A ridiculous football ruling that has had no desired effect in England

In football there are things people are very passionate about, and things they could not care less about. Apart from the team you support the things that really get you talking differ from person to person depending on what’s had the biggest effect on their club in the past. Chelsea fans could be forgiven for holding rather strong opinions on goal line technology after Garcia’s dubious goal likewise with Liverpool fans and beach balls on the pitch! Whatever the issue be prepared for it to be rivalled by the sheer ineffectiveness of the 25 man rule.

A more ridiculous rule I do not know of. Before writing this article, I must confess, whilst I knew about the rule, I had not really investigated it fully, and it was something that I just accepted and didn’t really question. Now however, I am left shaking my head at the sheer uselessness of it – Theo Walcott at the 2006 world cup was more effective.

In short the ruling means clubs cannot have a squad larger than 25 men, and 8 of these have to be ‘home grown.’ Before the issue of being home grown is considered, let’s firstly take a look at the 25 man limit.

On the surface this can be seen to stop big money clubs like Manchester City from stockpiling players and keeping world class players firstly out of the hands of their rivals and secondly stop them from being able to keep a player happy on the bench on a huge wage packet – now they have to be kept happy suited and booted in the stands instead.

A nice idea in theory, yet teams playing in the UCL – ie the very teams this rule is aimed at – already have to abide by a similar rule, which has been in place for more than 10 years. When the rule was introduced, only 3 premier league clubs were over the 25 man limit anyway – Bolton (27) Wolves (28) and shockingly, newly rich boys City (31). Yet that summer each club brought in new players, so stockpiling really didn’t stop.

All three club managers were then left with the situation of having to omit quality players from their squad – being able to loan them to football league clubs or indeed just make them sit in the stands during match day. Mancini took a novel approach and decided to ostracise certain players and the reserves became their new home – think Bellamy etc.

So it did not stop teams from adding to the amount of players they had at all – and very few were over the 25 man limit anyway. Managers like Jose Mourinho will strictly insist of a small squad – two world class players for each position – which whilst provides competition for places, does not breed discontent nor have the club over run with unhappy players who have no chance of playing.

A huge aim of the rule was, as stated, to end the stockpiling of players by the bigger clubs, yet this rule only focuses on players over the age of 21. Therefore clubs are now simply stockpiling younger players – and poaching them from other clubs is a favourite way of doing this – think Kakuta and Chelsea.

Players who are under the age of 21 are bought by the clubs are eligible to play regardless of the 25 man rule, and are mostly kept on the bench or in the reserves as they have little to no chance of making the senior squads. Surely this is something that needs to be addressed before imposing a somewhat irrelevant limit on squads?

The rule has come in for strong criticism from Premier League managers, with Wenger and Redknapp being the first to make their feelings known on the matter. Redknapp makes the point that whilst the ruling attempts to encourage the introduction of home-grown young talent, if the players were good enough, they would come through regardless of the rule, and would then be at a club because of their talent, not just to make up the ruling or comply to FA rules as a token who has no chance of playing, yet could have the opportunity somewhere else.

Wenger took a slightly stronger stance, and called the rule ‘a disastrous decision for football’, and for one of the first times I am compelled to agree with Mr Wenger.

The 25 man limit is bad enough, but when you add in the ‘home grown’ element, the farce continues. A player is counted as being ‘home grown’ if between the ages of 16 – 21 he has spent three years training at an English or Welsh club. The rule means that a player such as Cesc Fabregas would qualify as home grown,  a SPANISH international, whereas someone like Owen Hargreaves, an ENGLISH international, would not due to spending his youth abroad.

Not only this but the development of a young player could now be seriously disrupted by them being thrust into the first team squad when they are no-where near ready for it. The effects of this are potentially disastrous, with their morale and confidence possibly being shattered, amongst other things.

It also forces managers to have to either use the place of another player for a young home grown player should they not reach the 8 player target or face having a smaller squad. For smaller clubs with less of a budget they potentially have to pass over the signing of a quality foreign player and buy a home grown player for more money who possesses less ability.

Again the bigger clubs still have the advantage, and can afford to pay both top prices for the young players and tempt them with huge wage packets. Smaller clubs may actually be in a worse position with regards to having young English players in their squad than before the ruling because of this.

The issue of poaching youngsters is something that has long been in the modern game, yet will only increase with this ruling. If a club can get their hands on a young player and train them up for three years they will then count as home grown and can be one of their 8. How this helps young English talent remains to be seen.

In a further own goal by the FA, the rule does not actually mean that there is a minimum or maximum number of home grown players you have to have, this is the part of the rule that is often misinterpreted – what the rule actually states is that you can name 17 players who are not home grown. In theory therefore a squad of 17 non home grown players could be named.

We can all remember the first time Wenger fielded a team consisting of no English players and the furore that surrounded this, yet he could still do this with his entire 25 man squad if he wished, as long as the 8 players in the ‘home grown’ category had spent 3 years before they turned 21 in England.

The FA would tell you that the definition of ‘home grown’ has to be that way due to EU protections, and that is fair enough yet they cannot then use the excuse that the reason for the rule is to help young English players when it clearly is not.

Clearly both the 25 man limit and the definition of ‘home grown’ have not had the impact the FA desired, yet what do you think of the rule? Am I wrong? Is it a good one? Comment below or follow me on twitter @RebeccaKnight01


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