6+5 case study: English Premier League
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England's Premier League would be affected more than most by the 6+5 rule. But even before the rule is implemented, many of the country's clubs are already realising the importance and long-term financial sense of fostering local talent.

It took the near demise of Middlesbrough Football Club to turn the English side into one of the country's most productive talent factories, but since going into liquidation at the end of the 1985-86 season, "Boro" have focused on nurturing local talent rather than relying too heavily on foreign
imports.

"It's about creating the right philosophy from the chairman down," says Dave Parnaby, the head of the Middlesbrough Academy that has helped turn youth system graduates such as England winger Stewart Downing, goalkeeper Ross Turnbull and defender David Wheater into established first-team players.

"Opportunity is rare and although the players must prove they are good enough, managers have to be brave to give the boys that chance. There are many good players in the English system, yet too much is made of there not being enough." Boro's youngsters reached two consecutive FA Youth Cup finals, finishing runners-up to Manchester United in 2003 before beating Aston Villa to claim the title one year later. Eight of the players who featured that evening have since had first XI call-ups.

At present there are 19 academies and one centre of excellence amongst the clubs in the Premier League, some of which are responsible for producing some of the finest players in the country. However, of the overall 8,360 starting places for the 2007-08 Premier League season, only 3,054 (37 per cent) went to English players.

Seeing local youngsters grabbing first team opportunities can be a rewarding experience for all involved, but the greatest rewards in terms of league titles and trophies are still too often snatched away by the clubs who can afford to buy in established talent from abroad.

But while that remains the policy of many "top clubs", Middlesbrough are not alone in their efforts to maintain the identity of the English leagues. Branded "The Academy of Football", West Ham United nurtured the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Glen Johnson, who have all gone on to represent their country.

As well as bringing in world-class players from around the globe, Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has been churning out locally trained players for the last 18 years, most recently handing opportunities to United Academy graduates Danny Welbeck and Northern Ireland's Johnny Evans.

Sir Alex's successes in this regard are part of a long United tradition. Indeed the club's top five appearance makers - Sir Bobby Charlton, Bill Foulkes, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Welshman Ryan Giggs - are all products of the club's youth system.

Having already lent his personal backing to the aims of 6+5, Sir Alex is perhaps the finest example of a coach who has realised the merits of combining local heroes with big name imports, ably demonstrating the way English clubs can continue to prosper while maintaining their historic identities.