Explained: How the Premier League’s homegrown rule is impacting your club’s transfers

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Every summer, across the length and breadth of the land, Premier League recruitment chiefs find themselves tasked with signing new players in an increasingly challenging market.

Demanding players, wily agents and the impossible expectation of supporters make it an unenviable task. And those shopping overseas must also make sure they comply with Premier League laws, too.

These rules – initially introduced into English football in 2015 by then-FA chairman Greg Dyke – dictate clubs must include a certain number of homegrown players in their 25-man Premier League squad.

While intended to boost the talent pool for the national team, it has had several unexpected consequences, such as a select group of third-choice goalkeepers whose signings might be better understood as logistical rather than footballing decisions.

So, what do the rules say? Which clubs are flirting with the quota’s upper limit – and how might it impact their transfer activity?

The Athletic explains.


What are the Premier League rules?

For starters, clubs are allowed a maximum number of 25 players in their Premier League squad.

This can be supplemented by an unlimited number of under-21s – it does not matter if they are a regular part of the club’s senior squad, or what their nationality is.

For example, Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli still counts as an Under-21 player in 2022-23 – and will not count against Arsenal’s homegrown player quota.

That is despite him making 57 Premier League appearances for the club, scoring 11 goals.

Next season, players must be born after January 1 2001 to qualify as an Under-21.

Under current rules, no more than 17 players in a Premier League squad can be non-homegrown. Those players can be of any nationality or age.

The remaining members of the first-team squad must be homegrown.

Martinelli counts as a homegrown player (Photo: Getty Images)

Martinelli counts as a homegrown player (Photo: Getty Images)

What is a homegrown player?

It has a relatively simple definition.

For a player to be considered homegrown, they must have played for an FA-affiliated club for at least three years before turning 21. Importantly, they do not have to be English – players such as Paul Pogba and Hector Bellerin would all count as homegrown if emerging through the system now.

William Saliba is another interesting example. The France international, born in Paris, counts as a homegrown player because he has been on Arsenal’s books and listed in their Premier League squad for three seasons before his 21st birthday.

Conversely, a player’s nationality does not necessarily ensure they are homegrown. For example, Saint-Etienne goalkeeper Etienne Green, who plays in goal for England Under-21, would not be classified as such if he were to join a Premier League club this summer.

Etienne Green does not count as homegrown - despite playing for England (Photo: Getty Images)

Etienne Green does not count as homegrown – despite playing for England (Photo: Getty Images)

What if a team does not have enough homegrown players?

The rule is measured by the number of non-homegrown players, rather than the converse.

In practice, this means a club which does not have eight or more homegrown players is obliged to name a squad smaller than 25.

For example, Liverpool, who only had seven homegrown players last season, named a 24-man Premier League squad.

How has Brexit complicated matters?

More complicated than the Northern Ireland Protocol? Perhaps not.

But Premier League clubs have been affected by Brexit, with English clubs no longer afforded access to free movement of labor within the single market.

Without delving too deeply into the intricacies, this means sides can no longer sign players from the European Union under the age of 18.

With players needing to feature for an FA-affiliated club for at least three years before turning 21, this excludes many foreign players from homegrown status.

However, it is technically possible for a player signed at 18 to qualify, if they are born in the first six months of the year, and join in the summer immediately following their 18th birthday. This will apply to Saliba in upcoming seasons.

Arsenal's William Saliba (Photo: Getty Images)

Arsenal’s William Saliba (Photo: Getty Images)

How have clubs dealt with it in the past?

Well, often by ensuring that players who are needed in the squad, but might not play much, are homegrown players.

One role which fits this description are back-up goalkeepers.

For example, The Athletic understands that Tottenham’s decision to not make Pierluigi Gollini’s loan permanent, instead replacing him with Fraser Forster, was impacted by homegrown player rules.

Where did clubs stand last season?

Ahead of the 2022-23 campaign, The Athletic looked at where each side stood last season.

State of Premier League clubs’ squads

Team

Squad size

Non-home grown

Home grown

Home grown%

17

12

5

29.4

20

11

9

45.0

22

4

18

81.8

24

15

9

37.5

20

11

9

45.0

25

16

9

36.0

23

11

12

52.2

25

12

13

52.0

25

10

15

60.0

17

8

9

52.9

25

12

13

52.0

24

17

7

29.2

19

13

6

31.6

23

12

9

39.1

25

10

15

60.0

21

9

13

61.9

24

10

14

58.3

20

12

8

40.0

23

14

9

39.1

19

15

4

21.1

Liverpool had the largest number of non-homegrown players in their squad, and were the only team in the league to reach the 17 player cap.

No ‘big six’ club has more than 40 per cent homegrown players, though Wolves have the lowest proportion, at only 21.1 per cent.

Understandably, newly promoted sides will be facing no issues. Bournemouth lead the way, with only four players not considered homegrown last season. Outside of the Championship graduates, Newcastle have the highest proportion of homegrown players with 60 per cent.

Will Liverpool face issues?

It may affect the rest of their business, especially after the signing of Uruguay international striker Darwin Nunez in a € 75 million deal.

Liverpool signed Darwin Nunez from Benfica this summer (Photo: Getty Images)

Liverpool signed Darwin Nunez from Benfica this summer (Photo: Getty Images)

However, the potential sale of Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich should offset Nunez’s arrival, while Divock Origi’s departure has ensured that Liverpool are slated to have 16 non-homegrown players next season, one short of the upper limit.

Dutch center-back Sepp van den Berg will still count as an Under-21 in 2022-23.

What about Chelsea?

Last season, Chelsea had 16 non-homegrown players, one short of the maximum allowed.

Owing to their recent takeover by a consortium led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, Chelsea’s plans in the transfer window are among the murkiest of any of the top six.

Antonio Rudiger’s departure to Real Madrid helps somewhat – but his absence is counteracted by the return of Italian defender Emerson from a season-long loan.

Remember that Andreas Christensen counts as homegrown, so his exit does not impact Chelsea’s quota.

The club are allowed to loan players out to reduce the number of non-homegrown players in their squad.

Why are Tottenham in an awkward spot?

Returning loanees, new signings and the remorseless march of age.

Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele could return from spells at Villarreal and Lyon respectively (with Ndombele’s future up in the air), raising Tottenham’s total to 14.

Dejan Kulusevski will also no longer qualify as an Under-21 next season, although Bryan Gil does.

The club have also announced the signing of Ivan Perisic, while The Athletic has also reported the club’s interest in Richarlison in addition to the signing of Yves Bissouma.

Eric Dier is not considered homegrown after growing up in Portugal.

Eric Dier counts as an overseas player (Photo: Getty Images)

Eric Dier counts as an overseas player (Photo: Getty Images)

Despite Gollini’s departure, the hypothetical arrival of Richarlison along with Bissouma would raise Tottenham’s non-homegrown total to 17 – precisely on the limit.

As a further difficulty, UEFA’s rules for Champions League football dictate a maximum of 17 foreign players are allowed in Champions League squads – with Welshmen Ben Davies and Joe Rodon, and Irishman Matt Doherty, not counting as homegrown under those laws.

And Wolves?

Wolves are near the upper limit, but have been helped by the departure of Romain Saiss.

They have a small army of loanees returning, who will have to be managed once more, while Chiquinho, a breakthrough in the second half of last season, will no longer count as an Under-21.

Rayan Ait-Nouri and Fabio Silva are still too young to be featured in the quota.

(Top photo: Stuart MacFarlane / Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

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