In football there are things people are very passionate about, and things they could not care less about. Apart from the team you support the things that really get you talking differ from person to person depending on what’s had the biggest effect on their club in the past. Chelsea fans could be forgiven for holding rather strong opinions on goal line technology after Garcia’s dubious goal likewise with Liverpool fans and beach balls on the pitch! Whatever the issue be prepared for it to be rivalled by the sheer ineffectiveness of the 25 man rule.
A more ridiculous rule I do not know of. Before writing this article, I must confess, whilst I knew about the rule, I had not really investigated it fully, and it was something that I just accepted and didn’t really question. Now however, I am left shaking my head at the sheer uselessness of it – Theo Walcott at the 2006 world cup was more effective.
In short the ruling means clubs cannot have a squad larger than 25 men, and 8 of these have to be ‘home grown.’ Before the issue of being home grown is considered, let’s firstly take a look at the 25 man limit.
On the surface this can be seen to stop big money clubs like Manchester City from stockpiling players and keeping world class players firstly out of the hands of their rivals and secondly stop them from being able to keep a player happy on the bench on a huge wage packet – now they have to be kept happy suited and booted in the stands instead.
A nice idea in theory, yet teams playing in the UCL – ie the very teams this rule is aimed at – already have to abide by a similar rule, which has been in place for more than 10 years. When the rule was introduced, only 3 premier league clubs were over the 25 man limit anyway – Bolton (27) Wolves (28) and shockingly, newly rich boys City (31). Yet that summer each club brought in new players, so stockpiling really didn’t stop.
All three club managers were then left with the situation of having to omit quality players from their squad – being able to loan them to football league clubs or indeed just make them sit in the stands during match day. Mancini took a novel approach and decided to ostracise certain players and the reserves became their new home – think Bellamy etc.
So it did not stop teams from adding to the amount of players they had at all – and very few were over the 25 man limit anyway. Managers like Jose Mourinho will strictly insist of a small squad – two world class players for each position – which whilst provides competition for places, does not breed discontent nor have the club over run with unhappy players who have no chance of playing.
A huge aim of the rule was, as stated, to end the stockpiling of players by the bigger clubs, yet this rule only focuses on players over the age of 21. Therefore clubs are now simply stockpiling younger players – and poaching them from other clubs is a favourite way of doing this – think Kakuta and Chelsea.
Players who are under the age of 21 are bought by the clubs are eligible to play regardless of the 25 man rule, and are mostly kept on the bench or in the reserves as they have little to no chance of making the senior squads. Surely this is something that needs to be addressed before imposing a somewhat irrelevant limit on squads?
The rule has come in for strong criticism from Premier League managers, with Wenger and Redknapp being the first to make their feelings known on the matter. Redknapp makes the point that whilst the ruling attempts to encourage the introduction of home-grown young talent, if the players were good enough, they would come through regardless of the rule, and would then be at a club because of their talent, not just to make up the ruling or comply to FA rules as a token who has no chance of playing, yet could have the opportunity somewhere else.