Yet every time Thomas Frank chooses which of his players he will be include in a match day squad of 18 (that’s 11 starters and 7 subs) he has to follow those rules.
We asked new BU board member David Anderson, @DavidAnderson_1, who understands these things, to help explain who can and can’t appear on the team sheet and what it means for clubs like ours and for English football. Here’s his article:
In December 2008, Football League clubs voted overwhelmingly in support of a decision that would begin to shape the construction of all members’ future match day playing squads.
They agreed to implement a ‘Home Grown player’ quota with the idea being to vastly improve the quantity of players produced via the English Football System.
The arrival of ‘Home Grown’.
The first quota agreed upon, back in 2008, was that 25% (4 out of 16) of players in a match day squad must qualify as Home Grown, commencing season 2009-10. So what exactly is a ‘Home Grown’ player? I’ve set out the full rules at the end of this article but in summary it is a player who has been registered with an English or Welsh club for three seasons before he is 21.
As the match day squad size has increased so has the requirement for such players. So when the squad size went from 16 to 18 in 2011-12, the Home Grown player requirement increased from 4 to 6 players.
Then it was decided to make the number even higher so for the commencement of season 2017-18, the proportion of Home Grown players per match day squad in the EFL rose to 7 out of 18 players and that’s where we currently reside.
With this recent rise to 7, came a new twist.
Enter ‘Club Developed’
From the start of season 2018-19 ‘Club Developed Players’ entered the vernacular, and although similar in sound, there are significant differences to that of a ‘Home Grown Player’. And thus became the most radical amendmentso far to match day squads in recent times.
Where a Home Grown player could be registered to any number of clubs during the 3 years period prior to his 21st birthday, a Club Developed Player ensures more responsibility is placed upon the clubs to themselves facilitate an environment of development.
A Club Developed Player is defined as: “A player who has been registered with their current team for at least 12 months prior to the end of their U19 season”.This is a significant shift in the level of importance diverted back towards clubs to develop genuine pathways for their own young players. The EFL also came up with a match day penalty to try to make sure this new rule was followed. Where any Club does not name a Club Developed Player on the Team Sheet, that Club will only be permitted to name up to six substitutes not the full seven.
Underpinning all of this is a focus on trying to improve the England National team. Recent years have seen an increase in talent pools for the England Manager to select from, with the number of young English players playing regular football for clubs on the rise, but this has been a separate success as the wording in the rules is not specifically designed to only promote English or British Youth.
The significance of Fabregas and Mogensen
Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal, Chelsea and Barcelona fame is a high profile example as a Spanish player who would qualify as both Club Developed and in turn a Home Grown player if he were to return to play for Arsenal this summer and they were superficially relegated to the EFL. Recent Brentford B-team signing, 17 year old Gustav Mogensen will also soon qualify as a Club Developed player. Signed for an undisclosed fee, the large investment in his age group could be brushed off as good old early talent identification but also pre-empting any future amendments to the current rules.
The implication for ‘clubs like Brentford’
It’s more likely than not that the EFL will look to increase the required number of Club Developed players per match day squad in the near future, making the development paths mentioned earlier even more imperative. Well stocked academies covering players of ages that Brentford FC have now ceased to hold has always felt like a numbers game. A club could have 100 players between the ages of 9-18 under their umbrella, with the hope that one of two will make it all the way in the style of Roy at Rovers FC. But with low odds and a huge amount of risk due to individual, internal and external factors, projecting a 10 year player pathway is with the best intentions, a football lottery.
Said talented player could be poached by a bigger, rival club. Growth related injury can occur where as a first team manager completely uninterested in youth can also be an internal negating factor to a player deciding to, or not to sign professional terms, so with all this in mind, the continued monitoring of a player, analysing and assisting them through years of football academia and ready for first team deployment is an expensive and near impossible task.
The smarter money laid out on the table may be to invest a percentage of transfer budgets into the age group of 17-18, when more evidenced based information and data relating to a player is available to a club. That information can then be partnered with, for example, a bespoke specific 2 year route to the cusp of the first team, carrying less risk on investment.
The leg work here is effectively being left to another club’s system with the purchasing club of the 18 year old earning themselves a Club Developed and Home Grown player, well within the rules as they currently stand. It seems a more targeted approach, especially from a B-Team perspective, and is going a fair way to levelling out the playing field and smoothing out old academy inefficiencies as the biggest clubs can no longer offer their young players the guarantees that their careers won’t stagnate and stall.
And what about Brexit
The impact of the Brexit vote may complicate things further here, with the freedom of movement and transfer of players sure to come under scrutiny, but a Club Developed player, at this stage, can be of any nationality, the player just has to have come through the parent club’s own system. Everyone is universally suffering from Brexit fatigue but you do start to get a picture of how complicated the fallout from the referendum vote may prove to be to Sport, not to mention the predicted negative impact on anything sociological or economically vested. The detail here is tricky with a nuance that’s easily missed, misinterpreted or even misused.
Any other problems?
At this stage there’s no obvious public EFL database of players that do or do not qualify with no tracking system for holding clubs to account. Manually going back and reviewing match day squads with a list of signing dates and player birthdays appears to be the order, a task akin to counting on an abacus. The EFL are not known for tactile, but instead as a cumbersome organisation, with a seemingly back to front thinking style in the way rules are implemented, an almost after the fact nature.
Shaun Harvey, the outgoing EFL CEO, has been a hugely controversial figurehead for the largest body of professional clubs in European Football. Leaving his post at the end of the 2018-19 season, Harvey will also leave behind the calamity of degrading the JPT Trophy through the introduction of Premier League B-Teams, a smear on his legacy that will unfortunately never wipe clean.
However by overseeing the implementation of the “Club Developed Player”, Harvey has planted the seeds that will reap benefits that we’re yet not even aware of and visible long after his departure. For that he does deserve continued applause. If delivered correctly, the EFL has the chance, alongside member clubs, to create a more sustainable football environment, with youth at the forefront of all future strategy conversations.
Let’s hope that with this great power that they’re fully up to the task.
If you’d like the full details of the rules here they are:
Section 5 of The EFL’s rules and regulations currently defines a “Home Grown Player” from Rule 33.8 onwards, as:
“Home Grown Player”
33.8 Each Club shall be required to nominate a minimum of seven Home Grown Players on their Team Sheet of Players for all League Competition Matches (including Play Off Matches).
33.9 irrespective of his nationality or age, has been registered with:-
33.9.1 his current Club; and/or
33.9.2 a Club and/or any other football club affiliated to the Football Association or the Football Association of Wales, for a period, continuous or not of three Seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the Season during which he turns 21). For the purposes of this definition of Home Grown Player only, a Season will be deemed to commence on the date on which the Summer Transfer Window in that Season closes (including the Extended Period) and expire on the date of the final League Match of the Season.
Section 5 of The EFL’s rules and regulations further clarifies application and implication in Rule 33.11
33.11 Club Developed Players. Subject to Regulation 33.12, with the effect from the commencement of the 2018/19 Season each Club shall be required to nominate at least one Club Developed Player on their Team Sheet of Players for all League Competition Matches (including Play Off Matches).Section 5 also includes:
Rule 33.13 For the avoidance of doubt, the same Player may qualify as a Home Grown Player and a Club Developed Player for the purposes of this Regulation 33.