Premier League clubs tell FA they produce the best players in Europe

Gareth Southgate has warned he may have to pick players from the Championship – PA / Martin Rickett

Premier League clubs have told the Football Association they produce the highest quality players in Europe, even if playing time is high for England-qualified players [EQPs] has steadily fallen as the league has become more successful.

Gareth Southgate openly criticized the declining number of EQP minutes in the Premier League – just 28 per cent of the total in recent rounds of the game – when he announced his England squad on Thursday. Battle lines have been drawn between the two organizations over the future of the EQP and the England senior team, with the likely consequences at odds.

Southgate warned he may have to start selecting players from the Championship for international play and said January’s record transfer spending of £815million would further reduce opportunities for homegrown talent. The Premier League has commissioned an independent study showing that club academies produce better quality players for the English side than any other major footballing nation.

The Premier League does not believe there is a direct link between success at international level and most playing minutes for eligible players in the world’s biggest leagues. It states that, for example, the number of minutes played by Argentina players in the five major European leagues has fallen over the past three seasons – at a time when the national team has won the Copa America and the World Cup.

Conducted by Twenty First Group on behalf of the Premier League, the study used a rating system measuring position, playing time, game contribution and age to provide a market rating of the top 25 rated players under the age of 23 by nationality. It placed the England cohort higher than any other with a market valuation averaging £48million.

According to the attached table, this was a significant improvement over 10 years earlier. EQPs carry a higher premium due to their own odds imposed by Premier League squad profile regulations, although it is not clear if this has been factored into the calculation.

Premier League clubs estimate they have spent around £2billion on development since the Elite Player Performance Plan was introduced in 2012. This has revolutionized the volume and training of coaches, contact time with players, gaming and educational programs, and the facilities created available to academy boys.

When the EPPP celebrated its tenth anniversary last year, it was hailed as a success by the FA, which saw a strong improvement in the performance of England youth teams. Most recent success was England Under-19s winning their European Age Group Championship last summer.

But Southgate’s fears of a drop in playing time for EQPs are supported by the data. In the first Premier League season, 1992-1993, 69.7 per cent of minutes were played by EQPs. From 2002 to 2003, that proportion had fallen to 38.9 percent. It fell to 30.3 percent in 2013-2014 but rose to 36.1 percent last season. It is currently at 30.5 percent for the 2022-2023 season.

In 2014, the FA set the goal of playing 90 EQPs regularly in the five major European leagues by 2022. The Premier League claims it was 102 by the 2021-2022 season. It also points to the success of EPPP academy graduates in other leagues, such as Jude Bellingham, Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham. Southgate has said English football is not exporting enough EQPs to make up for the lack of minutes in the Premier League.

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