‘Why foreign players migrate and the effect their involvement has had on English football since the inception of the Premier League’ (Part 1)

I’d like to begin my first blog by thanking Leo for inviting me along on this journey. I very much look forward to adding to the fantastic work he has done already. The first issue I would like to discuss is the perceived effect that foreign players are having on the English game. It’s a topic I find very interesting, and I feel is often blown out of proportion by everyone involved in the game today. The blogs that follow will be an investigation and analysis of the current state of the issue and the major views involved.

There has been a common and growing concern for a number of years amongst English football fans (Solberg & Haugen, 2008) and senior figures in world football – FIFA President Sepp Blatter, UEFA President Michel Platini, and English PFA Chief Executive Gordon Taylor – that the mass migration of foreign players to the English Premier League is having a detrimental effect on the English game, and its development of young English talent (Ferguson, 2007; Taylor, 2007). When speaking to BBC’s Inside Sport Sir Trevor Brooking (2007) stated that “you [can’t] underestimate [the threat of foreign players] and people are [only] just starting to identify it”. These concerns lie in accordance with the PFA’s ‘Meltdown’ report, which was commissioned following England’s failure to qualify for Euro 2008. Taylor (2007) states within the report that:


“The price of the unrestricted flow of foreign players into England has been the loss of a generation of English players. Indeed, we are close to losing a second generation and if current trends continue – as all evidence suggests they will – we are, at best, ten years away from having too few English players to mount a serious World Cup campaign.” 

These concerns have continued to grow after England’s more recent mediocre performances during the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. However, some academics (Elliott & Weedon, 2010) suggest these views and concerns have been sensationalized by the British media and are in-fact not even close to the truth.

Three main arguments that have arisen from the on-going debate on foreign players: firstly, that a process of ‘feet-drain’ is occurring in English football, with foreign players stifling indigenous player development, and replacing them, or taking their opportunities for first team football (Elliott & Weedon, 2010). Secondly, that at the ‘donor’ level a process of ‘deskilling’ is occurring outside of England in the lesser economically developed countries such as Africa (Maguire et al., 2002; Maguire & Pearton, 2000). Thirdly, the migration of foreign players particularly to England is creating an imbalance in world football which is a view firmly held by FIFA President, Sepp Blatter (2008), who declared that:

“It’s not morally right, and competition loses all balance, when the big clubs buy 25 top players to deprive other teams of them and then hoard them because they can only have 11 players on the park.”

Now I have introduced this subject to you, I’d like to hear you initial views and opinions. Feel free to contribute to the discussion via the comments box. In part two of this blog I will discuss a brief history of elite labour migration, and explore some of the reasons for why we have seen this dramatic intensification of foreign player migrating to England and Europe.


Blatter, S. (2008). Football Gives Hope. Available from: http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/organisation/president/news/newsid=741873/index.html [last accessed January 04, 2013)

Brooking, T. (2007). English football under threat. Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/6975955.stm [last accessed January 04, 2013)

Elliott, R., and G. Weedon. (2010) Foreign players in the premier academy league: ‘Feet-drain’ or ‘feet-exchange’? International Review for the Sociology of Sport 46(1): 61–75.

Ferguson, A. (2007). Ferguson calls for a cap on foreign players. Available from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2007/nov/06/newsstory.arsenal [last accessed January 04, 2013)

Maguire, J. and R. Pearton. (2000). The impact of elite labour migration on the identification, selec­tion and development of European soccer players. Journal of Sports Sciences 18: 759–769.

Maguire, J., G. Jarvie, L. Mansfield, and J. Bradley. (2002). Sport Worlds: A Sociological Perspective. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Soldberg, H.A., and K.K. Haugen. (2008). The international trade of players in European club football: consequences for national teams. International Trade of Players. Unknown, 79-93

Taylor, G. (2007). Meltdown: The Nationality of Premier League Players and the Future of English Football. London: Professional Footballers’ Association.


Posted on 25/07/2013, in Football and Science and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Dennis McCauley

    Please tell our English players to learn the National Anthem and be proud to play for England
    Stop taking the knee until they are proud

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