One of the phrases you might hear with regularity as the transfer period continues through the end of August is "homegrown," as teams scurry to ensure that they have enough players to satisfy the Premier League's rules on quotas.
But what, exactly, are these rules?
When the provision was enacted before the 2010-11 season, the league's official site explained it as follows:
All 20 Clubs must include eight Home Grown players out of a squad of 25 for that Premier League season.
A Home Grown player will be defined as one who, irrespective of his nationality or age, has been registered with any club affiliated to the Football Association or the Football Association of Wales for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the season during which he turns 21).
Clubs are able to supplement their squads with unlimited additional players under the age of 21 on 1st January in the year in which the season commences.
Changes to the squad list of 25 may be made during the period of a transfer window. So Clubs must declare their 25 at the end of August when the window shuts and then again at the end of January.
It's important to focus on the "irrespective of his nationality or age" aspect. For example, Cesc Fabregas will count as a home-grown player for Chelsea based on his time with Arsenal—he joined the club at the age of 16 and spent eight seasons there—which will come as a major relief to Chelsea.
After all, the Blues are one of the teams struggling to fulfill their quota this year with Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard departing.
According to Martin Lipton of The Mirror, "Jose Mourinho will have to promote from Chelsea's academy this season to avoid running out of players."
Chelsea aren't the only club scrambling to meet the EPL's quotas. Manchester City could also find themselves having to cut a key player to ensure they have enough homegrown talents, likely having to choose between Alvaro Negredo and Javi Garcia, according to Jamie Jackson of The Guardian.
The fact that their Champions League roster has been trimmed to 21 players due to financial fair play sanctions hasn't helped.
Of course, many clubs have made developing homegrown talent a priority. Arsenal's Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carl Jenkinson and Wojciech Szczesny all qualify (among others), for example.
The idea, in its essence, is supposed to prompt English clubs to promote domestic talents rather than passing them up for more appealing international stars. After England's shoddy showing at the World Cup this past summer, the need to bolster English talent should be prioritised.
And in practice, it should also allow clubs the chance to build a strong core of players to become team pillars for years, avoiding the awkwardness and adjustments that come with a complete roster upheaval each season.
But some would argue that the FA hasn't taken the homegrown provision far enough, including the Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor, as he told Alan Jewell of BBC Sport:
We have a duty to the next generation to give them a chance. We should be looking at a minimum of three home-grown players in a starting line-up, irrespective of nationality.
That sort of number is going to be essential in order to encourage all clubs to give these youngsters a chance to break through. The Premier League doesn't want to be at a disadvantage to other countries, so it would have to be applied throughout Europe. Clubs like Bayern and Barcelona would meet that figure.
For bigger clubs that cycle through superstars yearly, the above rule could be tricky. On the other hand, it could simply lead to clubs such as Chelsea poaching players who qualify as homegrown talents from smaller teams more frequently than they already do.
In a way, that would almost contradict the purpose of the homegrown edict for the smaller clubs. Rather than holding on to their top homegrown talent, they'd essentially be keeping them in shape for the bigger clubs until they needed someone in a pinch.
Yes, in a sense that's how the food chain already works in the Premier League. Bigger clubs loan youngsters to smaller clubs so they gain experience. Smaller clubs sell their stars to the bigger clubs and turn a profit. It's a symbiotic relationship.
To this point, homegrown talent rules haven't greatly disturbed that ecosystem. It will be interesting to see how the system continues to work in the future, and what tweaks may be on the horizon if it is adjudged to have been a faulty experiment.
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