FA Commission Report: Solutions To Improve Development Of England Players


A summary and review of the FA Commission’s Report on the obstructions to the development of elite English players and the proposed solutions along with reaction to the report.

Yesterday’s blog reviewed the obstructions to the development of elite English players identified by the FA Commission Report.

Read more: Obstructions to the Development of Elite English Players

Obstructions to the Development of elite English Players

  1. Most importantly inadequate competitive playing opportunities for 18-21 year old elite players at top clubs.
  2. The ineffectiveness of the regulation of the player market in preserving the desired balance between English, EU and non-EU players.
  3. The quality and impact of coaching and coach education especially in grassroots football.
  4. The quantity and quality of grassroots facilities, especially all-weather pitches.

This initial report focuses on 1 and 2 only but further reports will follow from the FA Commission.

The report then identifies four key areas as the primary obstructions to the development of elite English players.

The Proposed Solutions

Tottenham U-18s [Photo: Logan Holmes]The report then proposes the following solutions:

Proposal 1 – the introduction of Premier League B teams into English football

Proposal 2 – the development of Strategic Loan Partnerships between clubs in the top two leagues and those in the divisions below

Proposal 3 – the gradual expansion of the number of Home Grown Players each Premier League and Football League club must include in its squad

Proposal 4 – changes to the non-EU immigration procedures, to properly deliver on the declared aims of that regulation.

Premier League B Teams

The report has this to say about the introduction of Premier League B Teams,

"Many of the top clubs have told us that the current playing opportunities for young players aged 18-21 are inadequate and that they would welcome clubs playing in the lower divisions of the Football League but under their direct control and supervision."

B teams would allow for this.

The Commission believes this could be achieved by the creation of a new League Three in the Football League and that all Premier League clubs would have the choice of having a B team starting either in that division or the Conference. There would be promotion and relegation across the four divisions but B teams would not be able to rise above League One or play in The FA Cup. A concern that this would result in a cluster of B teams at the top of League One and thereby destroying competition in that division is not borne out by experience of the European countries that have B teams.

More from Tottenham News

We estimate that each B team squad would contain an average of 15 English players. Assuming, say, that there were ten B teams, this translates into 150 playing opportunities for English players. If we assume that the percentage of these that make it into their first team is around 6% (a marginal improvement on the percentage of players with loan experiences that reach the first team) this would translate into nine new English players making it into the first team squad of a Premier League side each season, augmenting the current input of new players into Premier League first teams.

The report then explains what it means by strategic Loan Partnerships.

“We propose the creation of a new type of relationship between clubs, called a Strategic Loan Partnership (SLP). Complementary to the existing loan arrangements (which would continue), the primary difference with an SLP is that the lending club would be able to guide the loaned player’s experience more closely while on loan. We believe this would increase the use and effectiveness of loans for development and overcome many of the limitations of current loan experiences. Under this proposal, Premier League and Championship clubs would be entitled to establish SLPs with up to two clubs in divisions below the Championship. The senior club could lend each lower club up to eight players in a season, although only five could be on the team sheet at any one time. With the SLP, the senior club could also lend coaches to transfer expertise plus further support in the areas of sports science.”

Connor Ogilvie (left) (and possibly Harry Winks?) at 2012 NI Milk Cup [Photo Logan Holmes]The pronouncement on home grown players initially appears to be the most controversial. It says that whilst accepting that the very best non-EU foreign players do bring great value to English football, too many mediocre players are getting work visas.

The Report:

  •  says that no players coming in on overseas visas should be allowed to join clubs in any league in England other than the Premier League. The players are either of exceptional talent or they are not. No players on overseas visas should be allowed to be loaned to other clubs in England even if they are in the Premier League.
  • points out that as the average Premier League manager tenure is just over a year (excluding Arsène Wenger’s 17 years at Arsenal) – they are less and less likely to risk their careers by playing untested youngsters from their own youth system. Players of a similar age from abroad, who have played many more competitive games, are a more attractive option.
  • proposes that in a Premier League squad of 25 at least five should be club-grown players as per the UEFA definition. Non-EU players playing in England would not be able to play in the B team.

In order to encourage first team experience, any B team player can be called into the first team squad at any time.

A player under 21 is not permitted to return to the B team once he has played more than ten games in the first team.

  • also proposes that there should be a gradual reduction in the number of non-Home Grown players allowed in each Premier League squad down from the current figure of 17 to 12. The change would start being applied in 2016-17 (the same year as B teams would be allowed) with the number being reduced by one to 16 that year and then by a further one each year ending in 2020-21 when the number would be down to 12. This would mean that by 2020-21 a majority of players in any Premier League squad of 25 would be home grown.

Nabil Bentaleb ahead of WBA game [Photo: Jav The_DoC_66]A cap, of say two players, should be introduced on the number of non-EU players allowed in any one club, squad or team sheet.

  • wants the following target, to be achieved at the latest by 2022:

90 English players playing over 50% of minutes in the Premier League (or any other top five European league), compared with the 66 today – of these 30 should be playing in the top six teams in the Premier League compared with the 18 today. Reaching this target would mean that by 2022 approximately 45% of players in the Premier League would need to be English, compared with 32% today. This is still lower than the figures being achieved in Germany and Spain today, but it would take English football back to a figure last achieved in 2000.

  • reminds us that one step to trying to achieve its aims is already in place; that is the Elite Player Performance Plan. It says that the EPPP is about creating an environment where a local boy, developed in his local club from eight or nine years of age, can go on to pull on a first-team shirt of the club that he has grown up at.


The initial reactions to the report in the media have been mixed.

Editorials in the Sun and the Times and the few managers that have been quoted such as Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers have been broadly supportive. Throughout the report, the Commission stresses the need for discussion, consultation and agreement. The first views expressed have concentrated on the B Team announcement, probably because it takes a lot to get your head around all the ramifications of the Loan Partnerships.

Richard Scudamore (seemingly bullet-proof in the wake of his sexist e-mails) said on behalf of the Premier League that he agreed with the identification of the issues but crucially did not agree with the proposed solutions. Considering the power of the Premier League, I can see that as a result of this, the report could end up being watered down and the ensuing changes being much less radical than the original proposals. I saw the same thing happen time and time again to proposed legislative changes during my civil service career. They drew massive headlines when proposed and then were watered down stage by stage by the opposition and pressure groups as they staggered their way through to Royal Assent.

Watch this space.