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May 8, 2014

FA chairman reveals revival plans

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has set a target of increasing the number of English players in the Premier League from 32 percent to 45 percent by 2022 in his England Commission report.

Greg Dyke
Greg Dyke has outlined his proposals to improve English footballers.

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Dyke unveiled a raft of proposals at Wembley, aimed at boosting the number of English players at the top of club football, including the introduction of B teams in a new "League Three," overhauling the work permit system and increasing the number of homegrown players in squads.

The target, which includes increasing the number of English players playing regularly in the Premier League from 66 currently to 90 by the year 2022, was described as "ambitious but realistic" by Dyke.

The report states: "There should be 90 English players playing over 50 percent of minutes in the Premier League (or any other top five European league) compared with 66 today -- of these, 30 should be playing in the top six teams in the Premier League compared with the 18 today.

"This is still lower than the figures being achieved in Germany and Spain today but it would take English football back to a figure last achieved in 2000."

The most controversial proposal is establishing a new League Three in 2016-17 made up of 10 Premier League B teams and 10 from the Conference. Of the B team squad, 19 of the 25 should be under the age of 21, and 20 of the 25 should qualify for the homegrown rule and no non-EU players allowed.

Many clubs at the top and bottom of the professional game have already expressed deep reservations about that plan.

In terms of homegrown players allowed in each Premier League squad, the Commission recommends a phased reduction in the number of non-homegrown players in top-flight squads from 17 to 12 -- starting in 2016-17 and reaching that target by 2021.

In terms of work permits, the Commission proposes a cap of two non-EU players per squad, and that no players on overseas visas should be allowed to play below the Premier League, nor loaned to any other club in England.

Dyke said: "This decline is a problem in countries right across Europe but is a significantly bigger problem in England than anywhere else -- and if the trend continues, we fear for the future of the English team. If this cannot be reversed, a future England manager will have fewer and fewer top level English players from which to choose."

England manager Roy Hodgson said: "I welcome the proposals and I know that the chairman -- and indeed everyone who is passionate about English football -- would strongly advocate the findings and recommendations. We all have a responsibility when called to answer the question: 'How can we provide a better platform for the young England players of the future?'"

Dyke also announced a proposal for the development of "strategic loan partnerships" between a club in the Premier League or Championship and another club in the lower leagues.

Dyke said that Liverpool, the two Manchester clubs, Stoke and Tottenham had all expressed interest in the plan for B teams in a new league.

He said: "There is a lot of interest and enthusiasm from the big clubs for this. Liverpool, the Manchester clubs, Stoke, Tottenham -- they have no problems with me mentioning them on this -- so quite a lot of clubs recognise the problem they have got.

"The evidence from clubs combined with our own investigations is the lack of playing opportunities for young English players aged between 18 and 21. Many of the clubs we spoke to called this the 'Bermuda Triangle' or 'black hole' of English football.

"The gap between the academy and the first team has widened significantly in 20 years. A B team is distinct from a feeder club -- it is part of that club and, as a result of having B teams, 18- to 21-year-old Spanish players play two-and--a-half times more competitive football than their English counterparts."

Following the publication of the report, Labour's Shadow Minister for Sport, Clive Efford, said: "This report focuses the majority of its attention at elite player development -- but without improving facilities and the quality of coaching at the grass roots throughout our communities, this will all come to nothing.

"At a time when the wealth in the game has been growing at an eye-watering rate investment in grassroots has been going down. This cannot continue and the FA and the Premier League cannot continue to get away with this."

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