Dropping below 16 overseas players in a 25-man squad could put English clubs at a disadvantage compared to their European rivals, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has warned.
Discussions are continuing between the league and the Football Association over the composition of playing squads following Great Britain’s exit from the European Union.
The FA favours a relaxing of the restrictions that currently exist around non-EU players provided that no club exceeds 13 overseas players in a 25-man squad.
Currently clubs are allowed 17 players from overseas in their squad, and the Premier League are understood to be keen to retain that figure, with their guiding principle being that the league should feature the best English talent playing with the best the world has to offer.
Masters said: “It remains to be seen what the solution is – we’re not close to anything.
“If you did have a quota system that was vastly different to Europe, you would put our top clubs at a big disadvantage because I think the average number of foreign players that the most likely winner of the Champions League would have is 16. So if our clubs were lower than that it would be a disadvantage to them.
“The view of the Premier League and the clubs is that the system is working. It is delivering a good cohort of talented young England players.
“I don’t blame the FA for wanting to have clarity and wanting to ensure that the situation continues to move forward.
“We’re in agreement on that. We just don’t want to take any risks with the current system. We don’t want to take any risks with the Premier League because it is phenomenally successful.”
As of February 7, the average number of England-qualified players (EQPs) in starting line-ups across the 2019-20 season in the Premier League was 34.8 per cent, dropping to 27.2 per cent for the ‘big six’ clubs.
That is up from an all-time low figure of 30 per cent last season, but the increase is largely attributable to an increase of over 20 per cent at Chelsea, who had been subject to a transfer ban in last summer’s window, while promoted clubs Sheffield United and Aston Villa have both averaged over 40 per cent.
England manager Gareth Southgate, commenting on the 2018-19 figures in May last year, said: “The first thing we’ve got to do is arrest the slide. We have to stop that graph slipping.
“Because it isn’t correct to say we’re not developing good players. I think that’s really important.”
The FA believes that increasing access to signing overseas players, but preventing an increase in the numbers, would be to the benefit of English football.
Clubs in England will have one more transfer window to sign players under existing rules before the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.
Masters said: “In a perfect world this will be resolved prior to the summer transfer window and that would allow clubs the certainty of knowing what the immigration system coming in the January transfer window would be.
“That would be the perfect world, but if it takes longer than that so be it. It is right we get it right and also probably acknowledge the system doesn’t have to be inflexible for 10 years and it is something that can evolve.”
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