The football season has officially ended after the all English Champions League final and fans’ attention will immediately turn to their teams’ comings and goings during the transfer window. We all love the drama of transfer deadline day as big deals are pushed through at the last minute, but could we add even more excitement to the summer and ensure a path for development as well?
We are constantly being told that young players – particularly English players – don’t get enough opportunity to play competitive matches due to the financial clout carried by teams in the Premier League; this means talented teenagers are struggling to make the breakthrough so why don’t we look to learn from other sports?
Take the NFL draft for example, not only do young stars get catapulted to the shop window of elite sport but the buzz it generates is terrific; for the fans it’s nearly as exciting as some of the season itself. How could it work I hear you cry?
Firstly, before we take credit for an idea that could revolutionise football transfers, we feel it’s important to say that this was a concept originally muted by Peterborough United chairman Darragh MacAnthony. However, we see the structure working in a slightly different way.
Of course, we don’t have the same school system as the US so any draft pool would have to be populated in another way but that’s something that is easily achieved. Imagine a scenario where Premier League clubs had to nominate three academy players to be available in the draft and Championship clubs one; that’s 84 players in the pool.
The premise of the draft is that the weaker performing sides would have the first pick, which in theory would give them the choice of the best players. In the States draft picks aren’t split across different levels I.e. League One and League Two, which is the level this transfer trade is aimed at, so it would need to run in a lowest placed team in the higher league to the highest placed team in the higher league.
That would mean the team winning the League Two play offs would pick first with the team finishing third from bottom in the Championship picking last – and then repeat for the lower tier. Running a draft in this order would allow weaker performing teams to strengthen whilst ensuring the strongest academy players learn their trade at the highest level; of course, the competitive football would benefit the parent club too.
There are a few issues that would need to be ironed out, primarily the finances of each deal. There is a chasm opening up between football clubs in this country and it’s because of the cash generated by those at the top; a draft of this nature funded by the big boys (they’d continue to pay wages) would be a drip feed of the resources they possess.
The other potential sticking point is having players available to push into the draft, whilst clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea who stockpile youth would have no issues, some Championship clubs might not be so blessed. This is a hurdle they’d have to over come and perhaps a special exemption via the FA could be created although we’re sure most – if not all – could spare one player.
The only risk for a club drafting a player out is that they don’t have a guarantee of their youngster getting playing time. We’re not a fan of committing to fielding a player due to terms in a contract as they should be picked on merit. However, a deal being that if by the January window the player hasn’t featured in 50% of fixtures, they’ve been eligible for then the parent club has a recall option would reduce this concern.
The only remaining loose end is the players who were put forward for the draft – there would be 84 players with only 48 picks leaving 36 players in limbo. Could you offer the draft to the National League? Could lower ranked teams be offered double picks, or should those players return to their academy as per usual? Any of these resolves that problem.
I believe that’s a great way to nurture young players as well as helping out lower league teams and, if you believe MacAnthony, you could even hold an event at Wembley for the draft. We’re not convinced by that, but we do think it should be televised and, if it was, fans would lap it up. It’s a win for everyone.