How the number of foreign players influences the performance of national clubs and the national team

Master's Thesis, 2015

87 Pages, Grade: 1.3


Table of Contents

How the number of foreign players influences the performance of national clubs and the national team



List of Abbreviations

1. Introduction

2. Literature Review

3. The Top 5 Leagues
3.1 Bosman-ruling
3.2 FIFA 6+5 rule and other regulations
3.2.1 UEFA home-grown player rule
3.3 Youth development academies ‘La Masia’ and ‘La Fábrica’ The Premier League finds its way The Italian Serie A’s youth problem ‘Le Centre Technique National Fernand Sastre’
3.4 Other related factors
3.4.1 Language
3.4.2 The Coach-Player Pattern
3.4.3 Money
3.5 Revenue streams
3.6 Club ownership

4. Methodology
4.1 Research question
4.2 Research hypothesis
4.3 Data and method of analysis
4.3.1 Spearman's Rank-Order Correlation
4.4 Reliability and Validity
4.4.1 Reliability
4.4.2 Validity
4.5 Ethical issues

5. Key results

6. Conclusion

Table of Tables

Table of Figures



List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

How the number of foreign players influences the performance of national clubs and the national team

Carsten Richter

Student number: 13006489

Supervisor: Mr. Sean Hamil

Word count: 12.157 (Excluding Cover Page, Abstract, Acknowledgments, Table of Contact, Table & Figures, Bibliography and Appendices)


Thank you,

to my beloved dad, RIP.

And to my mum & family, my love Valentina and my brother Marcin,

who are always by my side.


This paper is about whether the number of foreign players might have an influence on the performance of clubs and national teams. Before analysing the mentioned correlation, this research explains in detail all the different potential factors which might also influence performance.

This paper highlights different regulations that have a considerable influence on clubs, such as the UEFA home-grown player regulation and different domestic rules. Other sources of impact are the different youth academy systems. The German youth development system has been an important factor in the success of the German national team since its establishment in 2004, which might be due to the increasing number of competitions in which young German players are determined to get a place. The English Premier League is starting to follow in the footsteps of Germany by implementing different regulations to support English players. Italy, however, is showing dramatic differences with regard to its countrywide youth systems because it seems to merely focus on the academies of the different clubs. Similar systems can be found in Spain, which has, nonetheless, two very successful academies ‘La Masia’ and ‘La Fábrica’.

Other related factors to consider are language and funding. As English is one of the most spoken languages in the world, the Premier League is attracting players from a variety of countries. Yet as we are living in a modern economic world, the money factor is also quite important. The Premier League is one of the leagues with the biggest revenue streams in the world. The League shares its revenue with the clubs, which they can then spend on players. Hence, the Premier League is the most valued league in football and is spending millions of pounds per year on buying the best players in the world, at the expense of young English players.

Furthermore, this paper discovered that there is a coach-player pattern, as foreign coaches are tending to invest in ready-made foreign players instead of young domestic players. The same seems to apply to clubs with investors such as Paris Saint-Germain. These clubs are also willing to spend a lot of money on ready-made world class players which are usually foreigners rather than home-grown talent.

As a result, the research revealed that there is a correlation between the number of foreign players and the performance of clubs and the national team. The results show that a higher number of foreign players have a positive influence on the clubs in the league and in European competitions. Furthermore, it also highlights that a league with more foreign players has a negative influence on the performance of the national team.

In conclusion, the main research question of this paper “Does the high internationality of a league negatively influence the performance of the national team but positively influence the performance of the different national clubs?” can be confirmed and accepted.

Last but not least, it should be mentioned that his paper contains limitations due to the enormous amount of available data and to the decision not to use human-based research methods. Nevertheless, a clear correlation between the different factors crystallises out of this work, which can therefore be seen as a contribution towards sport sciences with regards to the mobilisation of football players and their influence on the performance of clubs and national teams.

Key words: UEFA, FIFA, Home-grown Players, Foreign players, Correlation, National team, clubs performances

1. Introduction

“Do you want a league where English players are given more opportunities to flourish at the top clubs and help the national team? Or do you want to enjoy watching some of the best players in the world?” (Roan, 2014) This quote describes the situation in the English Premier League, but is it true? Has a high number of foreign players in the league actually had an influence on the performance of the national team?

The English Premier League is the third strongest league in Europe, according to the UEFA Country coefficient, and has the most foreign players (66,5%) (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, n.d.). The English nation team won their only title in 1966 (, 2014). In the last ten years, three English clubs have won the Champions League (CL) and one team has won the Europa League (EL) (, 2014). Therefore, does the high internationality of players show its influence in England?

Spain is the number one in Europe. The national team won the World Cup (WC) once (2010) and three European championships (1964, 2008 and 2012) (, 2014). It is in first place according to the UEFA Country coefficient and four different teams have won eleven international titles in the last ten years. Real Madrid have won the most international titles in history (, 2014). Spain, however, with 37.7%, has the lowest number of foreign players within the group of the Top 7 countries of the UEFA Country coefficient (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, n.d.).

Does this prove then that there is a correlation between the internationality of a league and the performance of the national teams? If yes, why are Spanish football clubs still more successful than English football clubs even though more foreign players are playing in England than in Spain?

This dissertation will compare the English Premier League (PL) and its internationality with those of the rest of the top five European Leagues; Spain, Germany, Italy and France. In conclusion, this dissertation will show that internationality has an impact on the performance of the league clubs and the national team. The question is: Is it relevant for a top country, such as England, to impose a new regulations on foreign players in order to increase the success of the national team?

The “Bosman Ruling”, the current migration in Europe’s top leagues, globalization and the analysis of the success of national teams, has inspired me to further examine this area of sports studies.

2. Literature Review

This topic is not new to sports sciences as various authors have already examined the high internationality in the leagues from different perspectives.

Bernd Frick (February 2009) analysed the impact of the “Bosman Ruling” on Player Migration in Professional Soccer. He found that the number of foreign players had massively increased since the “Bosman Ruling” in December 1995. Additionally, he argued that the decreasing playing time of “local players” has not yet resulted in an increase of the success of the countries of those exporting players.

Another view was presented by Maguire and Pearton (2000). They dealt with the wider processes of globalization with a focus on worker migration. They argued that although the rapid development of the migration process can have a positive influence on the performance of the national team of the “exported player”, it has more disadvantages. According to Maguire and Pearton, there is a lack of opportunities for other local players, the clubs and the league. Furthermore, the national team enters a phase of development in order to increase its performance, due to the lack of young local players. Both, Frick and Maguire & Pearton give recommendations in the form of restrictions of the number of foreign players.

Baur and Lehman (2008) analysed whether the success of a country’s national team is influenced by the number of players who are playing in their home league or by the number of players not playing in their home league. They argued that both possibilities have an influence on the potential for success. Their examples were the Brazilian national team, where no player was playing in his home league, and the Italian national team, where every player was playing in his home league. Both teams were, during the analysed period, successful national teams. Therefore, they couldn’t find any correlation between exported and imported players and the success of their national team.

There are a couple of other research studies but most of them focus on the whole globalization approach without considering the impact on the clubs or the national teams.

Hence, there are limitations in the previous literature. For example, there is no research about the impact on the clubs or a comparison of the clubs and the national team of the leagues. Research could add in the influence on the success of the national clubs and try to find a link between the clubs and the national teams.

Furthermore, most research didn’t analyse the situation in the last couple of years or was based around specific events, such as the World Cup. Therefore, this paper will start after the “Bosman-ruling” and will go until the 2014/2015 season - one year before the 50 year anniversary of the English national team without winning a title.

3. The Top 5 Leagues

This research will analyse the influence of foreign players of the top five European countries – Spain, England, Germany, France and Italy. These five countries have dominated the club competitions for years and all of them, except England, have been very successful at the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA EURO’s in recent years. England has, nevertheless, the most valued league and generates the most revenue – as well as having the most foreign players in its league.

Spain, the current top country with regards to the UEFA club coefficient (UEFA, 2015), including Barcelona as the CL winner (UEFA, 2015) and FC Sevilla as the EL winner (UEFA, 2015) and current UEFA Euro champion (UEFA, archived July 4, 2012), also has also the lowest number of foreign players (37.7%) and is the second most valued league (£2,13 Bill.) after the Premier League (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, n.d.).

England however, has not won any titles since 1966 (FIFA, n.d.). The last English club who won a title was Chelsea in 2012/2013; the EL (UEFA, 2015) and in 2011/2012, the CL (UEFA, 2015). The Premier League is the most valued league in Europe but it also has the most foreign players in its league (68.1%) (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, n.d.). Yet it lost second place in the UEFA club rankings to Germany and it might be losing another place to Italy at the end of the 2015/2016 season (UEFA, 2015).

These two countries have been quite different in recent years but both of them are known as the best leagues in the world. Germany, however, has made brilliant developments in recent years, including winning the World Cup in 2014 and the CL in 2013 (FC Bayern Munich). Furthermore, Germany has developed an excellent youth academy system in the last 15 years. Italy has the second most foreign players and at the same time, the most Italian players playing in Italy. The French Ligue 1 does not have a high number of foreign players but most French national team players are playing abroad. How these various aspects influence the different clubs, national teams and the football association will be described and explained in the following chapter, before being closely examined later on.

3.1 Bosman-ruling

The “Bosman-ruling” is an important piece of history of European football. Hence, this ruling is a common topic in various literature and has been examined in detail.

In 1995, the Belgian footballer, Jean-Marc Bosman, changed the football industry with his case at the European Court of Justice. Prior to 1995, it was not possible for a football player to change to a new club even if their contract had already expired. The new club still had to pay a transfer fee. Furthermore, there were strict controls over the amount of foreign players allowed in the clubs. The so called “3+2 rule” limited the number of foreign players to three, and two further players who had been living in the country for five years and had played for the junior teams for at least two years (Frick, February 2009).

In December 1995, however, the European Court of Justice announced that these two regulations were not compatible with Article 48 of the Treaty of Rome, saying that there was a freedom of movement for labour in all European countries. Therefore, the limitations of the “3+2 rule” were seen as discrimination against players from other European countries and, in relation to the transfer fee after an expired contract, the free access to a workplace in European countries was demanded (Forrest & Simmons, 2000).

For example, as a result, the Deutscher Fußball Bund (DFB) decided to shun their foreigner rule entirely and allowed all players from the 51 member states of the UEFA to play in the Bundesliga (Frick, February 2009).

As a result of the “Bosman-ruling” the number of foreign players in all leagues increased heavily. During the 1994/1995 season, 28.9% of the players were non-English but this number grew abruptly after the season to 45.8% in 1998/1999 and then to 57.6% in 2003/2004 (Binder & Findlay, January 2011). Nowadays, 67.9% of the players in the English Premier League come from abroad (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, n.d.). It is hard to imagine that just a third of all players on the pitch are English. That has led to new regulations, such as the Football Association (FA) Commission’s aim to reach a percentage of 45% of English players by 2022 in order to improve the national team’s performance (BBC Sport, 2014).

This short part has already pointed out how the “Bosman-ruling” changed the football industry in Europe. This study, however, will not further examine the impact of the “Bosman-ruling” as that has already been undertaken in various articles. It was, however, necessary to exemplify the origin of FIFA’s, UEFA’s and the different leagues’ need to set up regulations to control the percentage of foreign players and to improve the performance of their national teams. Thus, a high number of foreign players seems to influence the performance of national teams negatively, because otherwise, it would not be necessary to establish regulations and goals, such as there needing to be 45% of native players in the Premier League.

3.2 FIFA 6+5 rule and other regulations

In 2008, FIFA tried to implement the “6+5 rule”, which allowed only five foreign players at the start of the match. This rule was claimed to help young talents to get more time on the pitch and to improve the balance between club football and the national teams (Ennis, 09/05/2008).

The fact that FIFA realised that there is a need for restrictions on foreign players’ shows that they are aware of the problem. The main aim of the proposed rule was to “generate and safeguard sporting competition” (Soccernet Staff, 26/02/2009), or in other words, to maintain sport as sport (Soccernet Staff, 26/02/2009). This rule would mean that a lot of the English Premier League clubs would have been in trouble as many clubs play with more than 5 foreign players in the squad at the beginning of the match (Sky Sports, 25/03/2015).

The European Commission (28/11/2008), however, made it clear that this rule was “based on direct discrimination on the grounds of nationality, and is thus against one of the fundamental principles of EU law”. Therefore, the “6+5 rule” was rejected, but the UEFA “home-grown player rule” was backed (Ennis, 09/05/2008).

3.2.1 UEFA home-grown player rule

The result of the rejected “6+5 rule” was the implementation of the UEFA home-grown player (HGP) rule. This rule actually has the same aim but establishes a different way to achieve it. It does not state that only five foreign players are allowed at the start of the match, it states that at least eight home-grown players need to be in the 25-man squad. Home-grown means that “regardless of their nationality, [a player] ha[s] been trained by [his] club or by another club in the same national association for at least three years between the age of 15 and 21 (UEFA, 02/01/2014)”. This rule, however, does not say that these players are also required to play during the CL, EL or in a domestic match (UEFA, 02/01/2014).

It can be argued that the rule does not help young players to develop or to improve the performance of their national teams because the eight players merely need to be registered. That could mean that a club can have 17 foreign talented players in the squad, so that no HGP needs to play any match during the season. Furthermore, as it is, regardless of the nationality of the HGP, the eight players could be foreign players as well. So, how can this help to improve the performance of the national team?

Hence, some domestic leagues implemented further regulations to improve the match time of their domestic young players. The following domestic regulations are mainly focused on non-European Union (non-EU) players. England domestic regulation

It is permitted for a club in the Premier League to have a squad size of 25 players but eight of them need to be HGPs and they can also be trained by the Football Association of Wales as they have an affiliation with the English Premier League. Furthermore, a club can have up to 17 non-EU players who are, however, in need of a work permit.

The following conditions have to be met in order to have a work permit (Swarbrick, 12/12/2014):

- “[The player] ...must have played in at least 75% of their country's internationals over the past two years.
- [The player] …must have played for a country in the top 70 when rankings are averaged over two years (BBC Sport, 23/03/2015)”.

This rule, however, can be circumvented if a player is a “special talent”. If a non-EU player has not met the first condition ([The player] ...must have played in at least 75% of their country's internationals over the past two years) but the club believes that he would be of significant help for the development of UK football, then a club can ask for a work permit. This was the case with the Brazilian winger Willian at Chelsea and Rojo at Manchester United. Both of them did not meet the criteria but they obtained a work permit because they would be regular national team members if they were playing for a different country. This shows that it is still possible to find a way to get any player in your team as long as they have significant talent (Swarbrick, 12/12/2014).

The FA, however, is proposing changes to the work permit regulations and the HGP rule. It will try to implement that after 2016, over the following four years, that 12 players need to be home-grown. This would mean that 12 out of the 25 players have to have played and been trained by a club in England or Wales from the age of 15 to 18, but can still be from any EU country. Therefore, this would not automatically improve the performance of the English or Welsh national team.

Furthermore, the FA will toughen the rule for the work permits for non-EU players. It will reduce the total number of non-EU players through saying that a player needs to play for a country from the top 50 averaged over two years. Furthermore, it will change the required percentages over the previous 24 months to the following (FA Staff, 23/03/2015):

- “FIFA 1-10: 30% and above
- FIFA 11-20: 45% and above
- FIFA 21-30: 60% and above
- FIFA 31-50: 75% and above (FA Staff, 23/03/2015)”.

The required percentages will be the same for the under-21 non-EU players but over a period of 12 months (FA Staff, 23/03/2015).

These changes are necessary because it does not make sense that a non-EU player needs to play 75% of all matches during the last 24 months for a top country with a high competitive team such as Argentina, whereas the same is the case for a lower down country such as Mali. Spanish domestic regulations

A club in the Spanish La Liga can have a squad size of 25 players, including three non-EU players and the necessary eight HGPs. This rule, however, can be ‘managed’ by the club as a player is allowed to claim Spanish citizenship as his second one after having played for five years in Spain. Furthermore, if a player comes from Africa, the Caribbean or the Pacific, he will not be counted as a non-EU player due to the Cotonou Agreement (Swarbrick, 12/12/2014).

These two exceptions show that the “three non-EU players” rule is interpreted in a vague way by Spain. Thus, clubs can use different ways to circumvent the regulations which eventually do not help to protect young domestic players. This explains why the La Liga has such a low percentage of foreign players. Therefore, this is an important factor to consider in further examinations to explain the different influences on the clubs and the nationals teams in relation to foreign players. Italian domestic regulations

The Italian Serie A doesn’t have any further HGP regulation to develop young talents (Dalziel, et al., 30/04/2013). As the foreign quota is 52.9% (2015/2016 season) and, therefore, the second highest in the UEFA confederation (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, n.d.), it implemented non-EU/EEA regulation to control the percentage of these players. As the Italian national team is normally picked by players who are playing at home in Italy (Baur & Lehmann, 2008), this regulation should help to develop future talents.

The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has however, implemented a detailed regulation to control the quota of non-EU/EEA players. With the beginning of the 2011/2012 season, every club in the Serie A has to follow a set of regulations for the non-EU/EEA players:

1) If a club already has more than two non-EU/EEA players, it is allowed to sign up to two further players but one current non-EU/EEA player needs to (a) switch to another club abroad, (b) have an expiring contract or (c) have acquired any EU/EEA nationality. Another current player needs to (a) switch to another club abroad or (b) acquire any EU/EEA nationality.
2) If a club has one or no non-EU/EEA player, this club will be allowed to register up to three non-EU/EEA players without any restrictions.
3) If a club has two non-EU/EAA players, it is also allowed to sign new non-EU/EAA players but only to replace the current players and with the same regulations as in 1). (Dalziel, et al., 30/04/2013).

The important information in this regulation is that, with the help of the condition of a switch over to a club abroad, or an expiring contract or of the acquisition of an EU/EEA nationality, the Serie A can reduce the number of non-EU/EEA players. This regulation makes absolute sense as more than 50% (2015/2015 season) of the foreign players are non-EU/EEA players. Therefore, it is possible to reduce the number of foreign players and increase the playing time for young Italian players.

The quota of foreign players has, however, increased since the start of this regulation from 46.8% (2011/2012 season) to the current rate of 52.9% (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, n.d.).

The question now is: did it help to improve the performance of the national team? Or could this be the reason for Italian clubs not being so successful within European club competitions in the last few years? The last CL winner was Inter Milan in 2009/2010 (UEFA, 2015) and the last EL, or at this time the UEFA Cup, winner was the now relegated and bankrupt club, AC Parma, in 1998/1999 (UEFA, 2015). French domestic regulations

The French Ligue 1 does not have any further HGP regulation but it already has 58.5% of HGPs (Hearn, 25/04/2013). The Ligue 1 has, however, a limitation of four players which:

”…are not citizens of an EU country, a country of the European Economic Area (EEA) or a country that has an association or cooperation agreement with the EU” (Dalziel, et al., 30/04/2013). The result of this is that during the World Cup 2014 in Brazil, there were more French-born players (25) who were playing for other countries than actual French players playing for France.

The French Football association (FFA) has spoken about a quota in its league but there hasn’t been an open discussion about this topic (Rosenthal & Conrad, 30/06/2014). As France won the World Cup in 1998 (FIFA, n.d.) and the UEFA Euro’s in 2000 (UEFA, n.d.), the multicultural league seems to have had a positive influence on the national team. This success was, however, celebrated 15 years ago and the last CL winner was 23 years ago (Marseille 1992/1993) (UEFA, 2015). This begs the question as to whether France should discuss its HGPs regulation to improve the performance of its national team. Germany’s home-grown regulations

Surprisingly, the Bundesliga does not have any further regulation concerning non-EU transferred players. Furthermore, the Bundesliga has no squad limit so that teams, such as VFL Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich, have more than 40 registered players in their squad. This leads to a paradise for non-EU players from Africa or Asia aspiring to play in a top league in Europe (Swarbrick, 12/12/2014).

However, a club in the Bundesliga does need to have at least 12 players with German citizenship under contract (R., 18/09/2013). This is a unique rule among the European top football countries and could explain the development of young and talented German players in the last decade, leading to the World Cup victory in 2014. Moreover, a Bundesliga club needs at least four club-trained and four association-trained players in its squad. This is a modified UEFA HGP rule (Dalziel, et al., 30/04/2013).

The problem is that a club can use the size of the squad to register club-trained young German players to fulfil these requirements of the Bundesliga and UEFAs’ HGP regulation.

How this and other possible conditions, such as the language or the grassroots facilities, might influence the performance of the national team or the domestic club will be examined in a further chapter.

3.3 Youth development academies

The basic requirement for having talented domestic players in a national team is that the country has a good youth system to develop future players.

The Euros 2000 in Belgium and the Netherlands was embarrassing for Germany, who had to accept being in last place in their group behind England. Yet this moment was crucial because thereafter, Germany not only changed its vision, it changed the whole German football system. Nowadays, the CL finals – such as the one in 2013 between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in London – are filled with German national team stars from the likes of İlkay Gündoğan and Thomas Müller to Mats Hummels and Manuel Neuer (James, 23/05/2013). After losing the World Cup final in 2002 and having two bitter defeats in the semi-finals of 2006 and 2010, Germany finally won its fourth World Cup title in Brazil in 2014 (FIFA, n.d.). The cornerstone for this development was set out with the establishment of an excellent youth system after the Euros in 2000.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1 Deutscher Fußball-Bund Talent Development programme Source: Deutscher Fußball-Bund, n.d, „Talent Development Programme”, Page 8, available at:, (Accessed: 11 September 2015)

As can be seen in figure 1, the DFB set up different steps in relation to the age of children. Since the summer of 2002, “at the initiative of Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder, DFB president at the time, 390 bases across Germany were set up where football talents worthy of being further developed would start their training” (Deutscher Fußball-Bund, n.d.). One important factor is that every child should get the chance to be developed so that no talent is missed (Deutscher Fußball-Bund, n.d.).

Figure 2 shows that DFB covered the whole of Germany with the help of a regional basis and local coaches to train children.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2 Deutscher Fußball Bund - Youth Development Structure Source: Deutscher Fußball-Bund, n.d, „Talent Development Programme”, Page 16, available at:, (Accessed: 11 September 2015)

This implemented system of 2002 might be one reason for the steep development of Germany’s national team in recent years, but how this influences the performance of the different clubs will be examined later on.

In comparison to Germany, many other countries are less advanced. However, the difference between Germany and the other top league countries is not a lack of excellent youth academies run by top clubs, the difference is that the DFB has a Germany-wide youth development programme. Thus, every talented child has the chance to reach their full potential. ‘La Masia’ and ‘La Fábrica’

An ECA report on youth academies in Europe shows that almost every top club in Europe has an excellent youth academy. Barcelona’s ‘La Masia’ might be the best example of successful talent development, with players such as Iniesta, Xavi and Messi coming from this academy (European Club Association, August 2012). Although, does it help the whole country if some clubs have an excellent talent programme, whereas there is no general talent programme run by the football association? There seems to be no further development plan for talents in Spain. One reason for this might be that ‘La Masia’ and Real Madrid’s ‘La Fábrica’ foster so many good players that almost the whole squad of the national team can be filled with them. In the current squad, for example, 57% of the players have been trained by Real Madrid or Barcelona (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, n.d.). This leads, however, to a two-pole situation in La Liga as Atletico Madrid is the only team who has been able to win the La Liga in the past 10 years against Real Madrid or Barcelona (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, 2015). The Spanish national team has been, nevertheless, very successful in the past seven years. The Premier League finds its way

The Premier League implemented the ‘Elite Player Performance Plan’ and the ‘Youth Development Plan’ in 2011/2012. These plans are similar to the ideas and principles of the DFB (Premier League, n.d.) (Premier League, n.d.). The question , however, is whether these plans will be as successful as in Germany or whether other factors, such as entertainment, revenue and the success of a club, are more important than the success of the national team. These plans already have enemies because a club can buy a young player for a fixed fee. West Ham has a 16 year old player who is one of the best defenders in his age group. Thus if a bigger club, such as Chelsea or Manchester United, wants to buy him, they just needs to pay a fee of £250,000, even if he is worth a lot more (Jones, 04/10/2014). This comment of West Ham’s David Sullivan is understandable: “It almost makes you give up on having an academy if they can come in and nick your best 15-year-old” (Jones, 04/10/2014). The result of this regulation is that Hereford United, Wycombe Wanderers and Yeovil Town have closed their youth academies after one year (Fletcher, 08/06/2012). Yet the Premier League still seems to be on the right track with the establishment of the two mentioned systems. The Italian Serie A’s youth problem

The Serie A, however, does not really have a thirst for action. As mentioned above, it is trying to focus on the restriction of foreign players. By doing this, it might be forgetting to take the development of Italian talents into consideration.

There is no doubt that Inter Milan’s youth academy is worth its money; profits in the last six years were €42m for example (European Club Association, August 2012), but the general strategy of other clubs seems to be missing. Even the former national team’s coach, Prandelli, criticised the short term view of the Italian clubs. Only 8.4% of the players in the Serie A are trained by their teams (Horncastle, 06/08/2014) and the average age of first team inclusion is at 25.5 years, the oldest in the top five leagues (CIES Football Observatory, 12/05/2015). Another example of why Italy needs to rethink its strategy is that Napoli has, for instance, only invested €300.000 in their youth team (Conte, 11/07/2010). All 20 Italian clubs together have spent €55m. Germany’s 18 clubs have, in comparison, have spent €79.3m. ‘Le Centre Technique National Fernand Sastre’

The French Ligue 1 has no regulation on their HGPs but a closer examination reveals that they do not seem to need one anyway. 12.1% minutes of play have been played by U21 players during the 2014/2015 season, which is the highest number in the top five leagues. Furthermore, AS Monaco, for example, has with 34.6% the highest value of all clubs in Europe (CIES Football Observatory, 26/05/2015).

This development becomes apparent in the French youth national team. Whereas the U21s did not qualify for the last five UEFA European Under-21’s Championships, the U19s won the FIFA World Youth Championship in 2013 and lost the semi-final against the future winners of the European champions, Spain, in 2015. The U17s are the current European champions and have successfully qualified for the 2015 World Youth Championships in Chile (Fédération Française de Football, n.d.).

One reason might be that ‘Le Centre Technique National Fernand Sastre’ has generated world-class players such as Thierry Henry or Nicolas Anelka (Hayward, 08/12/2000). The FFF has a similar system to Germany as they have 12 elite centres throughout France, including a maximum number of players that all have to be French (Fédération Française de Football, n.d.). This is a difference to Germany, who is trying to give everyone – German or foreign – the chance to develop.

Even though France trains excellent players, the latter are often more willing to play in Spain or England. The abroad migration of the country’s best players could explain why French clubs have not been sufficiently successful in the past few years.

All of these factors are important in the future examination and need to be considered in the context of the influence of foreign players on clubs and national teams.

3.4 Other related factors

This chapter will consider other aspects which might influence the appearance of foreign players in a football club.

3.4.1 Language

English, Spanish and French are the three most common languages in Europe (European Commission, 2012). Hence, it is understandable that African players (French colonies) are going to France to play football in their mother language. If a South American player wants to make the move to Europe, he will normally choose countries where their mother tongue is spoken such as Spain (Spanish) or Portugal (Portuguese).

Germany and Italy do not have a widespread language and even in Europe, is it not common to speak German or Italian (European Commission, 2012). This would mean that they do not have a lot of foreign players, which is in Italy’s case, is not true. However, why does Italy have so many foreign players if they do not speak Italian? Is it easier to learn Italian or are there specific commonalities within the Italian culture with their own? These are questions that cannot be answered in this research.

3.4.2 The Coach-Player Pattern

Another potential factor that might influence the amount of foreign players in a club is the coach. Whereas the Premier League is the top country for foreign coaches, it is quite unusual to see a foreign coach in the Bundesliga. Therefore, Pep Guardiola is not only the first Spanish coach in the Bundesliga, he also brought a lot of Spanish players with him. Nowadays, five more Spanish players are playing for Bayern Munich. Does this indicate a direct connection between a foreign coach and the appearance of foreign players? The Bundesliga does have four coaches from German speaking countries (Austria and Switzerland) and two further foreign coaches who have, however, already lived in Germany for 18 years (Pal Dardai and Viktor Skripnik, both since 1997). All of these coaches speak German very well (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, 2015).

The Premier League has the most foreign coaches – only five out of twenty are English. In the Premier League, it is acceptable to count all coaches from Great Britain towards the amount of domestic coaches, which means that four more domestic coaches can be added. Nevertheless, more than 50% of all coaches are foreign coaches (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, 2015) which could explain the high amount of foreign players who might be chosen over domestic players by a foreign coach. The reason for this could be that a foreign coach is not interested in developing young domestic players but rather in buying players who speak the same language or who are ready-players from abroad.

The coach-player pattern seems to be confirmed by further examples such as Spain. Spain does not only have the lowest number of foreign players, it also has just four foreign coaches, of which two come from the Spanish-speaking country, Argentina (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, 2015). France has just two foreign coaches whose mother language is not French (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, 2015). The Serie A, however, does not fit in with the pattern. Although it has the second most foreign players, it only has two coaches with a different mother tongue (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, 2015).

We can see that four of the top five countries fit in with the coach-player pattern, but we should not forget that many coaches have perhaps already played in a country for a long time or learnt the language many years ago. It is nonetheless interesting to analyse whether a foreign coach is generally more willing to buy ready-players, or players with the same language or nationality as them than to develop domestic players. This will be analysed in a further chapter of this study.

3.4.3 Money

Another factor as to why players are choosing specific countries or leagues is the factor of money. According to Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG (n.d.). The Premier League is the most valued league with £2.83bn. Then comes La Liga (£2.16bn), then Serie A (£1.65bn), the Bundesliga (£1.61bn) and the Ligue 1 (£987.73m).

Therefore, one might expect that the most expensive transfer records occur in the Premier League. The top five highest transfer fees were, however, generated in La Liga. Barcelona and Real Madrid are dominating the top ten with eight of them. At the top is Real Madrid, twice with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, each at £65.80m. Six out of the 25 are from the Premier League clubs and just two of the top 25 are English players (Raheem Sterling £43.75m 2015/2016 and Rio Ferdinand £32.20m 2002/2003). A Bundesliga club is not represented but Mesut Özil, as a German player, is in 19th place with his move to Arsenal in 2013/2014.

As mentioned, ten transfer records come from Barcelona and Real Madrid and eight of them are in the top ten. This proves that these two clubs are willing to spend a lot of money for players. Although all of these bought players are foreign players, four of them spoke Spanish or at least Portuguese. Only two Spanish players (Gaizka Mandieta in 2001/2002 and Fernando Torres in 2010/2011) are represented.

French and Italian clubs are both represented with four players but the last Italian top transfer took place a long time ago, Lazio - Gaizka Mandieta in 2001/2002 at £33.60m. French top transfers are more current (all of them after the 2013/2014 season) (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, 2015). This could be in relation to the new investors of Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco, who have invested a lot of money in these teams (Gibney, 27/02/2015). However, the same as above, only one native French (Zinedine Zidane) and two Italian (Gianluigi Buffon; Christian Vieri) players are represented in the top 25 (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, 2015).

The question here is: are Spanish, Italian, French, German and English players not worth paying a lot for or do excellent players prefer to stay in their domestic league?

There are a couple of reasons why players could decide to change their club or league:

- More successful club / league
- Higher salary
- Better living conditions
- More security
- More competition
- More media awareness
- Exciting to live abroad
- More match time
- Better training facilities
- Better development chances

Thus, if a club wants to keep an excellent player, it needs to fulfil a couple of requirements to convince him to stay. Yet for a club from a weaker league, it is of course harder to convince a player – especially if he has another offer from a top club. For a world-class player, it is sometimes just one factor that makes him change club. Former FC Bayern Munich player, Toni Kroos, for example, moved to Real Madrid because they could not come to an agreement with regards to his salary. In that case, the mere factor of a higher salary made Kroos’ move possible (Holden, 19/08/2014).

However, why has there been no transfer record for Italy in the last 10 years? Why are some clubs able to spend more money on salaries than other clubs and how is it possible that Real Madrid can pay Tottenham Hotspurs £65.80m for Gareth Bale?

The answer to these questions can be found in the following chapter.

3.5 Revenue streams

The difference between the top five leagues becomes evident by looking at their income and its distribution. The top five football leagues in Europe do not have any regulations for merchandising, player trading or tickets but they have got a regulation for the broadcasting income. All five different leagues have got their own regulation aiming at a better competitive balance (Szymanski, 2001).

Real Madrid and FC Barcelona have eight of the top ten transfer records and the reason is simple. All Spanish clubs negotiate their own broadcasting deals and, therefore, it is easier for both of them to reach much higher deals than other Spanish clubs (Heckle, 01/05/2015). Thus, each of them earn £109.4m just from broadcasting revenues. In comparison, Liverpool was the leader in the Premier League with £91.4m in 2013/2014. Nonetheless, the biggest difference manifests itself in the distribution of the broadcasting income of the Bundesliga and the Premier League. Cardiff City received double the money (£58.2m) from their domestic broadcasting revenue compared to FC Bayern Munich (£28.8m), the champions of the Bundesliga (Cunningham, 26/09/2014).

In 2013/2014, the total revenue of the Premier League (€3,898m) was double that of the Serie A’s (€1,498m). Surprisingly, the Bundesliga, with the second highest revenue (€2,275m), has the lowest broadcasting revenue (€717m), which explains the difference between Cardiff’s and Bayern Munich’s broadcasting income.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 3 Revenue breakdown for the 'big five' European Leagues 2013/2014 Source: Deloitte LPP: Sport Business Group, June 2015. UK: Annual Review of Football Finance: 2015 - Revolution. [Online] Available at:

Table 3 indicates a big difference between the leagues by showing the different match day, broadcast and commercial revenues. What is more, this table also shows that the general revenue of the La Liga is half of the Premier League. This explains why only Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, with their own distribution of broadcasting rights, can spend so much money on player transfers (Deloitte LPP: Sport Business Group, June 2015).

Another important difference is the distribution of the broadcasting income in the leagues. The Spanish La Liga has the problem that every club needs to negotiate their own broadcasting deals and, therefore all clubs, except Barcelona and Real Madrid, haven’t got a lot out of these deals. However, after smaller club strikes, the league will get an overall broadcasting deal with split revenues between all clubs from the start of the season 2016. It will be interesting to see how this affects the different clubs in Spain and, especially, the two big clubs, Barcelona and Real Madrid (Heckle, 01/05/2015).The Serie A has got the second highest broadcasting income (€1,001m) (Deloitte LPP: Sport Business Group, June 2015) and will get a new broadcasting deal with start of season 2015 which will mean that the champion could get €122.8m and even the last place will earn themselves €26.5m. The distribution, however, is a bit confusing:

- 40% will be divided equally
- 30% are based on club’s supporters
- 30% depends on the position in the last season, the last five seasons and historical results (Gladwell, 27/06/2014)

This broadcasting revenue could be used for transfers by Italian clubs. Serie A clubs spent £303.73m (updated 11/08/2015), which is the second most after the Premier League (£529.13m) and before La Liga clubs (£300.62m). Yet the most important factor is that Seria A clubs spent this money on 1089 players! This is more than three times the transfer number of every other top five league (for example 309 players in La Liga) (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, 2015). For Italy, this means the players were only worth about £278,907.25. This is, undoubtedly a case of investing in quantity instead of quality

The Premier League is at the top of the broadcasting revenues (£1.73bn) and it is distributing the revenues from overseas 100% equally, 50% of the domestic revenues are distributed equally, 25% depend on the position of the team and the rest on how many matches where broadcasted in a club’s stadium during the season. Thus, the last place team (QPR) got £64.8m and the first place team (Chelsea) got £98.99m. Even the last place in the Premier League is almost getting as much as the first place in the Serie A. The high broadcasting revenues in the Premier League make it even possible for smaller clubs to spend money on excellent players and salaries. This could be the reason why clubs in the Premier League spend their money on ready-players, their salaries and international coaches because they do not need to save money. Clubs in other leagues are also saving money due to investment in domestic young talents (toalsportek2, 03/06/2015).

This might be one of the reasons why Germany won the World Cup 2014. As the German broadcasting revenue is about €513.6m (season 2014/2015) – the lowest in the top five leagues (Randerath, 2015) – the clubs need to spend their money and match-time on domestic talents to save money. Therefore, more talents get the chance to prove themselves and to earn a place in the national team. The distribution, however, depends on the position of the team in the current and the last five seasons (national) and on the UEFA club coefficient (international).

The French Ligue 1 distributes 50% of the income equally, 30% based on position and 20% on a TV audience rating. The overall broadcasting revenue in France is very low (€605m) and therefore, as in Germany, French clubs do not have the same financial liability as other European clubs (Deloitte LPP: Sport Business Group, June 2015). Thus, they cannot spend a lot of money on ready-players and therefore they can give young domestic players more time in a match. This can be confirmed by the fact that French clubs are giving proportionally the most time to under 21 players in Europe (CIES Football Observatory, 26/05/2015).

Even so, to bridge the gap and to be more competitive with Premier League clubs, it is permitted to have an owner or investor in French clubs. How this affects clubs will be explained in the next chapter.

The broadcasting revenue and the distribution undoubtedly have a big impact on a clubs’ decisions on whether to develop domestic talents or to buy ready-made world class players. Nevertheless, there is still one other factor which might have a big influence on the clubs’ decisions.

3.6 Club ownership

Club ownership and investors are the last factors which might influence the buying behaviour of European football clubs. First of all, not every league has the same regulations. As it is not allowed for a private person or company to have more than a 50% share of a German club, it is normal that almost every club in the Premier League has a different form of ownership, such as the Glazer Family at Manchester United or Roman Abramovich at Chelsea.

Mainly all Italian Football Clubs are owned by companies or private persons. One of the most famous owners is the former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi. He holds 100% of AC Milan’s shares but according to Ben Gladwell (21/05/2015), he wants to sell shares to other investors in order to invest more money in AC Milan. Another Italian example is F.C Internazionale Milano. The former owner, Massimo Moratti, sold 70% of his shares to the company International Sports Capital (ISC), which is owned by the three Indonesian businessmen, Erick Thohir, Rosan Roeslani and Handy Soetedjo. This happened in October 2013 and the result has been apparent in their transfers since then ( F.C. Internazionale Milano S.p.A., 15/10/2015). Over a period of 7 seasons, they had a positive transfer balance (2009/2010-2011/2012 + £30.89m). Afterwards, from the 2012/2013 season onwards, they have had a negative balance of -£50.91m (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, 2015). However, the bigger problem is, since the new investors have been involved, they have been doing terribly in the league. F.C Internazionale Milano won the Italian league five times in a row from 2005/2006 to 2009/2010 and finished as runners-up in 2010/2011. Since the ISC has been involved, they finished 9th, 5th and 8th (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, 2015). Why is this? This could be for a number of reasons, such as misjudged transfers, too much pressure or other clubs having more money to invest.

An example in France shows, a new investor can have a positive influence on a club. Paris Saint-Germain is one of the youngest football clubs in European football but changed completely in 2011. The Qatar Sports Investment and the new president, Nasser Ghanim Al-Khelaïfi, a Qatari businessmen, invested a lot of money in this club to buy world-class players in order to make this club one of the best in Europe and to give Paris a glamorous football club including VIP salons and luxury suits. They spent €145m in the summer of 2012 and it was worth it (Kuper, 28/03/2014). They won the French Championship three times in a row, six national cups and for now, only a European cup title is missing (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, 2015). Whereas the positive influence of new investors has worked for Paris Saint-Germain, it has not (as yet) worked for AS Monaco. AS Monaco was bought by Dmitry Rybovolev in Ligue 2 and then got promoted after two seasons but could not stand up to Paris in Ligue 1. They finished twice as runners-up and once in third place, even though they had spent a lot of money on players such as Falcao for 50m (BBC Sport, 31/05/2013). It occur to some that AS Monaco has not got the same vision and clear strategy as Paris Saint-Germain has.

What is happening more and more in France and in Italy seems to be absolutely natural in the Premier League. In that case, it is hardly possible to see whether it influences the English clubs hugely or not. The only recent case in the Premier League that might provide a decent analysis basis is Chelsea. The Russian billionaire, Abramovich, bought Chelsea in 2003 for 140m (BBC News, 02/07/2003). 12 years later, Chelsea has won 15 trophies and had become one of the biggest clubs in European football (Wright, 04/05/2015). Chelsea not only bought ready-players, they also spent a lot of money on the training facilities, the stadium and the youth academy (Tongue, 01/07/2013). The youth academy in particular boasts excellent future talents in line with the HGP regulations (Gaughan, 09/01/2015).

This case is very similar to that of Paris Saint-Germain and it seems to work. Other cases, such as QPR and the takeover of AirAsia founder, Tony Fernandes, does not really illustrate success (BBC Sport, 18/08/2011). QPR have not been able to transform the investment into quality football and eventually got relegated again in 2014/2015 (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, 2015). The Premier League lines up in the same way as Ligue 1 or Serie A. Money is not the only requirement for success in European football.

After the first part of this chapter, almost nobody would expect that Real Madrid and Barcelona, as well as Osasuna and Athletic Bilbao, are so-called ‘socio owned clubs’, meaning that these clubs cannot be sold to any company or private person (Corrigan, 12/12/2013). This regulation only applies to these four clubs because of their “special cultural and nationalistic significance…” (Khan, 11/06/2010). Thus, no further money from private investors can be gained and officials such as the president are elected democratically. Hence, to be more competitive in Spain and in European competition, Spanish clubs would like to use third-party ownership more often in order to get new players. In this case, they basically sell shares of a player to an agent, an investor or a company to get money or, during a bidding process, they sell shares of the new player to get help to buy him. Thus, they get their money back, depending on the shares if the player gets sold to another club. Falcao and Diego Costa have both been bought by Atletico Madrid via third-party ownerships which helped the club to buy these players in the first instance (Collins, 15/04/2015). FIFA is, however, trying to ban this regulation as it is already forbidden in the Premier League because companies can investing in players anonymously and receiving shares when these player got sold (Conn, 30/01/2014).

The last ownership regulations to consider are the Bundesliga. Generally, it is not allowed for any club that a company or investor has more than 50% of its shares, the so-called “50+1 rule” (Jackson, 11/04/2010). But, even in Germany, exceptions such as Bayers’ Leverkusen, Volkswagens’ VFL Wolfsburg and the unpopular clubs, TSG Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig. In the case of Bayer Leverkusen and VFL Wolfsburg, the companies’ ownership has been established with the foundation of the club and that was more than 20 years ago (Evans, 23/05/2013). Yet the case of RB Leipzig shows what is still possible. The energy drink manufacturer, Red Bull, bought the license of SSV Markranstädt and renamed it RB Leipzig. As it is not allowed to have a company name in the name of a sports club, “Red Bull Leipzig” is technically illegal. The club is however, making use of all possible legal loop holes such as a membership scheme (nonetheless, most of the members (eleven) are board members of Red Bull). The entrance fee for new members is €800 and the board has the right to reject any application. They can invest in the club via sponsorship deals (Red Bull) (Oltermann, 06/03/2014). Currently they are still playing in the second division but they almost got promoted last year (Transfermarkt GmbH & Co. KG, 2015). This club is a real test for the fundamental values of the Bundesliga and it might pave the way for further companies to do it in the same way. Even though the Bundesliga, however, does not have the general right to sell their clubs, it can still sell shares up to 49%, which makes it possible to invest in a club. Although the “50+1 rule” might be a better solution for a league, it still makes it more difficult to receive funding from the private sector.

This was a detailed investigation of different factors which might influence a clubs’ buying behaviour with regards to foreign players.


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How the number of foreign players influences the performance of national clubs and the national team
Birkbeck, University of London  (Management)
MSc Sport Management and Marketing
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ISBN (Book)
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Similarity index: 13%
UEFA, FIFA, Home-grown Players, Foreign players, Correlation, National team, clubs performances
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MSc Carsten Richter (Author), 2015, How the number of foreign players influences the performance of national clubs and the national team, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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