The Football League have announced changes to their matchday rules for the 2017-18 season onwards. The League already has a rule in place concerning the number of homegrown players that must be named on a given teamsheet - in practice that doesn't affect many League One and League Two sides, but is more aimed at Championship clubs that overload their squads with imported players.
The rule was brought in for the start of the 2009-10 season and classifies a home grown player as one that was on the books of a domestic club for a minimum of three years prior to their twenty-first birthday. The original rule started off with a minimum of four players being home grown, but this was later raised to six. From the start of the 2017-18 season, clubs must name seven home grown players in their matchday squads.
This rule won't affect Yeovil Town in the slightest, given the vast majority of the club's players have not stepped out of this country to play their football. Even a player such as Polish-born Artur Krysiak would be regarded as home grown, given he joined Birmingham City at the age of 17 and has stayed on the books of English clubs since that moment.
The change to the rules that may present a challenge for the Glovers, is that from the start of the 2018-19 season, there will be a requirement for each club to name at least one 'developed player' on their teamsheet for any Football League match. Whilst they don't provide a strict definition of what a 'developed' player is, they say the goal is to "help more players make the transition from Academy to first-team football" - the BBC Sport website believe the definition of such a player is one that has spent at least one season with that club leading up to an Under-19 level, thus covering the main Academy system and any first year Academy Graduates.
For the 2016-17 season, the club have one player that fits that definition - midfielder Ollie Bassett. Reading the rule literally, that would appear to prevent the club from loaning such players out to other clubs if that left them without an Academy player that could be fielded. In the case of Ollie, he has spent three loan spells with Dorchester Town this season, and so this begs the question of whether he would be able to do that during next season, should the club retain his services. The rulebook may also have to address the issue of what would happen if Ollie, or other Academy graduates were injured - would the club have to name an Under-18 player on their bench to fulfil that criteria, or be forced to only field six substitutes?
For next season, midfielder Joe Lea would also fit that definition, but could not qualify for this season, as the BBC's definition is that it only counts for a player "who has been registered to the club for at least a year" - Lea is in his first season with the club.
For clubs with mature Academy systems, like Exeter City and Crewe Alexandra, this will be an easy rule for them to comply with. However, for those who have treated their youth development systems less seriously, it may now have to concentrate minds a bit more. Football League Chief Executive Shaun Harvey has said of the rule change:
"I hope this latest commitment made by our clubs is further evidence of the EFL taking the initiative in looking for practical and effective measures that can be introduced to help managers and coaches in the ongoing development of young players. It is imperative that we provide young players not only with a platform, but also with the belief that opportunities will be made available to progress from youth to senior football. I am confident that this decision will have a positive and lasting impact on the future of football in this country."
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