Much has been made of England’s need to have as many English players in the Premier League as possible. The constant referral to statistics of Spain and Germany’s lower percentage of foreign players in their elite leagues is an easy answer for why they are more successful on an international stage. However, the true answer to why England are behind other nations internationally is that not enough English players play abroad with their career stagnating because of the Home Grown player quota English clubs must fill.

The Common Misconception

Country Competition Percentage of Foreign Players
England Premier League 69.2%
Cyprus First Division 57.1%
Belgium Jupiler Pro League 55.8%
Portugal Liga NOS 55.6%
Italy Serie A 55.5%
England Championship 50.8%
Scotland Scottish Premiership 50.5%
Luxembourg BGL Ligue 50.4%
Germany 1. Bundesliga 49.2%
Switzerland Super League 48.6%

Credit: Sky Sports

“The Premier League must limit the amount of foreign players”…”We’re being left behind Spain and Germany because we don’t have English players in the Premier League”. These are comments often thrown about to explain England’s failures but when we actually delve deeper into the matter, it is clear this is false.

When we look at the recent national team squads of Spain, Germany (World Cup Holders), France (Euro 2016 Runners Up) and Portugal (Euro 2016 Winners) it highlights the hugely flawed common arguments about English players in the Premier League. Portugal, France, Germany and Spain have all had great success in recent international football and so are a good barometer to judge where England are on the international stage.

Amount of foreign based players in the last September International Break fixture (foreign based player amount / amount of players in match day squad)
Spain = 10/23
Germany 8/23
France = 12/23
Portugal = 12*/23 *not including Adrien Silva
England = 0/23

After viewing these statistics it is clear that the English national team benefit the most from being able to select domestic-based players. Therefore, why should we complain that there aren’t enough English players in the Premier League? I find it hard to believe German fans complain that Mesut Ozil doesn’t play in Germany. Likewise with Spain and David Silva, France with Paul Pogba or Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo. So why do we, as England fans, place such importance in domesticity within our national team?

This is the common misconception amongst English fans that the only way England as a nation will improve is to ensure more English players play in the Premier League. In fact, the solution is quite the opposite. We need English players to be playing football. It doesn’t matter where in the world they play, as long as they are playing, we will improve. The almost backwardness belief of needing English players playing in England is stifling progression and the Home-Grown rule is the major reason for this.

THE SOLUTION

As shown before, most of the best players in the world do not play in their domestic league. Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar – arguably four of the best players in the world – all play abroad and have had huge successes away from their native homeland. Yet, with England, only Joe Hart in the last decade has managed to play abroad and keep his space in the England national side. Why is this? Why has only one player moved abroad to better their career?

The simple answer is because English players, specifically young English players, are being priced out of the market as English clubs have a quota to fill. Coming to prominence when Liverpool signed Jordan Henderson and Andy Carroll for a combined £55 million. These players were sold for this money as Newcastle and Sunderland knew that in order to not breach Premier League rules, they had to find a Home-Grown replacement and ensure they had no more than 17 foreign players in their squad.

The price inflation for these English players mean, now, only Premier League teams can afford them. Leading to players such as Jack Wilshere, Danny Ings, Fabian Delph and Jesse Lingard all playing far fewer minutes on the pitch than they would if they went to other European clubs to play week-in week-out. Also, until they moved clubs this summer, players such as Nathaniel Chalobah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek had spent the majority of the season on the bench, missing out on key minutes/hours of football.

Any English player who is sat on the bench next Premier League match day, or left out of the match day squad entirely, is having their development stunted by the Home Grown player quota.

“Without the Home Grown Quota, English players will be pushed back behind foreign imports”

Yes they will. But in an industry where results are key, this will benefit football clubs as they can purchase players who will benefit their side, without worrying about potential punishments because of their nationality. Clubs can now purchase players who they perceive to be good value for money and not have an obligation to purchase over-priced English players.

The knock on effect of this will then be that some English players will not play in the short-term, but they will long-term, for the good of their career as they will have to move onto wherever they feel best. If this is abroad, then that is more beneficial for English football. Minutes on the pitch is one benefit, yet the added benefits of playing in different countries, against different styles of football, in different atmospheres, will only maximise the ability of the English national team as no longer will we naively face other countries playing “the English way”. We will have players who are well versed playing against Italian defenders, against free-flowing Spanish passing or against organised German outfits, week-in week-out.

By ensuring minutes on the pitch against all styles of football, any English player who finds themselves having to move abroad to play football being greatly improved as an all round player. The Home Grown Quota on the surface protects the English integrity of the Premier League. But as time has moved on, so should this rule. Football in England will remain the most popular sport indefinitely and so why should we hinder our international side by making it impossible for our players to play football ninety minutes a week?

The Home Grown player rule must be abolished if the English national side ever want to progress on an international stage. Just let the huge English talent we have play football. Who cares if it is for Arsenal or AC Milan? Liverpool or Lyon? Just ask Argentinian, Brazillian and Portugese fans what they think about making sure their best players play domestically. I don’t think they would argue about their current state of affairs.

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I am a budding sports journalist and life-long Newcastle fan wanting to share my opinion and my passion for football across the world