By Mike Collett
SWEIMETH, Jordan, May 14 (Reuters) - David Dein, one of the men responsible for creating the English Premier League two decades ago, said current FA chairman Greg Dyke was right to examine the state of the game in England now, even if some of his recommendations were unpopular.
Dein, a former vice-chairman of the English FA and of Arsenal, told delegates at the Soccerex Asian Forum that while English football was vibrant in many areas, things needed to improve.
One of the main aims of Dyke's proposals is to get more English players involved competitive games to increase the pool for future England managers to choose stronger teams.
The pool of English players at the top level has shrunk from around 66 per cent to around 30 per cent since the Premier League started in 1992 because so many overseas players now play in it.
Dein accepted that when Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton initially met to discuss forming what became the Premier League in the early 1990s, they could not have envisaged that the international issue would become a major challenge for English football.
"Our goal was to create the best show in town to have maximum interest and to take the product around the world," he said.
"It was not on the agenda then that 70 per cent of players in the league now would not be English, but that is how it has evolved because we have the best playing with the best.
"Of course the success of the England team matters but you now have freedom of work across the EU, it is not easy to control the movement of labour anywhere, even in football.
"When we formed the Premier League we did not envisage at the time it would be so heavily populated by overseas players.
"But having said the League has been a runaway success.
"And if you ask any fan, their first loyalty is almost always to the club they support. The national team always comes second. The fact the Premier League is broadcast now to 210 countries is absolutely astounding.
"But I agree something had to be done and all credit to Greg Dyke for shaking the tree. It needed to be shaken. The trick is to make sure that the fruit is not too bruised afterwards."
Last week Dyke produced his report into the state of the English game which included the controversial idea that Premier League B teams should play in a newly-created division against 10 clubs currently playing in the fifth tier of the English League pyramid.
Less controversial were plans to upgrade coaching, a call for more artificial pitches, a limit to the number of non-European Union players in England and a reform of the transfer loan system.
Dein said the debate provoked by Dyke's report was much needed, adding that while England was ahead commercially of its main European neighbours, it was not doing as well as them on the field of play.
"That is where we must improve," he told delegates at the King Hussein Convention Centre on the banks of the Dead Sea.
"It is very important that football is in a healthy state from top to bottom. You need to protect the pyramid so youngsters get a chance.
"The Premier League is putting a lot of time, effort and money into its youth development programme and I hope that we will see, in years to come, a very healthy global game where everybody has a chance of getting right to the top."
Dein showcased a number of Asian players, largely from Japan and South Korea, who had made their mark in the Premier League and said he expected many more Asians to play in England in the years ahead as their talent pool is developed.
But he recognised a negative perception surrounding Asian football, because of its connection with match-fixing syndicates operating in south-east Asia.
"It's damaging because everybody wants a clean game. Gambling is one thing. If people want to do that then good luck to them and it's part of the culture in parts of Asia.
"But once it turns into matchfixing then you're in different territory entirely but one goes with the other and that's the danger. When people go to football they expect a clean game."
(Reporting by Mike Collett)
- Sports & Recreation
- Greg Dyke
- Premier League
- David Dein