The Premiership: Why the 25-man squad rules do matter

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The Independent Football

What do these regulations mean?

Introduced this season, Premier League clubs are required to name squads of 25 players, eight of whom must be homegrown. Clubs are permitted to select a maximum of 17 foreign players, while there are no limits on the number of under-21 players.

Why have they been introduced now?

The quota system has been designed to encourage the development of youth and to offer greater opportunities for young English talent. The rules do not apply to cup games.

How long have clubs known about this?

Premier League clubs voted to introduce the system last September, meaning managers have had a year to prepare for their implementation.

By when must clubs register their lists?

Clubs are required to submit their 25-man lists to the Premier League by 5pm on the day after the close of each transfer window. This summer’s window shuts at 6pm on 31 August, so final lists must be handed over by 5pm on 1 September.

Who will benefit?

Young English players, and, in the long term, it is hoped, the England national team. To get around the rules, managers will be forced to turn to youth, giving academy players more opportunity to play in the top flight, rather than them sitting on the sidelines or being loaned out to lower league clubs. With more English players getting chances to play, it is hoped future England managers will have a bigger pool of players to choose from. There is also likely to be an increase in players available on loan, particularly from bigger clubs with large squads, so clubs in the lower reaches of the Premier League may be able to pick up some big names.

Who might be at risk?

Manchester United midfielder Owen Hargreaves and Tottenham defender Jonathan Woodgate are two of the more high-profile players likely to miss out on inclusion in their sides’ squads, as a result of their long-term injury problems. Manchester City striker Craig Bellamy has also spoken out this week of his fear at missing out on selection, claiming he would quit the game if Roberto Mancini deems him surplus to requirements at Eastlands. The prices of English players could be driven up as they become a more valued commodity, while players over the age of 21 face being left out in the cold as clubs turn to youth.

How is “homegrown” defined?

According to the Premier League, a homegrown player is “one who, irrespective of nationality or age, has been registered with any club affiliated to the Football Association or the Welsh FA for a period of three seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday”. So, Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas qualifies as homegrown, as he moved to England from Barcelona’s youth system at the age of 16. England international Owen Hargreaves, however, does not make the grade, because he spent his youth with German club Bayern Munich. Fabregas’s team-mate Nicklas Bendtner is also categorised as homegrown, because the 22-year-old Dane joined Arsenal in 2004.

What if a player breaks his leg the day after the squads are named?

Clubs are expected to have enough players – including the unlimited under-21 players – to cover for any such eventuality. Only in extreme instances will clubs be allowed to register new foreign players before the next transfer window. Free agents can be signed outside of the window.

When can changes be made?

In the next transfer window. Come January, a club may sign new players, as long as they give the Premier League 24 hours’ notice before games. Squad sizes must stay at 25, so a player must be removed to accommodate any new signing.

What if a side does not have enough homegrown players to fill their squad?

Then sides will have to operate with a reduced squad or make up the shortfall by naming under-21 players.