could be wrong on this, but I would be surprised if wage inflation limits were the cause of Man City’s small squad.

Matters will change after Britain leaves the EU, as there will have to be a new set of rules.  Given that even EU nationals don’t know what their status will be after the UK departs, and many are already leaving, those from outside the EU and those with EU passports granted after two years residency in the EU (as many EU countries allow) are becoming more hesitant about residency in Britain.  Once the doors shut on most immigrants as some in the government seem to want, the whole nature of football could change.  But it won’t be because of the homegrown rule.  That’s having virtually no effect at all.


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8 comments to How the home grown rule has completely failed to make any difference at all.

  • atid

    I haven’t heard anyone in the government say they want to stop immigration. What they want to do is make it fair and equal, so that all non uk nationals are treated the same. Why shouldn’t a nurse from say the Phillipines be afforded the same requirements say as a nurse from Romania. Or indeed a footballer from Gambon the same opportunities as footballer from Bulgaria?

  • JimB

    “Tottenham have only got four home growns in their first team squad (funny how the media made so much of Arsenal’s “foreigners” but this issue of Tottenham’s is never mentioned)”

    ….Yes, Tony. But that doesn’t quite tell the whole story, does it? The Spurs homegrown number fails to include Deli Alli and Harry Winks (both still young enough not to be included) and Eric Dier (who, while English, doesn’t qualify on account of having received his football education in Portugal). By contrast, Arsenal’s “homegrown” players list includes two – Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin – who are not English.

    Furthermore, you have to concede that Spurs’ English contingent (and it it is Englishness that will naturally catch the attention of the media rather than the contrived technicality of homegrown-ness) has generally played a considerably more prominent and pivotal role for Spurs than Arsenal’s English players have for them over the years.

    On the subject of the numbers (and quality) of English coaches, by the way, the desperate need to improve in this respect has been recognised for a long time. Indeed, producing far more coaches of sufficient quality was always the primary intended function of St George’s Park – which was first proposed some 15 years ago.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    I think the FA homegrown policy should remain in place and not abrogated but strengthened by reviewing upward to raise the numbers of the homegrown for each Premier League clubs from 8 to 9. And that 9th player must be a natural English man who can play for any of the England teams if he’s called up. I think as it is being constituted now, this is not guaranteed. Save, if by chance a PL club has more than one natural English man player in it’s team who can be called up to play for one of the England teams. Should this be done, it will reduce the numbers of the non-homegrown to 16 in every Premier League clubs and guarantees a natural English man or men as the case may be an inclusion in every Premier League clubs.

    Because of their beliefs to be self reliant and self sufficient in players having which has led to Arsenal to established the Arsenal academy school to train young players some of whom at their very early age to thereafter churn them out as young footballers into their senior and League II squads to further develop for the ones who made the grades, Arsenal are never in danger of not filling up the numbers required in the homegrown players slot of the FA for all the 20 Premier League clubs as they have them in surpluse number.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    With the thin looking first team squad currently on ground at Man City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur for the first half of this season’s campaign, any further injury blow to Chelsea who already have Morata and Pedro on the sidelines and Man City with Aguero on the sidelines too could impact negatively on their Premier League campaign this season as their squads will become thinner won’t have depth to successfully deal with collecting all points in their PL games campaign anymore as they’ve been doing so far this season. Spurs should count themselves lucky not to be hit yet with injury blow to any of their top playing players thus far that could have affected them in their PL campaign this season,

    despite the loss of Mustafi by Arsenal to injury for a likely long spell on the sidelines, and the likely unavailability of any of Koscielny, Chambers and Debuchy at centreback for selection for their Watford PL match by this weekend, Arsenal have squad depth as their first team squad is fat but not thin to deal ruthlessly with Watford on Saturday.

  • Chris

    Say what you want, but look at Iceland and Switzerland
    When I was a kid, I remember an England-Switzerland game at Wembley, must have been 1970 or 71, maybe 72.
    The swiss managed to get a tie, I think goal by Odermatt.
    Well they flew back to Switzerland with a heroes’ welcome.
    Then, in the late 80s I witnessed a game against England in Basel which we won…I was extatic
    Right now, after winning their 9 qualifier games they would be heavily criticised for losing to England.
    Yet we have only 7.something million people of which around 25% are not swiss.

    Iceland figures are even more exterme.

    The difference between these 2 countries and England ?

    Coaching staff

    In Switzerland , in the early 90s the ASF (equivalent to the FA) decided to change its approach and started training and licencing coaches. I was coaching 6-9 year aolds and even I had to take an exam….

    We qualified for the 1966 Worldcup and then that was it. Yet already in 1962, voicies were talking of changing the organisation…it just took more then 25 years…And suddendly in 94 we were in the USA (Thank you Mr Hodgson), and since then we’ve participated quite a few times. I’d venture to say probably pretty much as often or almost as England.

    Again, 7.something million people, a SuperLeage whose whole budget (all teams together) probably is lower then 80% of PL clubs.

    And most of the players being in european championships, it is not like they play with each other week-end in and week-end out and find each other eyes closed on the pitch. We may not have a Ronaldo or Zidane, but we’ve got for example Xhaka, Shaqiri, Lichtsteiner, Frei, Rodriguez and aothers, all in all a very compact team, with around 30 players capable of being in the 23 and capable of jumping in without the team being destabilised. And they all do have a very thorough technical, tactical, physical educational background

    Then again, we’ve still got to grow and be able to manage big eight teams, manage the pressure, etc. But has been steadily getting better, year after year.

    Unless England gets seriuos about coachres, it will have a few talented players – those who would succeed without any coach because they are well, talented, and not much else. Add an injury, a momentary down and the whole team is destabilised because there are not enough players to jump in.

  • Nitram

    It’s similar to this notion that we are rubbish because we ‘lack leaders’.

    Who do they mean by that do you think?

    Leaders such as:

    Adams, Butcher, Gerrard, Lampard, Robson, Campbell, Ferdinand, Pearce, Terry, Scholes, Neville, Keown etc. etc. etc.

    And they lead us to WHAT exactly?

  • Nitram

    Sorry, that was meant for the article above.

  • Tony Justin Chinedu

    Let us vote Oliver Giroud for the Fifa puskas award. I just voted. You can vote on voting remains open till the day of the award.