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Are there too many foreign players in English football?

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.

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  1. rosstheger

    20 January, 2010 at 22:56

    I think you make a number of decent points there mate.

    As a Scotsman, I think the influx of foreigners in the late 90s and early 00s was a disaster for Scottish Football. The gap between the Old Firm and the others got further and Rangers are now in huge financial turmoil because of the era in which we spent ridiculous sums of money.

    The debts are in England are shocking, I honestly think if Sky even decreased their EPL investment by a small amount – clubs will be in big bother. For Manchester United, one of the biggest clubs in the world, you would expect them to be going and signing the top stars when possible.

    Arsenal in the next 10 years will enjoy alot of success I think, their finances must be excellent and despite such a talented squad, they probably could sign a few ‘big’ stars if they wanted.

  2. comeonboro11

    21 January, 2010 at 20:01

    I’m not so sure Arsenal will be able to increase their success in up-coming years. There is no doubt that Liverpool and Manchester United are in big trouble finacially and they may both fall away from the title fights however Chelsea and Manchester City still have the money needed, the latter especially. City can sign anyone they want, as long as the player wants to sign for them, meaning I believe Arsenal may still be in for a lot of ‘next year is our year’ seasons, I think Manchester City will be dominating English football in a few years time.

  3. rob

    14 June, 2010 at 18:44

    There ARE too many foreign players – the world cup is going to prove that we don’t have the depth of squad required to even get to the finals. We only have ONE world-class striker – isn’t that alarming ?? I love the fact that we have foreign players, but there should be strict controls on the amount of foreign players. Theo Walcott would have a better ‘intuition’ if he played more first team football.
    There should not be a situation where more than half of a British squad consists of foreign players. We have the highest percentage of foreign players in the world in the premier league – and this will reflect in our world cup performance.

  4. Waldy

    6 September, 2010 at 16:51

    The problem is not the number of foreigners in the English leagues but the lack of English players in foreign leagues. The last truly international player in the England squad was Beckham. Putting rules in place that demand a certain number of English players will simply over inflate the wages of these already over rated players.

  5. Frank Corner

    23 October, 2010 at 22:43

    There is an increase of foregn players in just about all sports. Major leage baseball have now over 30% of foregn born players and they are stand outs in the leagues. If you want top notch sports the best players should be playing it. The survial of the fittest. The best players go where the money is.

  6. mei

    13 February, 2012 at 04:32

    We should restrict the amount of foreign players. Too many foreign players in the EPL and this gives no chance to the young players from the england academy to play like oxalde-chambelain from arsenal and co.
    Take La Liga(SPAIN) for example. Most of their players are from spain and I will say ONLY at least 10% or less of the players are foreign.
    I think this should be a wake up call For FA to put more money in the academy to develope the young players to be world class players than the foreign players.
    If this is not done, than we will NOTHING in future.
    Not to say the Terry and Lampard genaration is out already.In other words they cant play any more becoz they are too old already by 2014 World Cup.

  7. billyframpton

    24 June, 2014 at 20:18

    The Premier League has become an investment opportunity for foreign investors. Also the number of managers whose first language is not English is in contrast with David Cameron’s ideal of British Values. It is obvious that the clubs who are the most successful are also the ones who have the most non-uk footballers in their squad.

    You only have to look at the team sheets on a typical week end to realize that English players are being squeezed out of the top league. As a West Ham live long supporter I long for the days when my club could produce the Trevor Brookings, Geoof Hurst, Martin Peters, Devonshire, Sissons, Lampard Redknapps, Ferdinands, and other clubs with the Stanley Matthews, Finneys, Jimmy Greaves, and many many more.

    Nowadays we talk about the Sturridges who missed so many goal opportunities this World Cup, and Sterlings (he cannot even get a regular Liverpool place). We claim Gerrard is Great but he is in Bobby Moore’s Shadow.

    Oh Oh to see English players come through and dominate the teams in the Premier League

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