Football supporters, and I am no exception, are quick to give the sport´s governing bodies a difficult time when they mess things up with their own unique brand of farce and bureaucracy. So for once I will put my neck on the line and say ´Well done, Uefa!´, because their new regulations on homegrown players in European football already seem to be having a significant impact.
The new scheme´s first big-name fall guy is Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia. The Finnish international´s Champions League career seems to be, well, finished after he was omitted from the Reds´ 25-man squad for the competition. The news rules stipulate that each squad must contain at least four players developed by the club´s own academy, and a further four players who have been produced by any other academy in the same country.
While Sepp Blatter´s ‘6+5’ rule was never going to get off the ground, this solution seems to offer a happy medium for all parties. Champions League managers have still got 17 positions in their squad to offer to their latest foreign import and can still field a team of eleven players from abroad should they wish. But instead of 34-year-old Finns fighting for a place on the bench, there will be a contingent of young British players instead.
Taking Liverpool as the example, it is doubtful whether defenders Steve Irwin (we thought he had met his demise while swimming with stingrays) and Martin Kelly would have had a sniff of Champions League football this season without the new regulations, but they have made the squad at Hyypia´s expense. And although the rules are limited to European football, they are bound to have a knock-on effect for domestic football. Managers will be building their squads with the homegrown player quotas in mind, and are more likely to blood their youngsters in the Premier League than risk handing them their first-team debut in a tough away Champions League tie.
The plans were first announced in 2005 by Lennart Johansson, so Michel Platini cannot take the credit for this one. They have been phased in since then, but with the quota now up to eight homegrown players it is now likely to start having a tangible impact on clubs and their young players. Time to start hyping up our generation of teenage Champions League players….