Platini has recently been quoted in several leading newspapers saying that he wants to impose rules which would mean half of the 18 man match day squad would need to be ‘home grown.‘ The European Comission have already blocked a move to limit the number of foreign players in a team to five but Platini remains confident they UEFA and the EC can work something out stating, “we understand the Commission’s position but still want to try to protect the local identity of clubs. We have studied this more carefully and have now come up with the idea of nine-plus-nine…”
Currently a team must have 8 home grown players in its 25 man squad, of which players such as Gael Kakuta or Alex Song count as home grown as they have spent over 36 months in the UK prior to turning 21. Having only been implemented last season it is difficult to say how succesful the rules will turn out to be, but with teams like Chelsea filling the quota with players like Ross Turnball who are unlikely to feature it appears that at the moment the rules are easily circumvented without it effecting teams starting line ups.
In theory the 9+9 rule is a noble idea, Platini wants to protect the local identity of teams which in the modern day is arguably being lost. Sides like Chelsea and Manchester City who have seen an influx of foreign money come in have at times neglected their home grown stars in favour of some of the continent’s highest profile players. The problem with foreign players is arguably worst in the Premierleague where only 40% of players were English in the 2009-2010 season compared to 77% of players being in La Liga being Spanish during the same year, something that La Liga President Jose Luis Astiazaran believes is diminishing England’s chances of national team glory. Spending less on foreign stars and looking to develop the best young ‘home grown’ talent would thus in theory help improve England’s chances of national team success.
Can It Work?
First and foremost clubs will be incredibly hesitant to agree to a rule which would make them less competitive as well as to such excessive UEFA interference in their day to day running. There have already been grumblings this year from European Clubs Association chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who has implied that the ECA clubs (a collection of Europe’s biggest clubs) could break off and form a European Super Leagueif they continued to be ill treated by FIFA and UEFA.
In practice the rules are some what farcical as the players do not need to be youth products of say Chelsea or City, they can be English players brought in from others clubs. In this instance, the richest teams would most likely buy up all the best English talent for way above premium. This has already began to happen as can be seen by the huge sums Manchester United have paid to bring in Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, and Liverpool have paid to bring in Jordon Henderson and Andy Carroll. In fact in the 2011 summer transfer window Premierleague clubs spent £165 million on English player which accounted for roughly 34% of the total spending. The reason for this transfer flurry is as Deloitte allude to because of a tightening of UEFA regulation.
In England it also wouldn’t change the culture of bringing in youngsters from abroad as Chelsea have done, famously with Kakuta, and as Arsenal have also done for a while with the likes of Alex Song or Cesc Fabregas. These youngsters technically count as being home grown, as previously stated, despite the fact that they are not English. A hardening of ‘home grown’ rules would mean that the richest European clubs would increasingly look to monopolize the best young talent from abroad at the expense of the smaller clubs. For example like Chelsea did to Lens with regards to their signing of the aforementioned Gael Kakuta, where they not only procured the players services through questionable means but also paid significantly less than they should have for him.
In the context of English football it is through the Premierleague and not through UEFA that youth development problems are being addressed. The ’90 minute rule’ has been scrapped and there are plans to make sure that the best young players get 10,000 hours of coaching before they are 21 rather than the 3700 they are receiving at the moment. This revamp of youth development set to take place in England will begin in the 2012-13 season and is sure to have a significant impact on bringing through the best young talent. A ‘9+9’ rule whilst offering more playing time to youngsters and giving an obvious incentive for clubs to invest in youth development will not make young players better over night. However with a revamp of youth development and the ‘9+9’ rule ensuring youngsters get more playing time it is likely to have a positive effect on the English game, albeit not in the short to medium term.
It should be noted that in some leagues, notably the Ukrainian Premierleague, quotas already exist. Clubs in Ukraine are not allowed to have more than 7 foreign players on the pitch at one time. There is also talk about tightening the rule to only allow 6 foreigners to start at one time. There has been significant opposition to the quota in some quarters. Clubs claim they cannot compete in Europe as a result of the quota (something that would be remedied if all leagues were subject to the same rule). One side Metalurh Donetsk even threatened legal action over the rules claiming that Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Kiev, the two richest clubs bought all the best young Ukrainian talent forcing other clubs to look abroad, or play Ukrainian players who are simply not of the same standard as Shakhtar’s or Kiev’s young players.
It is difficult to say how effective the quota has been in improving the game in Ukraine. The two big sides as stated swallow up the best young players making it difficult for other sides to compete due to their increased financial muscle. Shakhtar’s high spending was certainly a contributory factor in their UEFA Cup win in 2009. Shakhtar’s side only featured 3 Ukrainian players with their quota not applying in Europe. With this in mind, and the relative lack of improvement in the national side since the introduction of the rule,as well as the dominance of the big two clubs it seems that the quota was not the answer for Ukraine and the same problems would likely persist if implemented elsewhere.
With regards to the ‘9+9’ rule being implemented internationally, it is unlikely that the ECA would agree to such a ruling especially in the context that as stated they are already unhappy with UEFA and FIFA over corruption and releasing players to friendlies. It is also unlikely that the European Commission would agree to a rule that is perceived to violate its rules on freedom of labour. In its current format the rule probably wont materialize but after a UEFA summit next month which will discuss the future of the game it is possible that a derivative of the rule will be proposed.