This week the chairman of the Football Association in England, Greg Dyke, outlined new proposals that are intended to restrict the number of non-EU footballers playing in England from next season. Details on the proposal can be read here. Hopefully the evidence presented in this article can convince the FA to reconsider the proposal.
Mr Dyke is quoted by Sky Sports as saying “We hope the result is something like 50 per cent less players from outside the EU will come and play here and the aim, of course, is that we hope that some of those slots in the squads will go to younger English players”. Given this disclosure, it is fair to say the proposal is designed to provide more opportunities for young English talent.
As I will explain, the problem is that Non-EU footballers are not the primary cause of young British talent failing to get an opportunity in the Premier League.
In relative terms the Premier League has the lowest amount of Non-EU footballers when compared to the other big European leagues – Serie A, Lique 1, Bundesliga and La Liga. Table 1 below shows the statistics for the distribution of EU and Non-EU born footballers across these leagues as a percentage of the total footballers in each league for the current season.
I accessed nationality data for 2,751 footballers from the international sports website Goal.com. 29% of sample in the 5 leagues held nationalities outside of EU states while footballers that held the nationality of the country they worked in made up 50% of the sample.
The crux of the problem for the FA is unfortuntely something they cannot prevent. This is not the arrival of non-EU players but the arrival of those from inside the EU. As Table 2 and 3 below show, the Premier League has the highest percentage of players born in the EU when compared to the other Big 4 leagues (as would be expected in light of table 1) but the lowest percentage of national born footballers playing in the league. The arrival of European talent to the shores of England happens more often than it does in Spain, Germany, Italy or France.
The FA should be aware that preventing Non-EU players from coming to England will not solve the problem of young English footballers failing to get an opportunity in the Premier League.
For what it's worth, my advice is that FA should stop worrying about banning imports and start encouraging exports, sending young English talent to develop in other European leagues. A trade deficit could turn to a trade surplus with the right policies! Protectionism is most likely not the way to go.