Premier League in government talks about homegrown players

The Premier League is in discussions with Downing Street over ways in which it can increase the number of home-grown players appearing regularly for England's leading clubs, reports the Guardian.

Discussions have begun with senior advisers to the prime minister and James Purnell, the culture secretary, to try to develop a consensual "British solution" to the apparent decline in the number of British and Irish players in the nation's top sides.

The Premier League is acutely aware of the criticism that will flow its way over the issue if England fail to qualify for Euro 2008.

Downing Street has been hugely supportive of the Premier League in recent months, and while advisers to Gordon Brown share some of the concerns at the overseas presence in the English game, they are keen that any measures reflect the realities of the Premier League, which has based its success on its international flavour.

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The Premier League opposes the various quota proposals that have been floated by Uefa and Fifa. From next season Uefa will require all Champions League and Uefa Cup entrants to include eight home-produced players in their squads of 25 players, but there is no compulsion for any of them to play or appear on the bench.

The Premier League will resist attempts to limit its clubs' competitive edge in the European game, and No10 is wary of applying conditions to sport that step outside European and national law.

The Premier League is willing, however, to examine the issue of coaching, which it feels has a major role to play in the relative skills of English and overseas players. There is a view that an emphasis on teams and results at the expense of individual skills may play a part in the relative attributes of players from the UK and the continent, and the league will look to address this in consultation with the FA and the Football League, to whom it now contributes significant money.

They will also examine measures that would help English players being usurped by overseas talent in the 14 to 16 age groups in club academies.

The league is treading with great care as it is reluctant to open the door to unwelcome regulation of the game, but will concede some ground to ensure that it retains the invaluable support of government going forward.

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