I have just got back from Paris, and a fine journey it is too from the new St Pancras. But as we took a taxi through the Hausmann boulevards, I couldn’t help thinking of French football and radio, and it struck a nerve about the English game.
The Premiership foreign players debate rumbles on and on. The Sunday Times had a good synthesis of the arguments, but as nostalgic old players chip in, no real solution is apparent apart from quotas as a means of making the England team competitive.
Hang on. Quotas? As in restrictions? Aside from being against European employment law and therefore pointless, when do quotas work?
And here is where France comes in. France are the most successful European team of recent years. And French music, in general, sucks. Stay with me here.
Quotas haven’t helped French music. Radio stations in France must play Francophone music as 40% of their music. And the effect has been patchy. French music stars such as Air and MC Solaar haven’t flourished because of this quota system, they have emerged despite it. All quotas have done is encourage flabby imitations of US and English acts. Quotas are nonsense.
And French football? The team during its most successful period had players scattered across leagues in Europe. Home-grown talent, yes. Unable to fashion a team because they are in different leagues? No.
In England we should worry more about whether young players are developing properly and have facilities, rather than the composition of our league. If a generation of young English kids grow up wanting to be Cesc Fabregas or Christiano Ronaldo, then fine.
Also, why aren’t we encouraging our players to play abroad, in Spain, Germany or Italy? It’s worked for France and Brazil.
It is also highly unlikely that English players will not flourish in the Premiership. The weather, language and culture are in their favour. But put the idea of quotas to bed forever. It’s a legal and economic non-starter.
P.S. The headline scare-story: At the start of the Premiership in 1992, just 10 players in the starting lineups for the ﬁrst weekend were foreign. Of the 220 players who started Premier League matches last weekend, only 77 were English.
And, lest we forget, in 1992, England won the European championship, due to all the English talent at home. Oh, that’s right. They didn’t qualify. Whoops.