Ciderspace News Page : Football League Offer Financial Incentives For Fielding Young Players
6 October 2016 : Football League Offer Financial Incentives For Fielding Young Players
The Football League are to offer cash incentives for clubs who field young English (or for certain clubs, Welsh) players in their starting line-ups. They have put aside a sum of £2.25 million that will be spread across three seasons, giving £750,000 per year for clubs that "regularly promote home grown players from their academies into the first team."

The League have stated that those clubs that provide starting positions for players in Football League fixtures, where they are under the age of 21 and are qualified for England (or Wales for Cardiff City and Newport County) will be financially rewarded for doing so, using this new sum of money that has been allocated.

Dubbed as 'EFL Futures' the programme is designed at providing an incentive for clubs to field young English (or Welsh) players as a means to benefit the England national team in the long run. They point out that 14 of the players who were in England's Euro 2016 squad were at one point registered with a Football League Academy, thus demonstrating that clubs outside the Premier League are vital for developing the best English players in the country.

League Chief Executive Shaun Harvey has said that he sees the incentive scheme as being a positive step in increasing the number of 'home grown' players that reach the England squad in future years:

"The EFL has, quite rightly, been deeply engaged in playing our part in resolving some of the key issues that were identified in the England commission report. Our challenge was ensuring we looked to address these issues in a way that worked for the EFL and our clubs. We are acknowledging the fact that a high performing England national team is good for the game as a whole in this country and we are therefore committed to doing everything we can to help the national team develop. I hope todayís announcement is further evidence of the EFL taking the initiative and trying to help find their part of the solution to what is a collective problem."

Harvey has claimed that the League's changes to the EFL Trophy have also helped introduce a more youthful culture to the tournament, although it's worth noting that the EPPP Category One sides are not constrained in having to field English or Welsh players in their line-ups, or for the players selected to have been sourced from their Academies. Ironically, one of the younger sides in the competition on Tuesday night was Luton Town, who fielded eight players under the age of 21, but by doing so broke the competition rules, meaning that Harvey could end up mandating a fine against the League Two side. In contrast, he highlights the number of young players being fielded in the competition:

"To date, our highest profile initiative is the introduction of Category 1 teams in the Checkatrade Trophy and despite some of the negative attention that has almost appeared to engulf the competition, it has provided an opportunity for over 200 under-21 players to be involved in competitive football as well as providing the financial incentive the competition required for League One and League Two clubs. These opportunities didnít exist previously. Clearly, there is still plenty of work to be done in this area but the provision of these additional funds through EFL Futures ensures we are on track with our commitment to make a significant, valuable and lasting contribution to the future fortune of the England national team."

This new EFL Futures programme clearly will be of benefit to those Football League clubs with strong academy systems, although the devil will be in the detail. The Football League do not divulge whether the £750,000 allocation per season is a pool that will be divided and weighted against those clubs fielding the most Under-21s, or whether this will be a 'cash per game' award for each time such a player lands on the teamsheet.

There are also a number of unanswered questions. The League's statement references clubs promoting from their Academies into the first team. Hence would a player like 18 year old midfielder Joe Lea, who came from Southampton's academy system, qualify for the Glovers to receive payments under the new system, given that he has not come from Yeovil Town's academy? The press release also does not address the question of loan players - would 19 year old Tahvon Campbell fall under the EFL Futures payment system if he started a Yeovil Town match? Or would he be seen as West Bromwich Albion's player?

There is then the question of nationality. Players whose parents and grandparents hail from multiple countries do not have to choose their nationality until they are actually selected for one of the more senior squads. Players such as Shane Duffy have flipped their nationality with the former Glovers loanee having played for Northern Ireland at up to Under-21 level before deciding to switch to the Republic of Ireland squad. Presumably Ollie Bassett (Northern Ireland) and Bevis Mugabi (Uganda) would not currently qualify for payments to be made, even though they later could choose to switch nationality, given both are English-born players. Although Otis Khan is aged 21 years old and therefore ineligible, he qualifies for both Pakistan and England and so is another example of a player who could choose to receive a call-up from either country.

Depending on what the actual rules are, the list of current Yeovil Town players who are aged Under-21 and therefore might qualify under the EFL Futures rule, are as follows:

Bevis Mugabi (Uganda, England), Jonny Maddison, Josh Ezewele, Kyle Copp (Wales), Matt Butcher (AFC Bournemouth loanee), Tahvon Campbell (West Bromwich Albion loanee), Omar Sowunmi, Joe Lea, Ollie Bassett (Northern Ireland, England), Ben Whitfield (AFC Bournemouth loanee)

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06/10/2016 : Football League Offer Financial Incentives For Fielding Young Players

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