English football being destroyed by the Premier League?

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So English football fails again in a major tournament. And this time it is not just the English team that under performs but apparently most of the players that ply their trade in the English Premier League (EPL) as well.

Given the relentless rise of the German national and club sides on the back of their root and branch review 12 years ago, surely it is time for the FA and EPL clubs to take a serious look at the English game. There must be a point where it is not just about money and success; only a handful of clubs can have these and they protect their position fiercely.

But wouldn't it be in everyone's interest for the English game to be stronger, for more young English players to percolate through the ranks into the first teams of the big clubs and for the game to be generally stronger and fitter - and less reliant on overpaid imports?

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Bottomless pots

The influx of foreign owners with almost bottomless pots of money has queered the pitch for many clubs to the point where it now feels as though teams cannot even compete without spending ridiculous sums. Arsene Wenger at Arsenal tried to resist this trend for years, refusing to pay extravagant fees for often mediocre players.

But even he has now had to succumb to the financial reality that you can't vie for the big prizes unless you spend.

If clubs had to survive solely on the revenue they generate only Manchester United of the top clubs would be able to hold their own. The last time an EPL title was won by a club without really spending money was in 1993 when United's own team of 'kids' pulled off the impossible

They had big signing overhanging from previous years in Bryan Robson and Gary Pallister but the core of the squad was homegrown.

Since then we have had a parade of big money squads dominating the title. From Jack Walker's heavily invested Blackburn team in 1995 through to the Chelsea and Manchester City squads of recent years. If you need any proof of the power of the chequebook just ask yourself this question - when was the last time Chelsea or Man City won the league before Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour arrived?

Just to save you looking it up it was 1955 for Chelsea (with one of the lowest points totals ever) and 1968 for City. Even more revealing, Chelsea's 1955 title was their first and City's 1968 effort their second; so Chelsea have achieved three-quarters of their title successes under Abramovich and City half of theirs in Sheikh Mansour's short tenure.

Buying success

The point here is that these were not traditionally successful sides until big money came along and made them so. On a more restrained scale Blackburn Rovers hadn't won the League since 1914 before Walker and his admittedly more modest millions took over at Ewood Park in the early 1990s. They haven't won it since and languish in the Championship now.

Can the billionaire owners be brought to book - or at least persuaded that it is in their interests too for the English game to be stronger and more progressive? The FA is bringing in homegrown player and Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules but we have had a version of the former in play for some time with no appreciable effect and the UEFA FFP rules have proved pretty easy to negotiate around for the wealthy clubs.

The problem here is finding the incentive for clubs to look for, develop and play young English footballers rather than just buy the finished product from wherever. The wealthy owners don't care whether they waste a few tens of millions provided they win trophies; the clubs are earning ridiculous fees from Sky and other sponsors, broadcasters and promoters.

Players and managers are paid obscene amounts for their services and, if the clubs saved on transfer fees, would probably be paid even more.

The FA could try appealing to clubs on patriotic or moral grounds but most of the players and managers are not even English and I believe the game in this country has lost any moral compass it had. I think the only sanction that is likely to have any effect is to directly penalise clubs for overspending.

By this I mean deducting points for net expenditure beyond a certain level. Not the imprecise, nebulous and obscure machinations of FFP where nothing is transparent and nobody can tell if they have breached the rules or not.

Plus what is the point of financial penalties for clubs with almost limitless resources? What we need is a clear, rigid framework with identified penalties and no deviation or appeal.

For example, for every say five million net spend increment over £20million in a transfer window the club could be deducted one point. That way every signing a club made would have to b e carefully scrutinised for value, and justified in terms of what they were bringing to the team. If a £40million player was likely to bring you more than five points he might be worth the gamble.

It would certainly focus minds on the transactions and bring value into much sharper focus.

I am under no illusion that this, or any scheme that penalised the rich clubs in an easily transparent way, will ever be implemented. The only reason the UEFA FFP ever got off the ground was because it is so hedged around with caveats and loopholes.

But no scheme that requires cooperation or sacrifice from the clubs and players is ever going to gain any traction. Too many of the top clubs and players have too much to lose - and too much power to prevent it happening. Remember how the EPL got started in the first place.

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