Chelsea FC currently have 28 players out on loan. There are high-profile loanees such as Romelu Lukaku, Victor Moses and Thibaut Courtois, and a whole host of youngsters lent out to Vitesse Arnhem in Holland.
There has been much controversy over the Blues' large squad and their loaning of players to direct opponents who have helped take points away from their title rivals.
What if there was a better way for Chelsea's youth prospects and surplus players to gain first-team experience? What if Premier League teams were permitted to have B teams who played in the regular English pyramid?
This is exactly what FA chairman Greg Dyke has proposed this week. An FA England commission—comprised of folks such as Rio Ferdinand, Roy Hodgson, Glenn Hoddle and League Managers' Association chairman Howard Wilkinson—were tasked with ways of improving the national team's fortunes at a grass-roots level.
According to the BBC, the B team idea has been floated to ensure that young English talent gets a chance to flourish outside of the reserve and youth systems.
In the current system, of course, the influx of foreign talent is thought to quash the chances of homegrown players.
"There are inadequate and insufficient competitive playing opportunities for 18-21 year old elite players at top clubs in England," said Dyke in the Telegraph. With these new proposals, he aims to increase the amount of English players in the top flight from around 66 to 90 by 2022.
For the sake of around 24 extra players, the shake-up is quite radical. The B teams would either be allowed to compete in League One and League Two, or they would play in their own specially created "League Three" between the fourth tier and the Conference.
There would be certain stipulations in place, too. They would not be able to be gain promotion to the Championship nor could they compete in the major cup competitions. Their squads must contain 20 home-grown players and, in the interest of promoting youth and maintaining the normal loan system, only three players may be over the age of 21.
The proposals have been met with much criticism. Some believe it would kill off the Conference and current lower league teams would suffer at the expense of the bigger teams with bigger pockets.
Not only would there be a potential gap in quality, but fans who went to watch, say, AFC Wimbledon may go to see Chelsea's B team instead, thus lowering gate receipts for smaller teams. Under this system, the weak would get weaker and the strong would get stronger.
These are valid concerns, but the positives almost certainly outweigh the negatives.
The Premier League is such a global behemoth that it attracts the very best players from around the world, stifling the chances of English talent. The next Wayne Rooney could be out there right now, but he isn't getting the shot to prove himself.
And if these B teams were contained within their own "League Three," they would pose very little threat to the teams in the lower echelons of the English pyramid.
The proof that the system could be successful can be found on the continent. In Spain, B teams are prevalent below the Primera Division. Real Madrid's Castilla, for example, have been competing in the league system since 1949. In 1980, they even met Los Blancos' first team in the Copa del Rey final. (The Castilla lost 6-1 and B teams are no longer allowed in cup competitions.)
In Germany, second teams are allowed to play up to the third tier, which currently hosts Borussia Dortmund II and VfB Stuttgart II.
Spain and Germany both have popular top-tier leagues filled with imported talent, but they also have thriving national sides and plenty of opportunities for young players to gain valuable first-team experience.
Is this a coincidence? More likely it is due to the integration of B teams.
The proposals would represent a big change to the beautiful game and English fans aren't traditionally receptive to big changes.
However, as a means of improving the national team and the game from a grass-roots level upwards, this is a very big step in the right direction.
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