The Football Association insists the Women’s Super League will avoid relying on foreign players
Whilst no-where near as high as 64% of overseas players in the men’s Premier League, Katie Brazier, the head of women’s leagues and competitions at the FA, stressed the importance of developing home-grown players.
“We are very aware of concerns that have been raised and the dangers of following the trend in the men’s game.” the former Director of Sponsorship at British Swimming said.
“Of course there are benefits to bringing foreigners over because our women will be playing alongside top quality internationals and can gain from those experiences. But we know we need to maintain that balance because we don’t want home grown players stuck on the bench and missing game time because foreign players have taken their place in the side.”
Although the FA is unable to cap the amount of players in a team who are part of the EU state, they have restricted a maximum of two players per squad who require a work permit.
The WSL also implemented the ruling stating 50% of squads must be home-grown – therefore the players have developed in England for three years up to the age of 21.
Currently Liverpool Ladies, last season’s WSL champions, have six foreign players in their squad – the highest number in the league. Whilst Chelsea Ladies are just behind with five in their side, and Arsenal have recruited Japanese World Cup winners Shinobu Ohno and Yukari Kinga.
Football Association women’s football director Kelly Simmons revealed the difficulties of regulating the amount of foreigners in the game to aid the future of the national game.
“It’s a challenge – under European regulation, there is completely free movement. We do try and restrict non EU players coming in, but we need to get that balance right,” she said.
Not all sides in the WSL have bought in foreign talent – Everton Ladies have an entirely British squad whilst Birmingham City and newcomers Manchester City have employed just one foreign player each.
The Sky Blues made headlines however by purchasing the England quartet of goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, central defender Steph Houghton, midfielder Jill Scott and striker Toni Duggan before the start of the season.
Manager Nick Cushing stressed how this arrangement will not only benefit the club but also the national side.
“The experience that they have had at international level has given them the mentality and the mind-set that we want at the club,” he said.
“They will be training and linking up in training and I am sure you will see the benefits when they play together for their country."
The England’s women’s team have had mixed form over the few years, as they went out of the group stages of Euro 2013 but are currently topping Group 6 in the World Cup Qualifies for Canada 2015.
The FA have stressed a desire for English players to return to the WSL from foreign leagues and Brazier believes it is achievable that all athletes in future England squad will have come through the league system in this country.
“The whole system was set up in the first place because it recognised a lot of talented home grown players were going to places like America and Germany,” she explained. “The quality and level of competition wasn’t sufficient here but that is all changing."
“The WSL is really driving forward and picking up momentum and in the future it would be great to see each English squad player having come through our top-flight here. This is something we are working towards and it’s great because I’ve had a chance to speak to a lot of players that have returned and they absolutely love playing over here.”
By Ruth Dacey