Explained: Premier League squad rule and how it affects Watford

Who qualifies as a home-grown player? Is Tommie Hoban an Under-21 player or a home-grown player? What happens to the foreign players who don’t make the 25-man squad?

On the eve of the season and with the squad set to be submitted at the end of the month we have tried to explain the complex Premier League squad requirements to you, as best we can, and answer some of the questions doing the rounds. Here goes…

What is the home-grown player rule?

Introduced at the beginning of the 2010/11 season, the rule was designed to incentivise Premier League teams to sign players who were developed within the English League system, or develop such players themselves.

Each Premier League team can only register 25 players over the age of 21 for that season’s first-team matches. Of those 25 players, no more than 17 can be foreign players. In other words, if the Hornets want to submit the maximum 25 names to the Premier League they have to have at least eight homegrown players. A team can submit less than 25 names but still only 17 can be foreign.

What is a home-grown player?

A home-grown player, as defined by the Premier League, is a player who: (a) is 21 or older on January 1 of the year in which that season begins and (b) spent three years between the ages of 16 and 21 with a team in the English football League system.

This rule applies regardless of nationality, so you do NOT have to be English/Welsh to be a home-grown player For example, Cesc Fabregas, as a result of spending three years between the ages of 16 to 21 at Arsenal, is a home-grown player. And you don’t have to be at the same club that developed you to be a home-grown player so Fabregas still counts as a home-grown player for Chelsea.

To be “under 21” for the 2015/16 season, you had to be born later than January 1, 1994. So Tommie Hoban (born on January 24, 1994) is an U21 player. Sean Murray (born on 11 October 1993) is not an U21 player.

Tommie Hoban. Picture by Sean Hinks
Tommie Hoban. Picture by Sean Hinks

The Watford squad can effectively be divided into three groups

1) Players under 21, who don’t count against the 25-player cap at all

2) Those over age 21 players who are home-grown

3) Players over the age of 21 who are not home-grown player / are foreign.

As we understand the rule, here’s how the Watford first-team squad breaks down:

Watford’s Under-21 players:
(these players fall outside the 25-man squad and the club can register as many players who fall into this category as they like. Target Nathan Ake would fall into this category)

Tommie Hoban

Dennon Lewis

George Byers

Alex Jakubiak

Josh Doherty

Alfie Young

Mahlondo Martin

Bernard Mensah

Watford’s home-grown players :
(you can name as many home-grown players as you like in a 25-man squad)

Sean Murray

Craig Cathcart

Troy Deeney

Rene Gilmartin

Ben Watson

Connor Smith

Lloyd Dyer

Ikechi Anya

Ikechi Anya. Picture by Sean Hinks

Watford’s foreign players:
(you can name a maximum number of 17 in a 25-man squad)

Heurelho Gomes

Allan Nyom

Miguel Britos

Jose Manuel Jurado

Valon Behrami

Matej Vydra

Steven Berghuis

Almen Abdi

Odion Ighalo

Sebastian Prodl

Sebastian Prodl. Picture by Sean Hinks
Sebastian Prodl. Picture by Sean Hinks

Jose Holebas

Etienne Capoue

Giedrius Arlauskis

Gabriele Angella

Joel Ekstrand

Fernando Forestieri

Juan Carlos Parades

Daniel Pudil

Miguel Layun

Essaid Belkalem

Alessandro Diamanti

Cristian Battocchio

(Total No of foreign players: 22)

How does this effect Watford’s remaining transfer business?

If Watford want to name a 25-man squad, which you suspect they do given how the Premier League tests your resources, then they meet the requirements, but that list would include Connor Smith and Lloyd Dyer, the winger who has been told by Sanchez Flores he is surplus to requirements. However, they would still need to cut the number of foreigners on their books by five or be saddled with their wages until the window reopens in January. It will then be a one-in-and-one-out policy with any subsequent foreign signings.

To beef up the squad with home-grown or U21 players, they need to persuade clubs to loan them Premier League quality youngsters (like Nathan Ake) and satisfy any assurances the club will want over the amount of game time the player gets. Also, Premier League rules limit clubs to just two season-long domestic loans. International loan deals are, essentially, limitless but they are no use to Watford as they already have too many foreign players. Signing home-grown players comes at a premium.

Over to you, Gino.