On 6 April 2017, the English Football League (“EFL”) announced that its 72 members clubs (each of whom compete in one of the three divisions that the EFL oversees – the Championship, League One, and League Two) had approved proposals to increase the number of “home grown players” in their match day squads for the forthcoming 2018-19 season and to also include at least one “club-developed” player.
In the first of two instalments, Sports Shorts will consider the genesis of home grown player requirements within European football and the current requirements that are in place in both the EFL and the English Premier League (“EPL”).
The second will go on to consider whether or not the requirement to name home grown players in match day squads is an effective means of developing elite English-qualified talent and providing them with sufficient opportunities in first team football.
“Home Grown” and “Club-Developed” Player requirements in the EFL
At present, Section 5 of the EFL’s Rules and Regulations (“EFL Rules and Regulations”) requires each EFL club to nominate 6 home grown players on their team sheet for each league match (which includes Play-Off matches) (Rule 33.7).
Following the EFL’s recent announcement, EFL clubs have agreed to increase that number to 7 for the 2018-19 season.
A “Home Grown Player” is defined in the (Rule 33.8) as a player who:
- irrespective of their nationality or age, has been registered with either:
- their current club (who is a member of the EFL); and/or
- a club and/or any other football club affiliated with the Football Association (“FA“) or Football Association of Wales (for example, EPL or non-league clubs)
- for a period, continuous or non-continuous, of three seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the season during which they turn 21).
Home grown player requirements were first introduced by the EFL in time for the 2009-10 season, with EFL clubs having to name at least 4 home grown players in what was then a 16 player match day squad, a quota that was subsequently increased in the 2011-12 season to 6 in order to reflect the increase to 18 player match day squads.
In addition to the increase in home grown players that will be required on EFL’s clubs team sheets, a new definition will be introduced to the EFL Rules and Regulations, that of the “club-developed” player. Each EFL club will need to include one “club-developed” player in their match day squad, who will be defined as a player who has been registered with their current team for at least 12 months prior to the end of their U19 season. Should a club fail to name such a player, they will only be able to name 6 substitutes rather than the normal allocation of 7.
Home Grown Player requirements in the English Premier League
The current requirements in the EPL, as set out in the Premier League Handbook for the 2016-17 season, were introduced at the beginning of the 2010-11 season and are as follows:
- A “Home Grown Player” is defined as a player who, irrespective of their nationality or age, has been registered with any association football club affiliated to the FA or the Football Association of Wales for a period, continuous or non-continuous, of three seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the season during which they turn 21) (A.1.81).
- At the outset of the season, each club is allowed to register 25 players over the age of 21. Of those 25 players, 8 must qualify as home grown players (A.1.156).
The genesis of Home Grown Player requirements in European football
The genesis of the current home grown player requirements in both the EFL and the EPL can be traced back to 2005 and the adoption by UEFA’s Executive Committee of its own home grown player rule for teams entering its Champions League competition and UEFA Cup (now Europa League) competition.
Consequently, from the 2008-09 season, clubs competing in the UEFA Champions League  and UEFA Cup/Europa League  are required to name a minimum of 8 home grown (or “locally trained”) players in a squad limited to 25 . 4 of these have to be “club-trained” and 4 have to be “association trained”:
- A “club-trained player” is defined as a player who, between the age of 15 and 21, irrespective of their age or nationality, has been registered with their current club for a period, continuous or non-continuous, of three seasons or of 36 months between the ages of 15 and 21.
- An “association trained” player fulfils the same criteria but with another club, or clubs, in the same association.
- If a club has fewer than 8 locally trained players in its squad, then the maximum squad number of 25 players is reduced accordingly.
- However, clubs competing in UEFA competitions have no obligation to put a specified number of home grown players on the field of play or in the match day squad, ensuring that they have a large degree of autonomy when it comes to deciding their team and match day squads.
One of UEFA’s stated aims in implementing the reforms was to ensure clubs were incentivised to train their own players, counter what it perceived to be a trend of the richest clubs “hoarding” the best players, and to try to re-establish a “local” identity at clubs.
The European Commission came out in support of UEFA’s incentive, ruling that UEFA’s new requirements were compatible with EU law in May 2008. Given the absence of any nationality requirements in the definition of home grown players, the European Commission was satisfied that UEFA’s initative achieved the legitimate objective of promoting the training of young European players, whilst preventing any direct discrimination on the basis of nationality (after quota rules based on nationality whilst playing in European competition had been abolished in the Bosman ruling  ECR I-4921), thereby complying with the principle of the free movement of workers.
It is worth noting that the free movement of workers, one of four economic freedoms underpinning the European Single Market, has previously stymied an attempt by FIFA to introduce what it christened the “6+5” rule. Under that rule, at the beginning of each match, every club would be required to field at least 6 players eligible to play for the national team in which that club was domiciled. Having first been discussed in February 2008, and then formally adopted by FIFA in May 2008, it was emphatically rejected by the European Commission in 2010.
Next week’s instalment
In next week’s instalment, Sports Shorts will consider whether or not the home grown players requirements currently in place will achieve the stated goal of developing elite English-qualified talent and providing them with much-need experience of first team football.
 Article 43.02 – 43.06, Regulations of the UEFA Champions League 2015-2018 Cycle (2016/17 Season) – https://www.uefa.org/MultimediaFiles/Download/Regulations/uefaorg/Regulations/02/35/87/89/2358789_DOWNLOAD.pdf
 Article 42.02 – 42.06, Regulations of the UEFA Europa League 2015-2018 Cycle (2016/17 Season) – https://www.uefa.org/MultimediaFiles/Download/Regulations/uefaorg/Regulations/02/35/92/45/2359245_DOWNLOAD.pdf
 This was introduced in three phases: (i) Season 2006/07: minimum of four homegrown players in 25-man squad; (ii) Season 2007/08: minimum of six homegrown players in 25-man squad; (iii) Season 2008/09: minimum of eight homegrown players in 25-man squad.