Pros and Cons of Introducing a Draft System to the Premier League

Laura Greene@@Greene_LFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2013

Pros and Cons of Introducing a Draft System to the Premier League

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    Premier League teams have spent a collective £331 million in the summer transfer window so far, according to Transfermarkt.

    It’s a huge sum—almost enough to buy Liverpool Football Club, according to Simon English of The Sun—and there’s still over a month to go before the window closes on September 2.

    Unsurprisingly, Manchester City are the biggest spenders, with £97 million already shelled out on a collection of imports. Even comparative minnows Southampton, Norwich and Swansea have been busy—spending in excess of £66 million between them.

    Newcastle remain the only club without a new senior player, while Manchester United and Arsenal, who are yet to woo any big names, should be flexing their financial muscle before August is out.

    As vast quantities of money are splurged across Europe and rumoured-to-be-worth £100 million Gareth Bale suddenly makes Barcelona’s purchase of Neymar look like a snip, you have to wonder if the football world has gone mad.

    Should players cost in excess of £100 million? Is it fair to smaller clubs, and is a financial gulf pushing us towards a breakaway league for Europe’s elite?

    UEFA's Financial Fair Play is attempting to redress the balance, but perhaps an NFL-style draft system could be the answer to escalating debt and transfer fees.

    The draft has its flaws but also makes a lot of sense.

    Over the next seven slides, I discuss the pros and cons of implementing a draft system in the Premier League.

    Love it? Hate it? Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

What Is the NFL Draft?

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    In a nutshell, the draft is a process of dividing new talent between teams at the start of each season.

    In the NFL, the lowest-ranked teams get the first pick of the best players coming out of the college (university) system, and the Super Bowl winners pick last.

    In Premier League terms, this could see the three promoted teams, Cardiff CityHull City and Crystal Palace, having the first option on available players, while Manchester United picks last. Imagine that.

    Each team makes one selection from seven rounds and gets the exclusive rights to sign these players to a contract. The teams also have the option of trading their draft picks, almost like a real-life exchange of Merlin stickers. Anyone who swapped five Andy Hinchcliffes for a Manchester United "shiny" in their youth can relate to this.

    The NFL's draft and salary cap ensures that money isn't the main force behind player recruitment and keeps the balance of power fairly equal among its teams.

Pro: An End to Player Power?

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    Player demands to leave after refusing to be made club’s highest earner.

    Player says he should not have to honour his contract.

    Player baulks at offer of £55,000 a week.

    Player kisses badge, confesses love for club. Soon signs for rival team.

    Sound familiar? Players and agents holding clubs to ransom is commonplace, as they demand better wages or threaten to leave. Contracts don’t carry the same clout that they used to.

    With a draft system, this hardly exists. Players would not be allowed to make eyes at other clubs, threaten to walk "on a free" in 12 months' time, or go AWOL in Argentina. Yes, Carlos Tevez, I'm looking at you.

    Instead, players would only move between clubs as free agents when their contracts were up or as trades between teams.

    Most rookie players sign a minimum contract of four years. If they reach the end of their contract without extending it or being traded, the player can choose to go to any club that wants him.

Con: Principle vs. Practicality

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    A draft in the Premier League? In principle, it’s a nice thought but it would never work.

    It’s interesting to moot the idea of salary caps and a reduction in the dominance of certain teams, but with money firmly buckled into football's driving seat, the top flight would never allow it to happen.

    Players would flock to Europe as soon as wage restrictions were implemented.

    If the Premier League’s biggest hitters didn't get to choose who they played for, they would be on the first Easyjet flight to Europe quicker than you could say "Abramovich."

    It has also been speculated that NFL teams will lose deliberately in order to receive a higher draft pick the following year. It would muddy the waters in the Premier League if teams attempted to play the system and avoid relegation yet secure one of the first picks for the draft.

    In the NFL, relegation does not exist.

Pro: Goodbye to the “Big Four”

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    When people talk about the NFL, it sounds just like the FA Cup cliche that "anyone can beat anyone."

    But it rings true.

    In the last 10 years alone there have been seven Super Bowl winners.

    In the top tier of English football, only five teams have lifted the trophy since the Premier League’s inception in 1992.

    The draft ensures that no one team can sign up all the best players, spreading the best talent around and keeping the league competitive. 

Con: The End of Youth Academies

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    If the draft were to be implemented in the United Kingdom, it would require an overhaul of the university sports system.

    The NFL draft is totally reliant on the college football program, and the USA usually only recruits players from inside the country. In the Premier League and in Europe, clubs invest a lot of time and money into scouting networks and the nurturing of young players.

    The English may not have the best system in Europe, but what would happen to youth academies if top-flight sides suddenly had to rely on drafting players straight out of university? It would be almost impossible to introduce a new system, and player development would suffer if clubs couldn't draft players until they were in their 20s.

    What about players who didn't or couldn't go to university? Unless Premier League sides could also draft in players from semi-professional sides, talented youngsters like Wayne Rooney—who was developed by Everton at a young age—might be bypassed. 

    According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) only nine out of every 10,000 high school senior football players are ever drafted by an NFL team.

    That’s a lot of prospective talent left on the scrapheap.

    If the draft were to be implemented in the United Kingdom, it would require an overhaul of the university sports system.

     

    The NFL draft is totally reliant on the college football programme and as the USA usually only recruits players from inside the country, this is easy to do.

     

    In the Premier League and in Europe, clubs invest a lot of time and money into scouting networks and the development of young players.

     

    In England it may not be the best system. But what would happen to youth academies if top-flight sides suddenly had to rely on players coming out of university? 

     

    What about players who didn’t or couldn’t go to university? Unless Premier League sides could also draft in players from semi-professional sides, where would talented youngsters like Wayne Rooney fit into a draft system if Everton had not developed him from a young age?

     

    According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) only nine out of every 10,000 high school senior football players are ever drafted by an NFL team. That’s a lot of prospective talent left on the scrapheap.

Pro: International Improvement

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    Imagine if the majority of players at Premier League clubs came through English university teams or semi-professional sides.

    Surely this would improve the standing of the national team?

    In the US, sports are taken very seriously at grassroots level, and this develops lots of homegrown talent.

    If clubs sponsored or developed partnerships with universities to run alongside the academies that are already in place across the country, it would open the door for a lot more young English players to come through the ranks.

    The England team is in sore need of a new generation of emerging talent.

    Imagine if the majority of players at Premier League clubs came from English university teams or semi-professional sides.

     

    Surely this would improve the standing of the national team?

     

    In the US, sports are taken very seriously at grassroots level and this develops lots of homegrown talent.

     

    If clubs sponsored or developed partnerships with universities, to run alongside the academies that are already in place across the country, it would open the door for a lot more young English players to come through the ranks.

     

    The England team is in sore need of a new generation of emerging talent.

Con: If It Ain’t Broke…

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    Some of the Premier League’s biggest assets, its A-list players, are the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City.

    The reason viewers watch the league from around the world and buy millions of replica shirts is because they want to see the best players pitted against each other, week-in, week-out.

    If every team were equal, the quality of the league would suffer, as would top-flight teams who competed in Europe. If all 20 teams were as equal as Stoke, for example, would fanbases in Kuala Lumpur not turn to La Liga, Serie A or, in times of real crisis, Ligue 1, for titillation?

    Football is entertainment. Pure and simple. Why not have multiple stellar names on one team? If Tom Cruise can bankroll upwards of $20 million per movie, why can’t Cristiano Ronaldo earn the same for providing another kind of spectacle every week?

    We may talk about the halcyon days and how modern-day football needs to be changed, but the game isn't broken. Trying to "fix it" might undo all that we love about the sport.

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