Loans are changing – and English football could be set for the biggest revolution since 1992

Mason Mount, loan system, English football
(Image credit: Getty)

The loan system is changing and English football is set to change as a result. 

You know how it is right now: big clubs have a stockpile of exciting youngsters, who spend most of their life in AirBnBs across Europe on loan. Well, FIFA want to limit the number of loans per club to just six. 

It's not like big clubs to just sit back and accept a decision though, is it? Here's what the loan system changing might mean for the pyramid as a whole.

The loan system is a-changing: but how? And why?

Michy Batshuayi

(Image credit: PA)

The new regulations are intriguing. Laws concerning international loans in and out of any club will come into force in July, though players aged 21 or under and club-trained players will be exempt from the new guidelines. Domestic loans will not be covered by these new rules just yet – but FIFA has said national associations have three years to bring their own rules in line with the rest of the world.

So by July 1 2025 – provided the regulations are given final approval by the FIFA Council – clubs may only be allowed to send six players on loan. 

For context, Chelsea have 21 players out on loan right now. That includes players who cost over £30m: Danny Drinkwater, Michy Batshuayi and Tiemoue Bakayoko are incredibly all still employed by the Blues and members of the infamous "loan army". Under the new rules though, they'd presumably have to all leave. 

There's further bad news for clubs like Chelsea who have affiliate clubs (hello, Vitesse). FIFA want to limit the number of deals two clubs can do with one another, while the length of loan deals will also be looked at. Remember when Juan Cuadrado was sent on a three-year loan to Juventus? Yeah, that isn't going to wash with FIFA anymore. 

Blimey. What will big clubs do?

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola smiling | Manchester City v RB Leipzig live stream

(Image credit: Getty)

It seems probable that the likes of Drinkwater and Batshuayi may have to leave Chelsea permanently before these new laws are brought in. But the Blues are far from the only side affected, with each of the top six "stockpiling" to a degree – and most of them with first-team flops out on the continent trying to pick up value.

It's very likely that the old B-team conversation will rear its head once more. Pep Guardiola has always spoken highly of the model, which would put City's second team (and other clubs', of course) in the Football League – but naturally, there's a lot of opposition to that. 

It seems like these loan laws may strengthen the big clubs' hands. They want their prospects playing senior football – and if they can't legally do that by sending them on loan, we might see efforts ramped up by the Premier League to flood the pyramid with academies. A number of them already compete in the EFL Trophy, after all.

What are the alternatives?

Brentford fans

(Image credit: PA)

Assuming that big clubs don't get their way – a big assumption to make – the Premier League 2 would immediately pick up in talent, considerably. The PL2 is the development league that under-23s compete in: so imagine if every loaned-out player in the Premier League suddenly arrived back.

There could be loopholes, of course. Manchester City, for example, have the City Football Group – and while FIFA are keen to limit the influence of clubs who have feeder teams, there might be ways in which players can terminate contracts here to take them up there. Things aren't quite clear yet.

Another alternative might be that clubs could adopt B-teams who play friendlies, rather like Brentford. The Bees' Bs compete against under-23 teams, in competitions – the team won their first silverware in 2017's Kai Thor Cup in Odense, Denmark – against lower league sides to give their youngsters a taste of physicality. 

Whatever happens, we could be set for a big change – and given that overseas leagues already have B-teams incorporated into their pyramid, English football might have to adapt drastically…

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Mark White
Staff Writer

Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. An encyclopedia of football shirts and boots knowledge – both past and present – Mark has also been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals for FFT and has written pieces for the mag ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career. He once saw Tyrone Mings at a petrol station in Bournemouth but felt far too short to ask for a photo.