It’s an annual tradition in the US, and the first step for many players to NFL superstardom. It’s also a uniquely American phenomenon. But, from time to time, the question is asked whether the UK’s Premier League might not adopt a similar system.
There are a number of reasons for this, not least because the cost of buying players in the transfer market long ago reached stratospheric proportions. This is perfectly demonstrated by the current situation in which any team wanting to buy Lionel Messi from Barcelona, will have to pay $827 million just to release him from his contract.
There is also the fact that money, in general, has come to play such a large part in the sport that it has created a situation in which the big clubs Manchester United and City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, and Arsenal dominate the league with the remaining 14 clubs never having the chance to compete on an equal footing.
So if, for example, a relatively low-achieving club like Aston Villa, or a newly promoted one like Leeds United, were to have the first pick of players for a new season, it could help to level up the playing field. As another side-effect, it could also shake up the world of football betting in the UK; as we’d start to see some of these so-called Cinderella clubs starting to get more news coverage, instead of the typical concentration on the big six already mentioned.
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A third and perhaps less important, reason that the draft could be a good idea is that, by promoting home-grown talent, it could lead to a better national soccer team for England. Currently, nearly 70% of players in the |highest level of the sport in England are foreigners. But, if there were more openings for players who had come up through the clubs’ academies, the theory is that repeating the heroics of 1966 could become a reality once more.
However good these arguments may be, there are just as many reasons why the draft simply wouldn’t work in the UK. The first of these is that, unlike the US, there are no college sports scholarships and no college soccer scene. Instead, players are developed by clubs from a young age, and this means that they want to see a return on the investment that they’ve made, not let them be snapped up by a rival.
The second reason is that, by following the US system, it would also introduce a salary cap on players. In all likelihood, this would see a mass exodus of the most talented and valuable to other leagues in Europe and beyond which wouldn’t impose this restriction.
The final reason is that the clubs themselves are never likely to want to upset the status quo. The huge cost of running a team makes it hard enough to operate profitably without this added complication.
So, unfortunately, it looks like the draft is one export to the UK that the US is never going to be likely to make.
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