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On Chelsea’s ‘huge’ homegrown ‘headache’, which isn’t huge, or a headache at all

Don’t call it a quota!

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Vidi FC v Chelsea FC - UEFA Europa League - Group L Photo by Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images

Introduced in the summer of 2010, the Homegrown Player rules are nearly a decade old and yet remain confusing to a good majority of football fans. A big part of the blame lies in reporting such as this one from the Telegraph yesterday, which ran under the headline:

Lack of home-grown players leaves Chelsea facing huge Champions League headache

And that’s one of the more tame ones.

Reading further, it’s immediately revealed that it’s hardly a headache, let alone a huge one, although the term “headache” appears in the very first sentence.

But the bigger problem comes later on, when it’s claimed that Chelsea “cannot fill their home-grown quota with first-team players”.


And Chelsea are said to be still “one short of the eight home-grown players required”.


That’s not how it works.

Here’s what the 2018-19 Premier League Handbook has to say:

“Squad List” means the list of up to a maximum of 25 Players eligible to participate in League Matches during a Season of whom a maximum of 17 may not be Home Grown Players.

“Home Grown Player” means a Player who, irrespective of his nationality or age, has been registered with any Club (or club) affiliated to The Football Association or the Football Association of Wales for a period, continuous or not, of three Seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the Season during which he turns 21) and, for the purposes of this definition of “Home Grown Player”, a Season will be deemed to commence on the date on which the relevant Summer Transfer Window closes and expire on the date of the final League Match of the Season.

In other words, each team can register a maximum of 25 players, but only a maximum of 17 non-homegrown players. That’s the rule. That’s the only rule.

The remaining 8 must be homegrown, but there is no requirement to register 25 players. In fact, there appears to be no minimum requirement at all, although you must have 7 players to play a match (FIFA rules).

The only rule is on the maximum number of non-homegrown players who can be registered. More can be on the books, as we’ve seen many times in the past, but only 17 can be registered. There is no “quota” that has to be filled or met for either homegrown or non-homegrown.

We can register 25 homegrown players if we want.
We can register 0 homegrown players if we want.
We cannot register more than 17 non-homegrown players, even if we want.

Technically, that last one still qualifies as a “quota” although the word tends to not be used in that sense too often, especially in this sort of reporting, when it’s usually meant as a minimum requirement that needs to be met.

Case in point: Chelsea registered just 21 players for the second-half of the 2017-18 season, with both the Premier League and the Champions League — UEFA rules are almost exactly the same, but they make the extra differentiation between association-trained homegrown (e.g. Fàbregas, Cahill, Moses, Drinkwater, Barkley) and club-trained homegrown (e.g. John Terry, Loftus-Cheek, Christensen), reserving at least 4 spots for the club-trained players (which, once again, can be left empty).

Of course, we used more than just 21 players in either competition. Both the Premier League and UEFA allow practically unlimited youth players (born on or after January 1, 1998 for the 2019-20 season), with UEFA adding a proviso that they had to have been on the books for at least two seasons (which is why Ethan Ampadu was ineligible for the ‘B List’ in Europe — but he will be starting next season!).

After rolling with just 21 players (16 non-homegrown, 5 homegrown) in 2017-18, Chelsea registered the full complement of 25 players last September (17 non-homegrown, 8 homegrown). But nothing significant had actually changed however, as the three “new” homegrown players were Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Andreas Christensen (who no longer qualified as U21 freebies) and third goalkeeper Rob Green. To underline how non-problematic this situation was, when Fàbregas, who qualified as homegrown (association-trained) left in January, he was only replaced by perpetually injured Marco van Ginkel.

So where’s the “headache” coming from now? That idea stems from Green and Cahill leaving, Moses being out on loan, and Drinkwater ... well who knows what his deal is. That leaves, from last year’s 8 homegrown players, just Barkley, Christensen, and Loftus-Cheek.


BOOM. “Headache”. HUGE headache.

Except, this is exactly part of the plan. The entire idea of this summer, having accepted the transfer ban, is to put faith in youth. The “missing” homegrown players will come precisely from the youth team and the returning loan army. The likes of Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, and Jake Clarke-Salter are all over 21 and would thus be registered as homegrown. At least Abraham is set to stay, as things stand today.

Meanwhile, there’s an even more exciting group of under-21 players who will surely (hopefully) play big roles this coming season. Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ethan Ampadu, Reece James, and Mason Mount are all U21/B-List players as far as registrations are concerned, but certainly at least Hudson-Odoi will be pulling in regular first-team minutes.

Hardly a headache.

Until the FA or Brexit or whatever else changes these rules (and recently a proposal to lower the non-homegrown limit was shot down), there’s little to be worried about.

If nothing happens from now until the end of August (when registrations are due), here’s one 25-man squad we could submit. This is just a quick sketch; don’t get all upset if your favorite player isn’t there.

non-HG (17): Alonso, Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Bakayoko, Batshuayi, Caballero, David Luiz, Emerson, Giroud, Jorginho, Kanté, Pedro, Pulisic*, Rüdiger, Zappacosta, Zouma, Willian

HG-association (2): Barkley, Drinkwater

HG-club (3): Abraham, Christensen, Loftus-Cheek

U21/B-List (4+): Ampadu, Hudson-Odoi, James, Mount, third goalkeeper, etc.

Again, the youth list can be unlimited.

Christian Pulisic would in fact count as an under-21 freebie for the league, though he would have to be registered as non-homegrown for the Champions League.

If Mateo Kovačić stays, he would also have to be non-homegrown.

The list above will obviously change. The futures of several players are very much up in the air. But this particular part won’t be a headache. In fact, it could be the start of something beautiful.

P.S.: Exactly one month until our first preseason match, on July 19, in Japan!

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