At the current time in the Premier League there are 337 registered players representing a total of 66 different countries, that means, on average, each team will have 13 foreign based players in their squads. In the opening Premier League season in 1992 just 22 players outside the U.K and Ireland started. So what is happening in English football to see a drastic increase in the amount of foreign players in the Premier League?
This debate, of whether there are too many foreign players in the English game, has always been predominant between English football fans, the younger generation perhaps feel this is now just the norm but the ‘old-school’ football fans often raise the argument that the English Premier League should represent England. Perhaps though it still does, despite the obvious decline in the amount of English players playing regular football in the top division of England it is still the most watched league in the World. It has a following in all continents on the globe. Even the Championship, the second tier of English football, is the fourth most watched league in the World, showing the strength in depth of English football. The game is no doubt a very commercial product nowadays and without the increase of foreign players the English game would not be the product it is today.
Without the foreign players the standard of football wouldn’t be as it is today, the fans surely would feel some remorse in spending the amount of money charged at the minute for a ticket to watch a lesser standard of football than is currently available? The foreign influence has without doubt brought flair to the English game, it is coached into players from countries like Brazil and Spain from an early age that getting the ball down is the best way to play football, in England the physical side of the game is more important, just think of the amount of players rejected from academies just because they ‘are too small’.
It is obvious the price of English players is over-inflated, Fabien Delph sold for a reported £7,000,000 this season, could you imagine a young foreign prospect of the same potential costing a similar amount? Tamir Cohen was bought for a measly £37,000, a price you would expect to pay for a footballer playing in the Blue Square Premier in England yet Cohen has scored four goals from the centre of Bolton’s midfield this season. Is there really any wonder that managers favour the, cheaper and perhaps better, foreign players?
It can be argued that the amount of foreign players infiltrating the English division is hurting England’s chances of winning a World Cup but England’s ‘golden generation’ have formed when the English football has the highest number of non-English players in its history. It also gives players of English up-bringing a chance to play against footballers of different cultures and learn how to play against flair players that are often the cult heroes amongst fans. The English game is built up upon a player having a good-work rate and physical strength.
Many of the greatest players to grace English football have been foreign. Imagine a Premier League without players like Jurgen Klinsmann, Paulo Di Canio, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Christiano Ronaldo. Players that have given fans so many great memories would not be involved.
It is without doubt harder for young English players to come up through the academies of English teams nowadays however, the idea of signing the best young foreigners is not just one that is in the Premier Division, it is in all tiers of English football. Just recently, Peterborough have signed Mark Chan Chun-Lok, a 14 year old described as ‘Hong Kong’s Christiano Ronaldo’. However, the top English players are still coming through.
There is no doubt the foreign influence has changed English football but the positives of this far out-way the negatives. The trend of English players in the top tier of English football is decreasing but with this the lower leagues have an advantage being able to pick at the top home-grown talent released from Premier League clubs. The amount of foreign players in English football may continue increasing for the foreseeable future but with this the standard of the game in England will keep on improving.