England's failures due to EPL's success | South China Morning Post
  • Wed
  • Apr 1, 2015
  • Updated: 10:04pm
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 September, 2013, 4:33am

England's failures due to EPL's success

New FA chairman is right to warn that national team's future is in peril - but the league he helped set up is its main threat

Our EPL stars are on international duty so to pass the time why not try to imagine the scene conjured up this week by new England FA chairman Greg Dyke during his first "state of the national game" speech.

Imagine Jack Wilshire, loyal Arsenal stalwart and Three Lions captain, stepping onto the podium to receive the 2022 World Cup from the emir of Qatar.

England have just beaten arch-nemesis Germany 3-1 in a thrilling final and the sober and sun-stroked English fans are going nuts amid the sand dunes, date palms and air-conditioned stadiums. The rest of the world looks on in awe at the Three Lions reborn ...

Don't laugh. This is not a whimsical Arabian mirage. Such a scene is the hoped-for result of a radical overhaul of the English league system instigated this week by grand visionary Dyke.

Forget Brazil next year, he urged. The FA's goal is the semi-finals of the 2020 Euros. From there, said Dyke, England would leap through the looking glass and on to glory in Qatar.

To reach this zenith, the English leagues - especially the EPL - must undergo sweeping reform to produce homegrown world beaters. The stats speak for themselves. This season, only 32 per cent of EPL players are English.

Less than £50 million (HK$605 million) of the record £630 million spent on transfers this summer was lavished on English players. For many the answer is simple: the large number of foreign players, managers and club owners elbowing our boys off the pitch. The fundamental right of English players to rise as far as their talent will take them is at stake, Dyke warned.

"The truth is that we have become a finishing school for the rest of the world at the expense of our own players," Dyke said.

What happens when the English presence "declines to 25 per cent, to 20 per cent or even 15 per cent?" he asked.

"It's quite possible we won't have enough players qualified to play for England who are playing regularly at the highest level in this country or elsewhere in the world," he predicted. "That could well mean England's teams are unable to compete seriously on the world stage."

Just look at the next generation's recent pitiful performance at the U-21 Euros.

So Dyke will set up a commission to ask why the England team are in their current state and probe what can be done to improve the Lions' lot.

It will, he said, examine aspects like the pros and cons of a winter break and a possible quota system on foreign imports.

All commendable stuff, but the commission will find the demise of the English began with the advent of the EPL in 1992. Instead of inspiring English players as then believed, it has done the opposite.

The EPL has become so successful, it is not only eating itself but devouring English players by the bucketload, too.

The insane transfer market and European labour laws have allowed averagely talented foreign players - certainly those no better than English nationals - to swamp the leagues because they are cheaper to employ.

Dyke's speech chimed nicely with the anti-foreigner sentiment gaining traction in all aspects of English society. We already fume about the foreigners clogging the schools, job market and hospitals. Now we can add their swamping of England's football pitches, too.

But European labour laws are not going away unless the UK leaves the EU, and few EPL managers will back a winter break. Nor would the TV companies and sponsors. The EPL has overplayed its hand and the FA has painted itself into a corner.

More highly trained youth coaches was one remedy briefly touched upon by Dyke. But coaches alone won't save England now.

Wage caps, foreign player and manager quotas, controls over club ownership - plus a drastic reduction in the multinational decadence and commercialism of the rip-roaring league that so captivates the world - might.

Never mind picturing England winning in Doha - imagine the EPL in 2022. A dull scene, indeed.

And does a league full of Englishmen guarantee success?

Apparently not. Between 1971 and 1980, 73 per cent of top-flight players were English, but in the same period they failed to qualify for four straight international tournaments - the Euros in 1972 and 1976 and the World Cups of 1974 and 1978.

Besides, over the last decade England has produced many home-grown players nominated for World Player of the Year shortlists.

We welcome Dyke's ambition and castles in the air. We even like his planned commission probe.

But it is worth reminding ourselves of his last big vision. As then chairman of a powerful TV company, he helped set up the EPL. A big success it was, too.

For England, clearly too big.


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