A lot is made about buying home grown players, and the struggle teams face to recruit enough quality of “English” talent to fulfil the Premier League home grown criteria.
People often get the criteria the wrong way round, talking about how each club must register “8 home grown players”. This is not true. They could for all intents and purposes register none.
The rule is about how many “non home grown” players a team can register:
Each club is able to list up to 17 senior players that are not English or Welsh and did not spend a significant period in an English or Welsh academy.
Currently, to be classified as home grown one must be on an English (or Welsh) team for at least three years before the age of twenty-one. It does not matter if the player was born overseas, or what country they play for.
For this reason, the likes of Alex Iwobi (born in Nigeria, plays for Nigeria) and Wilfried Zaha (born in Ivory Coast, plays for Ivory Coast) are considered home grown. And rightly so.
Both came to England at 4 years old, and are very much British citizens as much as they are Nigerian or Ivorian. Both have representing England as youngsters before deciding to play for the country of their both at senior level. Regardless of what people say, I will always class both as British (interestingly when I do this on Twitter, it riles up mainly Nigerian fans who seem to not realise he can be both Nigerian and British).
You then have players such as Hector Bellerin and Cesc Fabregas.
Both signed for Arsenal from Barcelona as teenagers. Both spent 3 years in England before they were 21-years-old.
Both born in Spain, both capped by Spain, yet both are considered as home grown.
The home grown rule was bought in by Greg Dyke in an attempt to improve the English national team. In theory, to force sides to have more “English” players in the squad. But you could essentially have Zaha, Iwobi, Bellerin and Fabregas in the squad, all home grown, non of whom play for England.
You also have the Welsh criteria.
As Swansea, Cardiff and Wrexham play in England, the Premier League count you as home grown even if you were in a Welsh academy.
This means someone like Ben Davies of Tottenham is home grown, despite being born in Wales and playing for Wales.
This does not extend to Scotland, however.
Bournemouth have to register Ryan Fraser (born in Scotland, plays for Scotland) as non home grown. This has probably impacted some top teams signing him this summer.
Arsenal target Kieran Tiernay is the same.
Tiernay was born on the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea. He moved to Scotland at a young age and came up through Celtic’s academy. Like Fraser, were he to move to England he will not be considered as home grown.
I am sure these rules impact English teams signing Scottish players. Why go for a player from North of the border when their are better French / German / Spanish players available?
The oddest rule of them all can be seen with Eric Dier.
Dier was born in Cheltenham, England. He plays for the English national team. At the age of 7, he moved with his family to Portugal as his mother got a job with UEFA working on Euro 2004. He is not considered as home grown.
So we have Zaha, Iwobi, Fabregas, Bellerin and Dier. 1 born in England, 4 born abroad. 1 plays for England, 4 play for foreign nations. Yet it is the English born, England international who is not considered as home grown. It all feels a little backwards.
When teams play in Europe, UEFA confuse matters further.
The “Welsh Rule” which means the Premier League considers players who have come up through an academy in Wales does not apply for UEFA competitions.
So back to the aforementioned Ban Davies.
Davies spent all his time in the Swansea academy (bar a brief spell in Denmark as a pre-teen).
Since 12 years old, he has played within the English football pyramid, working his way through the Swansea junior teams before becoming a 1st team regular. The issue is that whilst Swansea play in England, they still come under the Football Association of Wales rather than the English FA. UEFA do not consider him as home grown.
This led Tottenham having to leave him out of their European squad a few years back, something which baffled Mauricio Pochettino.
The fact the UEFA do not consider players to have come through the Welsh system is confusing, as every top Welsh player would have likely have come through the Swansea or Cardiff youth system (unless they moved to England at a very young age).
It also works the other way round. If Swansea or Cardiff were to play in European competition, any English players would be considered as non home grown.
This could create a situation where Swansea are Champions of England, with a squad containing 25 English-born players, but in Europe could only register 17 of them.
Like with Scotland, I wonder how much this impacts English clubs from buying Welsh players? And how many parents would consider moving their child from Wales to an English academy at 15 to ensure that they are eligible for both countries as home grown?
In summary, it is all a bit of a mess.
When an English born, English international is not considered home grown, whilst a Nigerian born, Nigerian international is home grown, something is broken.
Would Arsenal have signed Ryan Fraser if he was home grown? And is that a key reason we are targeting Zaha?