Thursday, 8 May 2014

Sport: The FA Hate The Lower Leagues

The FA today revealed a number of proposals to help boost the England football team, as they "have a duty of care for English football and not just to football played in England." That said, with these proposals they seem to have completely ignored the latter in order to further the national team.

18-21 Development

B Teams

Yesterday Danny Mills said that a 'B Team League is not on the agenda'. Although he was technically correct the report contains the suggestion to create 'League Three' with ten conference teams, and ten B teams from teams in the Premier League. So, while these ten teams get to further the development of their youngsters with competitive football effectively at conference level, the rest are surely going to fall behind still playing in an U21 League that allegedly isn't doing its job. I assume this league would continue to operate, but without a lot of its best talent - which would hamper the players left. All of this for a hypothetical 9 extra English players per-season.

The report suggests that playing in front of 'real crowds' against 'older players' who rely on the league for a pay packet would benefit the players involved. It's an awfully cynical way to exploit grafters in the conference, but not wholly unsurprising. I thought one of the ideas of the current loan system was for exactly that purpose, and has the added bonus of not playing your home games in front of a half empty stadium - even Barcelona B have only had an average attendance of 4,000 people this year. Admittedly a lot more than the U21 League, but also very similar to League Two.

These B Teams also wouldn't be able to go above League One, which to me seems counter-productive. Surely players at this level aren't good enough to go straight into a Premier League team, and would still need more time out on loan in the Championship. Or, alternatively, be able to play against bigger clubs in the FA/League Cup in order to get bigger match experience. Something also not allowed.

I can see that having a B Team can be beneficial to the teams who have them. The players would be able to train at high-class facilities, have the best nutritional advice, and have much better coaches, alongside being able to learn the ethos of the parent side. I just wonder if it's worth it for all the other teams.

As part of this there is the commitment to supporting financial stability among the lower leagues. This is pretty much the only good reason I can think of for B Teams for those that wouldn't directly benefit, but they could make these kind of commitments without ruining the league structure.

Strategic Loan Partnerships

SLPs have the potential to be mightily beneficial, but again at the potential expense of competitive football in the lower leagues. I'm not sure whether teams would be able to have a B Team and enter into an SLP - and even larger teams may not have enough players for that. We would start to see a similar situation as that between Watford and Udinese on a far more regular basis. Teams would be allowed to field five players from their parents team, and take eight on loan at any one time.

This is slightly better than the B Teams. It doesn't require the restructuring of the league system if implemented by itself, but still has a few of the same downfalls. Also it's not entirely clear what would happen if one of these teams were to get promoted into the Championship, or conversely if one of the parent clubs got relegated.

Regulating Foreign Players

Homegrown Players

Homegrown player rules are quickly becoming the norm, with player caps already implemented in almost all leagues across Europe. However the FA want to reduce the number of non-Home Grown Players from 17 to 12. Which would obviously mean that over half of a 25 man squad would be Home Grown - although not necessarily English. Plus four 'Club Trained' players. Allegedly United, Munich, Barcelona, and Real Madrid would all have met these requirements easily, but many clubs in Europe use a different model than the Premier League clubs who try picking up every talented player they can get their hands on. Home Grown quotas seem to be where the game's heading, and they're not overly invasive unless pushed to their extreme.

Non-EU Players

Where I disagree with the FA most is on the subject of non-EU players. They suggest that there should be no non-EU players below the Premier League, with only two being allowed in any PL club. I don't think a cap is particularly bad but lower leagues not being allowed to bring in players from outside of the European Union seems like it could create problems when teams come up, as well as being horribly patronising to those not in the top level. It would be interesting to see what happens when teams with non-EU players are relegated, as the check is only at the time of being granted a work permit I assume they're allowed to stay on with the club. However, it's also a bad thing for the Premier League, one widely regarded as being the best in the world, if it had to compromise on the talent in the league to benefit the England team.

Previous FA reforms have harmed teams in the lower leagues. For example, the EPPP only truly benefits those in the top category, who can pick up players on the cheap. The Premier League is a huge asset, and I just hope that the league isn't ruined by the FA trying to further a national team that's never going to be world beaters anyway. These are only half of the proposals with the rest to come later in the year, but there's going to be a lot of opposition already.

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