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Published on July 17th, 2018 | by Bill

English football deserves a World Cup dividend from the Premier League, and a homegrown quota should be the start.

World Cup 2018 at home in England, stickily hot and beer showered, a line from the Baddiel and Skinner track brought the football family back together for a good few boozy dos.

The country united behind its national team and the Man City dominated Premier League became a mere May memory.

Here was an England side born if not bred in the Football League. Six of Southgate’s starting eleven v Sweden had Football League debuts. Darlington, Northampton and Leyton Orient are just some of the smaller proud clubs that England players developed their game at while on loan.

It wasn’t quite outgoing Premier League Chairman Richard Scudamore’s idea that the England team might be picked from teams from the top half of the Championship and the lesser Premier League clubs but it is easy to feel that England’s success came in spite of the ‘best league in the world’ as much as because of it.

England’s weak bench pointed to a wafer thin senior talent while the “Unders” England sides find their cups runneth over. Apart from the no-go zone that is the Checkatrade Trophy there is still nothing to challenge the idiotic system of top clubs hoarding top English youth talent but not playing them enough in their first teams. The contradiction that makes world class coaches sweat when facing the 3 Lions but sleeping well at night knowing we don’t have a functional system to make senior level champions. England as convenient irritants fighting pluckily for minor honours while the real deals continue to control the top spots as in the Premier League.

While the tournament played out in Russia, Premier League Twitter was busy with ‘me me me’ tweets regarding the centrality of Premier League talent to the tournament. And here’s the crux, if the Premier League is going to monopolize money and darned good footballers and become the centre of attention in world football then it can bloody well look after its own as a minimum. If Premier League clubs can be generous in transfer fees, wages and agents’ payments let’s see the Premier League furnish English football with a healthy World Cup dividend.

Scudamore is going now, with his huge salaries probably well earned for his member clubs, less so for the rest of football. The greed is good years should be seen as precisely that, a means to an end to drive up standards and the Premier League as the pinnacle of the English football pyramid.

Southgate had barely handed his waistcoat into the dry cleaners before he was begging Premier League managers to be “brave enough” to give young English players a chance in their first team. Southgate has done enough to be taken seriously.

But it’ll need more than a few wet tweets from journalists who can’t afford to deviate from the content frenzy surrounding the top division and warmly meant articles from old FA hands like Howard Wilkinson out in the cold.

Serious ideas need tabling to consolidate the hard fought gains in Russia before everything descends into Fantasy Football bollocks.

The most obvious is a quota system for 2 English players aged 18-21 in every Premier League starting 11, with a minimum 45 minutes game time barring injuries. This would immediately catapult the Premier League into the number one spot for true homegrown game-time while adding a new layer of competition to an increasingly predictable league.

EU competition rules have often been cited as barriers to such a quota but here we might see one of the few obvious benefits of Brexit.

Secondly and this might work in itself or as an addition to the quota system, a loan draft for English Premier League players aged 18-21 who fail to appear in a given % of first team games to take place at Christmas.

Used in unison, no young English player would be left on the margins or having to move abroad to get their boots muddy. It would also kill off B-team involvement in the Checkatrade Trophy which has no future anyway without the full backing of fans.

Of course, we can’t leave the FA out of the equation. Selling Wembley is the right thing to do, being a cathedral to commercialism and a not particularly great football stadium. However, the FA shouldn’t be left to foot the bill for significant grassroots investment.

The Premier League should honour the 5% of its income originally intended to go to the grassroots football which sustains the sport. It’s that simple.

In fact, they should pay 7.5% willingly, given the sheer wastage in the top flight at present. What precisely is the point in dolling out £90+ million to every team when clubs spend £250 million on transfers and win the league by 19 points?

A tax on Premier League transfers and agents’ fees would provide a further dividend that could be used to strengthen academies at smaller clubs who would be better served raising their own youth talent via the reintroduction the 90 minute rule and the prevention of taking on kids who live more than an hour and a half away.

Sadly,  ideas for next-level change and the dirty great woolly mammoth in the room that is the Premier League are ignored by the great and good, staring into corners and missing the centrality of the issues challenging English football on the world and park football stages and the spaces in between.

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