England & The 6-5 ProposalTue, 3 June 2008
The FA’s Brian Barwick backs Blatters 6-5 proposal, and in reply to
… although our overall population is lower than that of France or Germany, we have as many, if not more, footballers than those countries. I’m not sure what the answer is to improving our players but I do think blaming the foreign influx misses the point. I’m not just sticking up for my club. I used to be wary of how many foreigners Arsenal fielded – going back 10 years this is – but I actually found I couldn’t justify stopping them. I also found that whatever arguments I came up with for it hurting the national side’s fortunes, it just reeked of making excuses for them.
I’m all for markets being allowed to work, and the 6-5 principle, or any other restriction on foreign players (other than generally applicable immigration or employment laws) would hamper the market in players.
I don’t think England’s relative lack of success has much to do with the quality of players available. I don’t see English players as being significantly inferior to German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch or Portuguese players.
I think the reason that Germany and France have achieved far more than England is that within those countries, primacy is given to the national system. The club system is very much secondary.
Players work to a system. If the system is unfamiliar or complicated, they under-perform.
The top English clubs each have their own system, including a style of play. Clubs build distinct systems in order to compete with each other. The national team seeks to take the best players out of their clubs, and mesh them together into a coherent international team. It doesn’t work well.
In France and Germany, players are brought up through a national system. When they come together to play for their country, they know what is expected of them. Clubs built their teams based on or around the national system.
From a historical perspective, English clubs developed before there were internationals. Clubs in the rest of Europe developed largely after internationals came into existence, and FIFA was formed in 1904.
The cultural residue in Europe of nationalistic or national socialistic economics, which required even privately owned economic resources to be directed towards the benefit of the nation, also reinforces the primacy of the national system.
National socialism in Britain and the USA is widely regarded as nothing more than racism and hatred for minorities. Anglo-American liberalism, with its emphasis on economic freedom and choice, reinforces the primacy of clubs in the English system.
There is also much less competition in the other major European leagues, so there is less impetus for clubs to develop their own distinct system and style of play. European clubs tend to reflect the national identity. Although a gap has developed between the top 4 and the rest of the Premier League, it remains a highly competitive league (even if it is between the top 4 on the one hand, and the rest of the league on the other).
Matches in the other European leagues are also far less physically demanding that the Premier League, which means that European players tend to have much more in reserve when they play for their country.
Further, as salaries in the Premier League have skyrocketed, there is a risk that, unless a player is extremely patriotic, or is looking to establish himself on the international stage in order to get a new improved deal with a new club, a player will hold back from giving 100% when playing for England, in order to avoid an injury that might keep them out of action for his club. This might apply as well to other international players playing in the Premier League, but no country has nearly as many of its players playing in the Premier League as does England.