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Proposed FA regulations could drastically alter Villa youth policies

If the FA have their way, English clubs could be subject to far more stringent home grown player rules.

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Aston Villa are not a significant player in the international transfer market. Yes some of their biggest stars (Christian Benteke, Ron Vlaar, Leandro Bacuna, and Carles Gil, for example) come from outside of England, but the club have had to make enough small deals lately that they have plenty of home grown talent. As a result, we haven't had to spend any time discussing whether or not the club's roster construction would be at issue with FA home grown player regulations. But the definition of what exactly is home grown could change if FA Chairman Greg Dyke has his way.

Currently a club must have at least eight players on its twenty-five man roster be home grown. That term means that they are players who have been registered with FA or FAW (the Welsh FA) clubs for at least three years before their 21st birthday, regardless of the players nationality. You can see the sense in the term. These are players who have had their formative years in England, and are thus grown here at home. For the most part, these players are actually English as well.

If Dyke has his way, however, both the number of home grown players as well as their ages will change. According to a post on the FA's website, Dyke is seeking:

  • A change in the definition of home grown player to any player, irrespective of their nationality, who has been registered with any club affiliated to The FA or Football Association of Wales (FAW) for a period of three years prior to the player's 18th birthday (currently the definition states a home grown player has to be registered with The FA or FAW for three years before their 21st birthday).
  • A reduction in the maximum number of non-home grown players permitted in a club's first team squad of 25 from 17 to 13, phased over four years from 2016. This would have the effect of ensuring that in a squad of 25, 12 players would have to be home grown.

To sum up, if the proposal passes players must have spent three years with English or Welsh clubs before they turn eighteen and teams are required to have at least twelve home grown players on their rosters. Should this happen, Dyke and the FA hope to see the changes fully phased in by the 2019-2020 season.

Those are some pretty drastic changes. Now teams need to be looking for players who have been in English or Welsh systems since they were at least fourteen, and they need to be making more room in their rosters for these players. Stephen Schmidt at We Ain't Got No History points out that with the new TV money about to be injected into the Premier League, this would artificially inflate the prices of English youth players and make them impossible buys for all but the most wealthy of continental clubs.

And that sort of defeats Dyke's stated purpose of getting young English talent more first-team playing time. The whole point of the home grown player rule is to help give English players more chances so that the English national team can be better than it is. If English clubs are forced to stock up on home grown players simply to fulfill an obligation while they have better non-home-grown options to play, those English youth will waste away on the benches of the Premier League. The artificial inflation of their prices will remove the option of going to other European clubs where these young players would get regular playing time simply because those clubs would be priced out.

An additional impact would be a change in English valuation of foreign-born players. Say you spy a great Spanish prospect who hasn't (somehow) been snatched up by Barcelona or one of the Madrids. As things stand now, you can wait until that player is 17 and bring them into your system to have them qualify for home grown status. The new regulations would mean the cutoff date is 14. A 14-year-old player is a much bigger risk than is a 17-year-old, and English clubs are going to be less likely to scout for youth outside of the island.

Here at Aston Villa, it's likely that a strong academy that's already in place would help to make the transition a little more easy than it will be at many clubs. At the beginning of this season, Villa's 25-man squad contained sixteen home-grown players. Thanks to ending contracts, though, at least three of those (Tom Cleverley, Chris Herd, and Darren Bent) are likely to be gone over the summer. Then we're just one above the new limit. And while the changes wouldn't be an issue now, if a new owner does come in any time soon, they could severely hamper their ability to spend freely and build the best squad, forcing them instead to build the best squad that fits a series of asinine rules.

Luckily, however, these are just proposals. There is very little chance that the necessary number of Premier League squads (fourteen according to Schmidt's article) would ratify these changes. Nevertheless, the mere fact that the FA are considering these changes should be worrisome. Their responsibility is to the game of football in England, and these changes would hurt both the national team (by taking away first-team chances for young players) and the individual clubs in the country (by forcing them to follow seemingly arbitrary rules).