Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Elstone defends Premier League

Robert Elstone has stuck up for the Premier League
Robert Elstone has stuck up for the Premier League

Everton chief executive Robert Elstone has launched an impassioned defence of the Barclays Premier League in the wake of the debate around youth development in England.

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has established a commission to examine how best to improve the fortunes of the senior national side and enable more home-grown talent to come through the domestic club system.

Commission member and former England manager Glenn Hoddle has suggested a quota system should be employed in the Premier League - an idea backed by Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor - and called for all concerned to be ''ruthless'' in the quest to improve chances of success on the international stage.

However, Elstone maintains the elite clubs are not the source of all the failings of the England set-up, but rather a strength.

Writing in his blog on the club's official website, www.evertonfc.com, Elstone pulled few punches as he backed the efforts of top-flight member clubs, hitting out at "so much abdication of responsibility".

Elstone wrote: "I am certain those in the game know which organisation has transformed the fortunes of English football, has put our game back on the map, has put respectability back into our game. The world's most admired, envied and respected League is ours - and it's not just about the money.

"The Premier League has created the perfect environment to develop world-class players, a research and development laboratory with maximum stress testing and the potential for true Darwinian outcomes.

"It is the political capital leveraged by the revelation that 'only' 30 per cent of total minutes played in the Premier League is English that has moved me to write. It's hardly revelatory, it's something we've known for a while, and, it is claimed to reveal the root of the problem, our League is full of foreigners. But maybe we should consider whether 'full' is a problem.

"How many great players do we actually need to win a World Cup? The Belgians might do it with fifteen? 30 per cent is actually quite a big number when you consider they're playing in the most demanding League in the world. Maybe it's time to think quality and not quantity?

"These 60 or 70 players can prove Darwin's theories on the 'Evolution of the Species' like no other sporting competition in the world; like no other environment in the world.

"Our English talent looks over its shoulder every day. They have players from all over the world chasing their livelihoods. Where better to get the 20, 30 or 40 players we need to fight with the best in the world at a national level? Why would we want it easy? Why would we want to take the pressure off? And it's a framework built by the Premier League."

The Premier League already have an Elite Player Performance Plan in place, which Elstone pointed out has helped bring through the likes of Ross Barkley who is now a regular in Roberto Martinez's first-team squad and could well play an important role in England's final crucial World Cup qualifiers.

Elstone concluded his blog with reflection on some "desperate" personal experiences from watching his two teenage sons play in the local Stockport League.

He wrote: "They continue to play with coaches who are enthusiasts, but scream 'get rid of it', with opposition coaches who shout 'offside' and encourage dissent, with opposition parents who abuse them, with referees who are either 12-years-old or have enjoyed being centre-stage for far too long.

"It is desperate. I look forward to Sunday mornings with such hope. I am always left shattered.

"This is breeding ground for the World Cup winner. It is English football's pyramid.

"It's English football's pyramid because the other pillar - our schools football - remains incomplete, disengaged and at best, only ever starts in Year Seven.

"Thirty-odd years ago it was no different. I never kicked a competitive ball in Junior School. I never played on a Saturday, and my Sunday mornings were on the street. It hasn't improved.

"And who's responsibility is that? The poor young lad unlucky enough to be only the 21st best player in Liverpool in his year might as well stick to X-Box.

"Who is trying to do something to give us a chance of winning the World Cup? Who's having an impact? I know the answer. I also know who it's not."

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