By Mike Collett
ENGLISH football’s new head Greg Dyke has painted a potentially bleak future for the country’s national team unless the spiralling influence of foreign players in the Premier League can be curtailed.
In a wide-ranging speech, the newly-appointed chairman of the Football Association said on Wednesday he was setting up a commission to investigate the decline of the number of English players in “the most successful league in the world”.
He stressed, however, he was not blaming the Premier League for the ills affecting the game.
“The issue, quite simply, is this. In the future it’s quite possible we won’t have enough players qualified to play for England who are playing regularly at the highest level in this country or elsewhere in the world,” he said.
“As a result, it could well mean England’s teams are unable to compete seriously on the world stage.”
The FA approved the creation of the Premier League, which began in 1992, because it was sold the idea that overseas players coming to England would improve the standard of English players.
Yet the opposite happened, according to Dyke, who at that time was chairman of a TV company that helped bring the League into being.
“What none us could have foreseen was because of the very success of the Premier League we would end up with a league largely owned by foreign owners, managed by foreign managers and played by foreign players,” he said.
“And that, as a result, the England set-up has been weakened rather than strengthened by the creation of the Premier League.”
Dyke, 66, who became FA chairman in July, continued: “The England team does not have a history of success.
“One World Cup win on home soil and a few semi-finals does not compare with the records of Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Italy and more recently, Spain and France.
“However, just because we have not been as successful as we think we should have been in the past doesn’t mean we should accept the same going forward.
“England should aim to win the World Cup in 2022 and at least reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020.”
He said things had to change to give England any chance of ending decades of under-achievement.
“English football is a tanker that needs turning,” he said announcing he was setting up and chairing an FA commission to help make it turn.
Emphasising his concerns about the decline in the number of English players starting matches in the Premier League, he said: “I think the situation is serious, very serious. So the question I am asking today is a simple one.
“Do we let this trend continue or do we actually try to do something about it ?”
The commission, which will meet for the first time this month and report early next year, will ask why England are in this situation, what could be done and how any changes can be implemented.
The chairmen of the Premier League, Football League, Professional Footballers’ Association and League Managers’ Association have all been invited on to the commission.
Dyke has also urged all in the game to come forward to give evidence about how matters can improve.
England have only won the World Cup once, on home soil, in 1966 and have not reached the semi-finals since 1990 and Dyke stressed that the foreign influence in the Premier League was having an adverse effect on England teams.
He said the number of English Under-21 players competing in the Premier League dropped to its lowest level last season.
Then in June, the England Under-21 side lost all their three group games in the European Championship in Israel.
“In the 1992-93 season the figure for English players in the starting line-ups of Premier League clubs was 69 per cent. Ten years later that figure was down to 38 per cent. Last season, another ten years on, the same figure was down to 32 percent.
“We can’t say we weren’t warned. Six years ago, the PFA produced a remarkably prescient report entitled ‘Meltdown’ in which it outlined the emerging problem.”
Despite these comments he said his speech was “not designed to start a blame game”.
He added: “We want to work hand in hand with the Premier League whose clubs had made a huge investment in academies but so far the game had not seen “a huge return on that investment”.
He also highlighted the limited playing opportunities that eligible English players receive at club level, saying there were issues getting youngsters out of academies and into first-team line-ups.
“If the best of our emerging young players can’t get a game here, then we have a serious problem,” he said.