Premier League strong-arm tactics on academy plans: depressing and inevitable

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Earlier this year this year I wrote about the Premier League’s proposals for an Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP). The Premier League’s view was that this would help to centralise the best talent in England at the best clubs, and this would be better for the England national team. Hooray! Who says the Premier League is a heartless demon created in hell by Rupert Murdoch designed to fleece us to death for the simple pleasure of watching football? This all sounds very altruistic, although the sentiment was slightly undermined by their plan to withdraw academy funding for football league clubs if they dared vote against the plans. Ah, of course, money; not the most subtle of persuasive tactics, but one that is proven to succeed.

For the football league clubs, it was like having a menacing arm around their collective shoulder. Before they knew it, they were being walked towards a scary looking alleyway, listening to the Premier League’s non negotiable pitch, “Look, I’m trying to do you a favour, this looks good for you, so be a good boy, and take the money” which, of course, is exactly what they have done. Sigh.

Here’s an edited recap on why these plans are awful:

  • As is usual, fans of football league clubs get screwed. Under these proposals, the chances of seeing a genuine star talent emerge at a smaller club are massively reduced. It was already a rare event, it will almost never happen under these proposals. Clubs will scout younger players much more aggressively if they know the fees for acquiring a teenager are unlikely to be much more than £100k.
  • Premier League squads are already huge, but only 25 players can be registered for first team action. Managers are not going to give unproven young players a squad number, so we get an expansion of the loan circus whereby young Premier League players are rotated around football league clubs until they can prove their worth. What evidence is there that this is the best way to develop talent?
  • It is not a universal truth that to be a good player you have to start your first team career at one of the league’s biggest clubs. Good players will get to the top eventually. What is harder to quantify is how much players will benefit from gaining some first team football before moving to a bigger club. Look at recent call ups to the England squad: Joe Hart (Shewsbury); Ashley Young (Watford); Theo Walcott (Southampton); Adam Johnson (Middlesbrough); Darren Bent (Ipswich); Phil Jagielka (Sheffield United); Scott Parker (Charlton Athletic); Leighton Baines (Wigan Athletic).
  • In the other corner: Harry Forrester and John Bostock. Both were very highly rated at their original clubs (Bostock made his debut for Palace aged 15), but both left before they had signed professional terms. A quick Google search will show you how much they have featured since.
  • And finally, this further entrenches the dominance of the clubs with the most resources, and that is most definitely not a dominance that needs further entrenching. Seriously, how much more power does the Premier League need, and why should we believe for one second that they have the national team’s best interests at heart?

“It has become all about resources. Clubs can now buy so many players that 10 or 20 guys who could be top players elsewhere cannot play.” Johan Cruyff

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One Response to Premier League strong-arm tactics on academy plans: depressing and inevitable

  1. Absolutely spot on…very well put!

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