The Sweeper: UEFA to ban U-18 transfers? Think of the children!

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The fallout from FIFA’s ruling against Chelsea in the Kakuta case continues to dominate the headlines. Of course, it took that case for the British press to notice that several similar cases were also working their way through FIFA, and today it’s Manchester City under the poaching spotlight, with French club Rennes accusing them of luring away teenager Jeremy Helan. And domestically, Everton are being forced to pay up to £1m for 16 year-old Luke Garbutt, snatched away from Leeds. Such deals may in the future be illegal: UEFA are looking into Michel Platini’s proposed ban on transfers for under 18s, a move which would have to be carefully pursued to abide with European law.

The issue of youth transfers is a more complicated one than the simple morality tales being peddled around, however. Brian Phillips at the Run of Play interestingly raises a forgotten part of this debate: the child himself. “The big-club-vs.-small-club narrative is so ingrained in football that we reflexively see anything that benefits a smaller club at the expense of a bigger club as “fair.” But this isn’t fair. We’ve gotten so used to seeing Premier League clubs as wicked developers strip-mining the talents of poorer continental clubs that we’ve started thinking the latter have some kind of moral right to control the futures of their very young trainees. But players that age ought to control their own futures. In any other field, we’d look at this story and see Lens standing in the way of the right of a child and his parents to decide what’s best for him. In football we see the kid as a strategic weapon in a quasi-declared class war in which his preferences don’t really count.”

Meanwhile, Trevor Brooking asks what damage the influx of foreign talent into British youth academies is doing to the national team’s chances, and the Independent looks at the network of scouting that goes into the Premier League’s poaching strategies. Ian Wright and other former players are also under the spotlight for their academy in South Africa. This story is not going to die any time soon.


  • Sheffield United goalkeeper Paddy Kenny received a nine-month ban for failing a drugs test after taking over-the-counter medication, even though the commission accepted he had taken it innocent of any performance enhancing desires. While this might seem harsh at first glance, the commission’s ruling that Kenny had shown a “complete disregard” for his professional responsibilities by failing to consult with anyone at the club before medicating himself does have some merit.
  • England’s women are on the verge of glory, where they’re forced to face “perennial nemesis” Germany in the European Championship final this Thursday. The Guardian has a good rundown of who’s who, Richard Williams praises coach Hope Powell to the skies and Tony Leighton profiles up-and-coming England star Eniola Aluko. It’s great to see all this coverage from the Guardian, and lets hope this translates into more regular coverage of the women’s game in general going forward. Oh, and a special good luck from here to England’s Karen Carney of the Chicago Red Stars.
  • Thierry Henry ripped into French coach Raymond Domenach with some aplomb at the weekend.
  • Perhaps no team will feel more pressure than Bahrain in the World Cup qualifier’s this week. Having never qualified for a World Cup, Bahrain will head to Saudi Arabia — in front of an expected crowd of over 65,000 — in the Asian Football Confederation play-off, with the winner to face Oceania Football Confederation champions New Zealand home-and-away for a place in the World Cup finals.
  • There’s a very interesting interview with Blackburn Rovers chairman John Williams in the Lancashire Telegraph. It’s notable not just for some very interesting nuggets of information about Premier League finances, on budgets, wage bills and profit/loss, but also just because Williams is so open about the numbers, explaining plainly to the public why Rovers have spent what they have (and haven’t) this summer. It’d be good to see more of this from other top executives.
  • Footiebusiness looks at the disappointing attendance for the New England Revolution, who had their second successive sub 10k turnout at the weekend. A 16,700 average in 2007 declined to 14,300 in 2008, and around 12,000 so far this season. There are a myriad of reasons for the decline, but the fact is despite some solid performance, New England have never gone full throttle on or off the field as an elite club. At the end of the day, much of the blame has to lie at the door of the ownership, the Kraft family.

The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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