The impact of overseas Premier League players on England’s national team

When it comes to the England national football team, fans are usually short changed. England fans start with high expectations and in return get disappointment. It was recently the 50th anniversary of England winning the World Cup and with the Premier League being one of the best leagues in the world, why has it been so long since England won a major tournament? Could the recent influx of overseas players be impacting the way this national team is able to bring through young players?

Football history

It was Arsenal which famously became the first Premier League team to field a completely non-English squad (16 players) in 2005. Chelsea had named a team of 11 non-English players in 1999 but not an entire match day squad. Since that match, Manchester United also joined that list. While Arsenal has seemed to initiate a complete U-turn on the subject – with the highest number of English players in their team in 2014 compared to the other Premier League sides – there are plenty of figures that highlight the international talent that the Premier League attracts:

  • In 1992, the percentage of English players in the Premier League was 69%. In 2005, this had dropped to 39% and last season (2015/2016) was 31%, the lowest it has ever been according to the Telegraph.
  • When looking at the top 5 spending Premier League clubs at the start (as of 11/08/2016) of this window (Man City, Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal), they have collectively spent £494.5 million on a combined 22 players, only 2 of which are English nationals.

But there is also concern over what effect this is having on home-grown talent. For example, Arsenal football manager, Arsène Wenger, has publicly voiced his concern on the lack of English players entering in the Premier League.

And this hasn’t been missed by the FA either, which has proposed a phasing reduction of the maximum number of non-home grown players in a club’s first team squad. This will reduce from 17 to 13 slowly starting from 2016 and will therefore mean that in a 25 man squad, 12 would have to be home grown.

Fan feelings

After Euro 2016, we asked people in the UK via our Sportscope study their sentiments towards the national football teams (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). For the England national team, the top three associated terms were lifeless (46%), mismanaged (44%) and outdated (32%). Compare that to Wales, where the majority say their players have a strong sense of national pride (78%) and are inspiring (65%), the feelings of both fans towards their national teams are almost completely opposite.

However, when we then asked football fans which phrases they associated with the mentioned teams, they only identified England as a well-known global brand.  Here, the global gravitas of the England Premier League clearly helps raise the England national team’s profile. The Premier League is so popular that even the highlights show can make a huge impact online. According to Kantar Twitter TV Ratings, 26,743 tweets were sent in the first 5 minutes of the first Match of the Day show on BBC One on Saturday night (13/08/2016) and total tweets from the episode created 33.4 million impressions. 

How do the welsh and English describe their national team?

Achieving the best of both worlds

The argument around overseas players is a conflicting one. On the one hand, the Premier League attracts the best talent from all corners of the world and, as a result, has inspired a nation of football enthusiasts. On the other hand, is this restricting the growth and introduction of young English talent? Are kids being put off of playing football as their national team does not perform well at high-profile tournaments?

The FA is looking to tackle this problem with the minimum amount of home grown players in a club’s squad which may be a way of achieving the best of both worlds. Academies will likely improve due to the need for more quality home grown talent to rise into the Premier League. With overseas players working alongside young English talent and inspiring them to play at the highest level, could we start to see improvements in England’s future performances? We’ll have to wait and see…

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