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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Dec 7, 2007

English game in crisis over foreigners - PFA

English football is in crisis due to a worrying drop in the number of young players coming through the system, according to a report commissioned by the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA).

The PFA have called on the Premier League to bring in a new rule so that every team has at least three home-grown players - but of any nationality - on the pitch at any time in order to reverse the trend.

The players' union says clubs are blocking the path of young players by looking for a quick fix and bringing in cheap foreign internationals.

The report, called 'Meltdown', says in 1992-3, 71% of top-flight players were English while last season that had dropped to 38%.

It also shows that since the Academy system began, only 120 English players from academies have made debuts in the Premier League. During the same time, 617 overseas players have made debuts in the top flight.

The report states: 'The bottom line is a very simple one. Older, ready-made foreign players are blocking young English players' path into the Premier League.'

Last season, only eight English academy players made Premier League debuts.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor told PA Sport: 'It is a crisis - we commissioned this report before England had failed to qualify for Euro 2008 because we could see which way the wind was blowing.

'We have reached a situation where when a few England players are injured, their places are taken by others who are not even first-choice for their clubs.

'We are not objecting to clubs bringing in young foreign players to their academies, because at least there is a level playing field there for young English players.

'We are saying though that we need to encourage youth development so that home-grown players irrespective of nationality have a better chance.

'Premier League clubs demand instant success and do not have the desire or the will to introduce youngsters - and in many cases even the bench is full of foreign players bought in for a quick fix.'

Taylor said the only option was to force clubs to pick young players by changing the rules.

He added: 'UEFA have a rule that eight players in the 25-man squad for European club competitions must be home-grown.

'We would like to extend that so at least three or four in the team, irrespective of nationality, have come through the club's development programme.'

Arsenal have more foreign first-team players than any other in the Premier League but Taylor insisted the report was not an attack on the Gunners.

He said: 'Arsene Wenger is a manager you cannot help but admire and it is not his job to look after the interests of the England team.

'We have no issue with him bringing in young players from abroad such as Cesc Fabregas - at least in the Arsenal academy there is a level playing field for the young English players.'

The report shows the number of English players in the Premier League has almost halved since it started in 1992, and there has also been a huge fall in the number of players from the other home nations.

The figures do show however that the number of English players in the top flight has remained much the same for the last five seasons, and even increased slightly.

Gianluca Vialli, the Italian who was the first manager to pick an entirely foreign XI when he was Chelsea boss, said managers are blind to players' nationalities - but English players cost the earth.

Vialli said: 'The sheer price of English players is the main turn-off.

'Shaun Wright-Philips is worth £20million because he's English. If he were, say, Portuguese, he'd cost a quarter of that.

'The scarcity of English talent, coupled with the belief that they are less of a risk in terms of adaptability, is what drives their price through the roof.'

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