Richard Scudamore’s latest announcement that the Premier League is set to form a ‘B’ league has been a hot topic in the last week. The Premier League chief confirmed that there are plans to form the division which mirrors the format that is used in Spain among other countries. The division would replace the existing under-21 league, and consist of the same Category One sides.
Category One squads are the youth teams of the clubs that have Category One status in the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP). These clubs include the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, as well as West Ham – a club famous for its youth development.
Scudamore insists that the new league format is to be set up to aid youth development in England and will have no effect on the Football League. This means that – unlike in Spain – the Championship will remain as England’s second tier, but the young players among the ranks at the Cat One clubs will be playing in the Premier League B.
Scudamore wants the league to help English football become a force on the world stage once more, with the national side’s last success coming 48 years ago, in the only World Cup to be hosted in England. The furthest the nation has gone since then was the semifinals in Euro ’96.
And having seen Spain’s rise to dominance using a fantastic youth system with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid having their own ‘B’ teams, the hope is that English football can benefit in the same way. The likes of Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas and the fantastic Lionel Messi have all come through the youth ranks at Barcelona alone – and although Messi isn’t Spanish, it shows the strength of the Catalan giants.
The most explosive talent to come through the youth ranks in England in recent years was Wayne Rooney. But at 28, it is disappointing that he is the last world star. Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere have been successful since coming through the youth ranks at their clubs, but none have been as successful as the Spanish.
The ‘B’ teams would play in official stadiums with set kick off times and a higher crowd if Scudamore’s plans were to be realized. The system would give youngsters invaluable experience and make it easier to make the transition from youth football to first team action.
The nation have some very promising young players with the likes of Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley, Andros Townsend, Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson in fantastic form for Southampton, Everton, Tottenham and Liverpool respectively this season. And in addition, the likes of Will Hughes and Danny Ings – playing for Derby and Burnley in the Championship – are also tipped to be big stars in the future.
The plans would be organised and put in place by the FA Commission, a board charged with improving the youth football in this country and in turn improving English football as a whole. Richard Scudamore says his ambition is to see England get to a World Cup final, and insists that chief of the commission Greg Dyke needs to push the government for more funding for grass roots football.
Scudamore believes that in a country of more than 60 million there must be some unknown gems that could be footballers. And the complete upheaval of the system could completely change that. The hidden gems could be found and the country could taste success.
It seems to be the way forward in terms of development, and after 48 years without success for football’s home nation, it is something that is desperately needed. Tournament success through this medium is the ultimate ambition, but consistency is the first step, and then success could follow.