Premier League clubs continue to lag behind their major European rivals when it comes to fielding players trained in their youth academies, despite efforts by the league and the FA to improve the trend.
A study by the CIES Football Observatory has found that just 13.9 per cent of footballers who have played in the Premier League so far this season were trained in the youth academy of the club they represent.
That figure is markedly lower than France’s Ligue 1 (24.6 per cent), Spain’s La Liga (22.4 per cent) and Germany’s Bundesliga (16.4 per cent), it was however higher than Italy’s Serie A (9.6 per cent).
The lack of homegrown players at Premier League clubs follows a trend across the whole continent with the Football Observatory noting a record low 21.2 per cent of footballers playing for the club they were trained.
In 2011, the Premier League began its Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) with the hope of improving the quality and quantity of homegrown players and overall aim of improving the performance of the England national team.
There has been a slight improvement in the percentage of club-trained players this season when compared to the last five, which will be reassuring for the league.
However the league’s positivity will be slightly dampened by the fact that the improvement has also been matched by three of the other big five rivals, the Bundesliga being the notable exception whose 17.38 per cent record last season has decreased to 16.4 per cent.
Another worrying factor is that the Premier League has the lowest percentage of club-trained players who qualify for the national team.
Just 77 per cent of club-trained Premier League players qualify for England compared to 96 per cent for Germany, 93 per cent in France, 92 per cent in Spain and 79 per cent in Italy.
This figure suggests that Premier League clubs are buying in foreign players at a younger age and then by the time they hit the first team they qualify as homegrown. While this makes it easier for them to meet the quotas set out by the EPPP and for UEFA club competitions, it does not necessarily benefit the national team.
Raffaele Poli, who runs the Football Observatory, told the Guardian that he thinks the Premier League’s financial success may be the root of the problem.
“The low percentage of club-trained players in England confirms that if clubs have the money to buy talent, they tend to be reluctant to give a chance to youth academy players. So the question is: why are clubs signing the best prospects, if they know they will not play?”
Elsewhere, Ajax continues its fine tradition of producing young footballers, with 69 players that graduated from the club’s academy now plying their trade across the continent - more than any other club. Barcelona was the best of the top five leagues with 61.
Arsenal appears to have the best academy in England - both in terms of producing the best talent and for giving club-trained players a chance in the first team. The London club’s first team has had 32.3 per cent of its appearances this season from club-trained players and also has the highest number of players playing for top division teams across Europe compared to other academies in England, with 36.
*The Football Observatory, which is based in Neuchatel, Switzerland, categorises its “club-trained” players as having trained with the club for at least three seasons between the ages of 15 and 21. The data does not highlight senior players who trained at other clubs in the same league.*