David Triesman, the chairman of the Football Association, is exploring ways to change the rules of the FA Cup to try to ensure more English players are involved in matches. Work started this week and the ruling body is already looking into how it might be able to force clubs to field more home-qualified players and also ways it might stop them from using their academies to develop foreign players.
"I'm keen to see whether the basic regulations of the competitions [such as the FA Cup] can be looked at without breaching [EU] employment law," said Lord Triesman, speaking at an FA fans' forum at Fratton Park. "I'm not certain it can, but I'm prepared to see what can be done."
He also pointed out that the England manager Fabio Capello is finding it difficult to plan his weekends, given the relatively small numbers of players on show whom he is free to pick. "If people running Premier League clubs feel they are not getting enough English players then the position seems to be, 'Let's pick them up from somewhere else'. I think we have to use all our efforts into encouraging the development of England-eligible youngsters in the Premier League."
Triesman added that the FA Cup semi-finals would continue at Wembley to help pay back more than £400m in loans that the FA has taken out to finance the £798m stadium. He also said that he believed the make-up of this year's semi-finals, in which West Bromwich face Portsmouth on April 5 and Barnsley meet Cardiff the following day, vindicated the decision to move the matches from club venues.
"Wembley is a world-class stadium that can hold any world-class game, but a stadium of that kind is very expensive to build and very expensive to maintain. For those reasons playing the semi-finals there is liable to continue; it is part of the business plan," he said.
"If it's a case of 17,000 fans getting in for an FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park or 33,000 fans getting in for an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, then it's not really a hard choice to make."