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By ESPN Staff
Aug 7, 2007

PFA back suggestions of a domestic Under-21

The Professional Football Association have backed suggestions of a domestic Under-21 league to help develop more homegrown talent.

Replacing the current reserve league was one of the recommendations in Richard Lewis' report into youth football which is currently being assessed in detail by the Football Association and the Premier League.

'There has been a demise in reserve-team football, which was always a breeding ground for young talent to mix with the older players out of the team,' said Gordon Taylor, PFA chief executive.

'There was a good blend of players for the learning process but it is no longer doing that and there is a vacuum where a player would be lost to the game if they don't make it by 18 or 19.

'We'd want to support any new initiative that would help our development programme because if we don't we're going to be the richest football country with the highest crowds but an international record down in the doldrums.

'We are now becoming a finishing school for the rest of the world.'

Increasing the percentage of British talent has been highlighted recently by former FA executive director David Davies, with England's lack of success at major tournaments in direct contrast with the growth of the Premier League.

A quota system for homegrown players in Champions League squads was initially met with resistance before the changes were passed by UEFA.

'When the support wasn't there, you wonder what voluntary criteria there would be,' added Taylor. 'We would suggest not just in the squad but on the field of play.

'One of the problem is that security of managers is so vulnerable there is no time to bring the player into the team.'

Another problem is the definition of a homegrown player, which could mean a foreign player trained by the club from an early age.

Sports lawyer Mel Goldberg believes bringing a quota system into the Premier League could be problematic.

'It's a very difficult thing to enforce, even if FIFA want to bring it in,' he said. 'They would have problems bringing it in unless they argue that football is a special case.'

The PFA feel there are other areas which could help the national team, with Taylor adding: 'The FA have to be strong enough to say 'we should be introducing a midwinter break in line with other countries so the players have some energy left at the end of the season'.'

Taylor also acknowledges the impact on foreigners raising the level of quality in the Premier League but also feels there has to be focus on developing players.

He added: 'Foreign managers have good contacts in their own countries and that is exacerbated by foreign owners whose first priority is the club and would have no special priority that players would come through.'