Could This be the Solution for English Talent to Thrive?

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Jordan Lombard
Living and breathing the Denver Broncos, Boise State and the Colorado Buffs. Jordan is a former Sports Entrepreneur and content creator. In the editorial world, Jordan has won plaudits from Superbowl winner Byron Chamberlain & Bryan Harsin. In recent years Jordan has worked with the likes of Real Sport, FNV, Business Insider and Forbes.

Since the dominant Bears team in 1985, the College sports world has seen pay increases for sports coaches by over 600%. Jim Harbaugh at the University of Michigan is earning close to $10 Million to coach at a non-professional level.

So, what if the premier league adopted a draft structure?

The NFL earlier in the month hosted the 2018 draft. In what was arguably the most talent-packed class of all time. The Premier League wrapped up last weekend also which makes this the perfect time to talk about another crossover!

Barkley - england talent
Saquon Barkley is taken by the New York Giants at pick 2

For those that aren’t aware the concept on a draft is relatively simple. Every team takes in turns to choose from the best in the college system. The pick order is determined by the teams’ previous finish.

If you finish bottom of the league then you’ll receive the first overall pick as a way of boosting your teams’ prospect for the following season.

Last season (2017) saw the Cleveland Browns lose every single game in the NFL finishing 0-16, as such the Browns received the first overall pick and selected Oklahoma Sooner Quarterback Baker Mayfield in a somewhat shocking decision.

English Talent
Cleveland Browns Select Baker Mayfield with the number 1 pick.

It is still possible to perform a ‘transfer’ of sorts although that is considered a trade in the NFL where instead of trading for money like in football you trade for other players and draft picks. And the standard free agent system we see in most sports also exists in the NFL (albeit with slightly different rules).

The draft is still considered the best way to recruit incredible talent over a long-term period.

When the worst teams get the best players, it gives them a sufficient opportunity of holding their own again the following season.

The NFL is different from soccer with the fact there is no Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, Manchester United, etc. The closest franchise to any of those teams in terms of consistent domination is the New England Patriots who have been to 8 Super Bowls since 2001. Over the past 10 years since the Giants last SB win in 2012 we’ve had 5 different champions in 6 years (Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots & finally on February 4th, 2018 the Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl thanks to back up quarterback Nick Foles.

In that same period, the bottom team in the NFL has also varied with the Colts, Kansas City, Houston Texans, Tampa Bay, LA Rams and the Cleveland Browns (twice) all holding that privilege.

 It’s a system that works in America due to the NFL’s self-contained nature and collegiate feeder setup.

The question remains though, could this ever work within the English Football Leagues?

My previous article was surrounding something very similar to this, albeit vice versa with the NFL adopting a relegation style league structure and it was something that split fans of the great gridiron down the middle on its effectiveness vs the current set-up.

A few years ago, there was a lot of fuss surrounding Premier League B teams playing in the lower leagues of English football. The idea itself has some benefits which are for another day but it’s received an awful lot of criticism since the idea was first introduced.

The fans of lower-league teams feel it will cheapen the competition much like it has done abroad. Thankfully it was ruled against in 2016.

Others argued it would harm English talent rather than improve it with arguments of top teams bringing in the best youngsters and offering them a high level of competitive football to play each week. – Although with Brexit right around the corner we may not even be able to do this anyway.

The biggest issue facing English football is the division between the FA and Premier League. Whilst the premier league wants to win at all costs and make the most money with all the biggest superstars in football. The FA want to improve the chances of success for young English homegrown players.

The bottom line here is that the current system does not work and it may take something radical before it gets any better.

If the FA want a better England team and greater potential to unearth the next golden generation, they need to take the situation into their own hands. And that could be via a draft-style system.

Putting the idea of B teams aside, the FA could certainly look to bring in a new rule stating that all English talent is now managed by the FA itself. Whenever a player is scouted and moved into an academy they can train as much as they like with their chosen club however they would be doing it under the mandate of the FA and unable to play or register at these clubs.

I would love the argument of a university overhaul which mimics that of the USA in relation to sports. It would provide players with an educational platform just in case they fail to make it as a professional. – A HUGE issue in the current game.

What this effectively means is that at a certain age those players will be entered into a draft where they will be selected by professional clubs.

To offset the training costs that a club would likely claim in compensation for training a player the club that has invested the most money in the English youth structure would get the first pick or perhaps the teams in reverse order to the final standings with the three promoted clubs taking the 1st  (Championship winners) , 2nd (second place) and 3rd (play-off winner) pick.

However, the idea of a draft means the club would need to think carefully about the player they really want to bring back.

The incentives arise from the fact that a host of the countries young talent will be available at little to no cost. Imagine if Manchester City had to part ways with Phil Foden or Brahim Díaz. Manchester United would have to decide between Gomes or Rashford. But then again, what if another player they like at a different academy is also available? Maybe they give up on their own youth prospects to pursue another.

Young english talent
Angel Gomes (Left) and Phil Foden (Right)

Some might argue that this system would deter Premier League clubs from the lottery of English players altogether, but the burden would be on the FA to make English talent desirable.

If the Football Association wants better English talent it quite simply has to change things and invest our resources far better than we do from a national and club level. We quite simply need to take back ownership of developing our own youth.

Whether we like it or not Premier League clubs are just another pawn to make billions for the big wigs at the top. Investing in English talent is not their priority.

The FA should invest heavily in developing players themselves. St George’s Park should be turned into the English equivalent of La Masia. A temple of football built on the foundations of the ‘beautiful way’ to play the beautiful game that has had unrivalled success.

The idea is radical, a lot of fans won’t like it and certainly wouldn’t come without its issues to sort and there will be a teething process. However, I’m just not sure that this is as radical as disrupting the entire lower-league of the English game for the sake of B teams (of which Barcelona B doesn’t produce anywhere near the talent that La Masia does).

 Young Talent will be evenly distributed across the top clubs in England whilst being looked after brilliantly well. The players would be perceived as a “premium product” alongside their continental equivalents and it would not affect the frankly disgusting transfer fee system across the global game.

 

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