Steve Parish, the Crystal Palace chairman has this week spoken out over the EPPP and the new rules which will soon come into force, stating that it is a ‘brazen attempt’ to help the wealthy elite comply with UEFA’s home grown rule. Well I have to say, that on the surface Steve seems entirely correct.
I am fully aware that in the past I have been critical of FIFA, UEFA and the likes, and especially of the home grown rule, stating that there is little point to it, because of the loopholes involved in the rule – Fabregas qualifying as a home grown player for Arsenal pretty much says it all here – and with the EPPP now set to abolish the 60 minute rule (where the club’s academy can only recruit youngsters within a 60 minute radius) and now most top clubs will be able to implement a nationwide policy, allowing them to cherry pick youngsters from the Football league clubs to join their top academy’s. Oh, and another thing – gone will be the tribunal system and a fixed compensation scheme will take its place – one suspects this again will favour the elitist clubs.
Whilst United academy manager Brian McClair is more than happy to talk up the system, saying it is the only way we can keep up with our European counterparts – most notably the Spanish who’s youth system, especially at Barcelona, has produced the likes of Fabregas, Pique, Messi, Xavi and Iniesta – and without the new EPPP rules, they would have no chance.
Yet it does just seem like a thinly veiled attempt to favour the elite clubs – 22 of the football league clubs voted against the new proposals due to the fear of the ‘top’ clubs now being able to poach their talent easier than ever before.
A class one academy – such as United or Chelsea – will, under the EPPP rules, be allowed to attend any training ground session to watch a potential prospect providing they give 48 hour’s notice. Well as Parish rightly points out, it is like letting lions into the petting zoo or indeed Balotelli into a firework shop and such easy access is quite frankly ludicrous. What chance do football league clubs have of holding on to these players?
The Premier League however will have you believe that they are in actual fact doing the football league clubs a favour with the new fixed compensation structure, removing the uncertainty of ‘unearthing a gem’ and giving a fixed income which would in their calculations, take the income of the clubs who were involved in 125 deals over the last four years from £17 million to £25million.
Whether this will ring true is anyone’s guess, and it has to be said that the argument of trying to keep up with Europe’s elite does not ring entirely true here – Barcelona when playing United’s under 16’s had three players from Africa and one from Argentina – well they are not from anywhere in Spain, and when you think of their Academy’s greatest triumph of recent years – Messi – again not a Spanish international.
The EPPP is clearly about allowing the best of the English crop of young players to move to the top Premier League clubs and be able to register as home grown. Even the way the Football League agreed to the proposals is typical of the FA – in the same weekend that the Premier League agreed to increase parachute payments and provide solidarity money for the football league they were ‘informed’ of the EPPP scheme and their anticipated support in exchange for the afore mentioned proposals.
I have to say I fully agree with Parish when he says that the gulf between the football league and top clubs – or even the gap between the top few and the rest in the premier league will widen, and all to allow our elite clubs an easy ride when it comes to home grown registration of players. To say this is about the English national team is a downright lie. Since when have Fergie or any of the top managers or even players in their clubs – think Gerrard here – put their country before their club? They do not. At least if the FA manned up and called the EPPP proposals what they are people may have a modicum of respect for them. As it is, they have attempted to disguise yet another way to benefit the league’s elite.