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Premier League clubs tell FA they are producing the highest quality players in Europe

Gareth Southgate has warned that he may have to start picking players from the Championship – PA/Martin Rickett

Premier League clubs have told the Football Association that they are producing the highest quality players in Europe, even if the volume of game-time for England-qualified players [EQPs] has consistently fallen as the league has become more successful.

Gareth Southgate launched an outspoken critique of the falling number of EQP minutes in the Premier League – as little as 28 percent of the total in recent matchday rounds – when he announced his England squad on Thursday. The battle lines have been drawn between the two organizations over the future of the EQP and the England senior team, with disagreement over the likely consequences.

Southgate warned that he may have to start selecting players from the Championship for international duty, and said that the record January transfer spend of £815 million would further reduce the chances for homegrown talent. The Premier League has commissioned independent research that it says demonstrates that the club academies are producing a higher quality of players for the England team than any other major football nation.

The Premier League does not believe there is a direct correlation between success at the international level and having the most game-time minutes for eligible players in the world’s biggest leagues. It says that, for instance, Argentinian players’ number of minutes in the big five leagues in Europe has fallen in the last three seasons – at a time when the national team won the Copa America and World Cup.

The research undertaken by the Twenty First Group, commissioned by the Premier League, used a rating system measuring position, playing-time, game contribution and age, to place a market valuation on the 25 top-rated players under the age of 23 by nationality . It placed the English cohort higher than any other with a market valuation averaging £48 million.

As per the attached table that was a considerable improvement on 10 years earlier. EQPs do attract a higher premium by virtue of the homegrown quotas imposed by Premier League regulations on squad profile, although it is not clear whether that was factored into the calculation.

The Premier League clubs estimate they have spent around £2 billion on development since the introduction of the Elite Player Performance Plan in 2012. That revolutionized the volume and training of coaches, contact time with players, matches and education programs as well as the facilities made available to academy boys.

When EPPP reached its tenth anniversary last year it was hailed as a success by the FA which has seen a steep improvement in the performance of junior England teams. The most recent success was the England Under-19s winning their age group European championships last summer.

Yet Southgate’s fear of a decline in game-time for EQPs are supported by the data. In the first Premier League season of 1992-1993, 69.7 percent of minutes were played by EQPs. By 2002-2003 that had fallen to 38.9 percent. It dropped as low as 30.3 percent in 2013-2014 but rallied to 36.1 percent last season. Currently for the 2022-2023 season it stands at 30.5 percent.

The FA set a target in 2014 of 90 EQPs playing regularly in Europe’s big five leagues by 2022. The Premier League claims it was 102 by season 2021-2022. It also points to the success of EPPP academy graduates in other leagues, such as Jude Bellingham, Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham. Southgate has said that English football does not export enough EQPs to make up for the shortage of minutes in the Premier League.

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