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Debate: Is the football loan system being unfairly exploited?

Debates are meant to provide a diversity of opinions, with the perspective of various parties justifying the question posed. Debates on Outside of the Boot serve this exact purpose. Writers from our various Team Blogs will engage in these discussions every week, providing readers with that diversity.

This week’s topic is the football loan system, and it’s unfair exploitation in the modern game. From avoiding FFP regulations, to ‘investing’ in feeder teams’ squads and the involvement of important first team figures on a temporary basis, the loan system has been used for these purposes, all of which is within the legal regulations prescribed. But is in an unfair system?

Piazon Aurier

Calvin Gomez | Dial Square (Arsenal Team Blog): Loopholes are common in any written law and in citing recent examples; the loan system has been the subject of such loophole exploitation.

In the 2012-2013 season, Championship club Watford had a total of 14 players on loan. As a result of this, youngsters of Watford’s own academy fell out of favour with the coaches. The only reason Watford were able to benefit from such a pool of talent was due to the connections and affluence of its owners. The problems with the system are clearly visible when you consider that relationships between business tycoons are central to a club’s growth policy. The relationship shared by Roman Abrahmovic and Alexander Chigrinskyhas given Vitesse a clear edge in the unchallenging setting of the Eredivisie, by taking on loan several of Chelsea’s expensively purchased youngsters.

Any policy that hinders the development of home grown youth at a club is poisonous in the long term. Operating well within the tenets of transfer law, Watford and Vitesse did not technically “exploit” the laws of the system. International loans were recognized as regular transfers by the FA, until 2013, and still are by the Dutch KNVB. Rather both these clubs have disrespected the sanctity of the game.

In the commercialized setting of the modern game, many clubs fail to adequately prepare themselves for the future and instead overestimate the importance of the present. Making loan signings is about the most unstable form of growth any club can rely on, simply due to the lack of longevity of the service of these players. A youngster sent out on loan is generally asked to develop his own technical ability and decision making without much focus on his role in the finer aspects of his new team’s game. A club’s need to replace these newly void positions every 6-12 months leads to the drain of funds that could otherwise be spent on scouting and developing young talent.

The latest most innovative exploitation of the loan system has happened as a result of the imposing demands of Financial Fair Play. I am of the opinion that FFP was introduced to stop the “smaller” clubs from spending above their means and falling into administration. It has had very little impact on the larger clubs given how their net revenue makes up for it. But the reason behind PSG and Man United respectively taking Aurier and Falcao on loan is seen as a sign of immaturity.  High wage bills sink clubs, not transfer fees. Living in the illusion that they have stable policies, because they are within FFP laws, is worse than actually being sanctioned for breaking it. (@CalvinXGomez)

Alankrith Shankar | FC Hollywood (Bayern Munich Team Blog): Taking Chelsea as an example, they have loaned out a lot of their young talents to clubs all around Europe, mostly Vitesse. I don’t think this leads to exploiting the loan system, since a club like Chelsea would want to have one of the best squads in the continent and loaning these young players will help in their development. Whether Chelsea will actually use them once they are ready to be in their first team is another question, but I don’t think this is exploitation in any form. This actually is a smart piece of business.

This will lead to two things, 1) where the player develops exceptionally well and Chelsea does use him, it does not negatively effect the players’ career, sitting on the bench at his parent club OR 2) The player develops really well but Chelsea don’t want to use him; the club can thensell him for a good profit and use the money to bring in someone they want. There is of course another possibility where the player does not develop even when on loan, and in such a case, the parent club avoids having ‘deadwood’ in the side. I don’t think anything needs to be changed to the process happening now, loans are good for both the clubs involved and the player (who, in all scenarios, is actually getting playing time). (@alanbinga)

Ryan Paton | Shankly’s Men (Liverpool Team Blog): I have mixed feelings towards the loan system. While I think it is vital for the development of younger players at big clubs who have a chance at breaking into the first team at some point in the future, such as with Liverpool’s decisions to loan out Jordon Ibe and Andre Wisdom, I do think there needs to be further restrictions imposed in order to limit teams exploiting the market. In terms of developing players, Chelsea have come under a lot of criticism due to the manner in which they have used their relationship with Vitesse Arnhem and loaned a number of players to the club, but this deal seems to be beneficial to all parties.

Due to the huge gulf in talent between the English and Dutch League, Chelsea’s youth players thrive in the Dutch League meaning Vitesse Arnhem can field a side that can perform well in the Eredivisie, something shown in how they qualified for European football last season. The season before Vitesse and Chelsea began this agreement they just escaped the relegation playoffs on goal difference, so it shows the remarkable difference the Chelsea loanees have made. Chelsea and their youth players both get something from the deal as the playersget the chance to gain competitive football experience, something not on offer in the U-21’s league currently in place in English football. If the FA allowed the U-21 teams to compete in the league system such as they do in Spain then maybe this use of the loan system that you see with Chelsea would not occur.

People argue that the loan system preserves the current status quo, but I believe that it is only a minor factor in keeping the big teams at the top. If the loan system changes, I doubt it will make much of a difference as to whether Chelsea or Liverpool will be towards the top of the English game in 50 years time.

Having said I have no problem with them loaning a number of players to the same club, I do think there should be a cap on the number of players you should be able to loan out in total as teams like Chelsea can snap up a load of youngsters and it makes no difference to their wage bill. They have loaned out a ridiculous 26 players this summer, and if one of them becomes good, then the project is a success and they can just get rid of the other 25. Most teams don’t have that kind of financial power, and it would be better if there was a law in place that prevented teams like Chelsea from doing this to such an extent. (@RyanPaton1994)


John Cascarano | The Old Lady (Juventus Team Blog): The loan system is simply a good way for bigger teams, without the patience to deal with trial and error, to develop players.Take Serie A.. Many in the peninsula complain about the lack of home grown, domestic talent not given a chance in lieu of veterans. While other countries have ways to allow teams to allow their youth to compete at a high level (i.e. Barcelona’s B team playing in the Spanish second tier), Italy lacks this. The loan system is a good way to make up for it.

For example, look no further than Juventus. While the current champions boast a strong roster of peaking players, many have accused this of being too heavily reliant on an aging core. However, the team has a glut of young talent owned in some capacity, ready to fill in as the core starts to fade. Moreover, they’ve built this self-sufficient machine economically. This is a win-win for everyone; the parent club who is building a future from within, the players who get more playing time younger, and the smaller team who receives the benefit of the talent. Considering that Juventus are among the most financially stable clubs in Italy and Europe as a whole, the Old Lady might be the paragon of the loan system conducted right. (@cascarano)

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