Roy Hodgson today welcomed the proposals of Greg Dyke, the FA chairman, to increase the number of young English players progressing in the Premier League. "Everyone who is passionate about English football would strongly advocate the findings and recommendations," said the England manager. "I hope the debate that has been provoked can lead to some real developments in our game."
Dyke will be grateful for such staunch support for he has started what is likely to be a long and contentious struggle to force his proposals though. In 'The FA Chairman's England Commission Report' Dyke observes "there are already those queuing up to condemn any proposals for change" and he "expects resistance", but adds "there are times when change is essential and the commission believes this is one of them".
Dyke has identified four major problems: inadequate and insufficient competitive playing opportunities for 18-21 year-old elite players at top clubs; too many average non-EU foreign players being given work permits; unsatisfactory coaching and coach development; and poor facilities, notably a lack of all-weather pitches.
None of this is controversial, some of the solutions are. One is classic FA: yet more inquiries are to be set up to look at coaching and grassroots facilities. More revolutionary is the widely-leaked proposal for Premier League B teams to enter the football pyramid in a new fifth division comprising ten B teams and ten Conference teams. Those B teams would not be in the FA Cup, nor be allowed to rise into the Championship. Alongside this is a proposal for Strategic loan partnerships - almost a feeder clubs 'lite', enabling lower league clubs to borrow up to eight players from one team. These two proposals would be eased through by "a significant financial settlement" from Premier League clubs to lower division ones.
A drastic tightening up of work permit regulations, including preventing any non-EU players joining clubs outside the Championship, and an increase in home-grown players, are less contentious. Those proposals, a widespread roll-out of 3G pitches, and improved pay and training for coaches, may in the long-term be more likely to achieve Dyke's modest target of 45 per cent of Premier League players being English by 2022, as opposed to the current 32 per cent, than headline grabbing ideas for B teams and feeder teams.