Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish predicts Brexit will afford Premier League teams the chance to fill their academies with local talent.
Cesc Fàbregas and Gerard Piqué are notable examples of players who were able to join English clubs as adolescents under European Economic Area rules.
Non-European Union citizens must apply for a work permit while Fifa regulations ban, bar a few stringent exceptions such as moves within the EU, the transfer of under-18s from one country to another.
“At the moment you can’t stop anyone from anywhere in the EU coming and joining an academy, and Fifa rules are that you can’t sign anyone from another country unless they are 18,” said Parish, at the launch of the club’s revamped Palace for Life Foundation.
He added: “You’ve got a big problem. You’ve got the homegrown player rule which is meant to protect the England team.
“But you’ve got Academies packed full of EU citizens. But they all qualify as homegrown. So in a few years’ time we’re faced with the prospect of having a team with eight homegrown players, none of whom qualify to play for the home nations. But because of Brexit, in theory that will change.”
Palace manager Sam Allardyce also called for reform to prevent the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ cherry-picking the best youngsters at smaller clubs before they sign professional contracts.
Allardyce said: “Alright, if the time comes along where the big club comes along and takes him away, but take him away when he is ready.
“The limelight just drags them away from here to Manchester City or Manchester United, but then how many of them come through because they get lost?
“If they stay in the football club, and this is across the country, they will get in the first team quicker and get to the top if they are good enough that way, and it is a much better way of going to the top.”
PFA Young Player of the Year nominee Dele Alli made 88 first-team appearances for MK Dons before moving to Tottenham in 2015, and is the exemplary case in favour of youngsters continuing their development by playing competitive football.
UK Athletics chief Ed Warner is the chair of Palace for Life, which aims to help young south Londoners through the power of sport, focusing on those most in need.
The Premier League provides 47.8 per cent of the charity’s funding, and though Palace have not fully banished the spectre of relegation this season, Warner is confident the league’s support will continue regardless.
“They see this club as absolutely integral to what they are trying to do nationwide. That’s for all 92 clubs. They need to support us, we want their support, because this is an area which has got loads of challenges, lots of deprivation, loads of opportunity and that’s an important partnership,” said Warner.
Croydon-born Jason Puncheon and Wilfried Zaha starred in Palace’s 3-0 win over Arsenal on Monday, and the pair have been heavily involved in the foundation’s programmes.
“There’s a picture painted of the modern Premier League player, that as a generalisation just isn’t true,” said Parish.
“They give their time up really willingly and of course they get touched, they’re human beings.
“People like Wilfried and Punch [Puncheon] that are born and brought up round here, they’re from the same streets and the same problems and the same backgrounds of all the kids that they’re inspiring,” Palace’s chairman added.
Allardyce’s side are six points clear of the relegation zone, but face Liverpool, Spurs and both Manchester clubs in a daunting run-in.
- The Palace for Life Foundation has launched with a mission to transform the lives of young south Londoners through sport, encouraging them to be more active, helping them become employable and intervening to help the most disadvantaged.