The Agenda: Loan system is damaging Premier League football

Newcastle United will be relying heavily on a loan player this weekend, while Sunderland will have to do without. Stuart Rayner looks into the loan system

Julian Finney/Getty Images Newcastle United striker Loic Remy
Newcastle United striker Loic Remy

A new era starts for Sunderland’s players on Saturday, except for Ki Sung-Yeung of course.

Gustavo Poyet’s first game in charge of the Black Cats will be at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium. Ki, one of their most impressive new players this season, is ineligible.

Meanwhile, back home, Newcastle United will be hoping a player who is not even theirs can extend his run of five goals in three games.

Welcome to the Premier League loan system.

In principal, the concept of loaning footballers is a good one.

The have-nots get players they could never afford, the haves are able to grant them valuable game time.

Andros Townsend, a product of nine loans, was last week’s glowing advert for the system, but six others in England’s starting XI on Friday also honed their games that way.

However, there are no have-nots in the Premier League. Or rather there ought not to be.

Some clubs in the top-flight still somehow manage to lose money but, with more than £60m on offer just for finishing bottom of the division, that is purely down to shockingly dreadful financial management.

Premier League football clubs either do not need to or do not deserve to be helped out by loan signings.

If Newcastle United, with their regular 50,000 crowds, have to borrow a goalscorer from Championship side Queens Park Rangers because they are incapable of finding and buying one themselves they deserve all the on-field punishment they get.

Likewise, if Sunderland cannot buy a creative central midfielder or – and here comes a crazy idea – produce one of their own.

If it means North East fans are denied the chance to watch Loic Remy or Ki it is a small price to pay.

Were the get-out of being able to loan players to already rich clubs not there, the likes of Swansea and certainly QPR would have to put those individuals on the open transfer market.

As it is, the system allows already wealthy clubs to manipulate it,

The Champions League clubs and those towards the top end of the English money leagues have far, far more professional footballers than they will ever need.

Chelsea’s website lists 26 first-teamers, 21 under-21s and a further 25 out on loan.

The squads of many Premier League clubs are clogged up with players who ought to be on the books of poorer rivals or lower-division sides.

Many still get to play for those teams on loan, but naturally only in a way that suits their paymasters.

Those with enough money are able to buy players simply to stop other people having them.

Sir Alex Ferguson was good at it, and why not? He could loan Danny Welbeck to Sunderland, watch the developing young striker play a blinder at Stamford Bridge in a rare Chelsea home defeat and be safe in the knowledge he would not play against the Red Devils a month later.

When Glenn Roeder did not play Guiseppe Rossi as often as Ferguson hoped, the Italian was recalled from St James’ Park at the earliest opportunity.

It is right loanees like Ki are unable to play against their “parent” clubs.

The conflict of interests it puts the player under could give the perception of undermining the integrity of the league – and that alone is damaging enough.

Letting them play or not letting them play, both are unfair on the player.

Some use it to create feeder clubs by the back door. Whether you agree or disagree with the concept of feeder clubs, they are not allowed in English football - but they still happen.

Six Chelsea players are on loan at Vitesse Arnhem this season. Last term, before the Football League tightened its rules, Watford was one, loaning 14 players from Udinese and Granada. All three clubs are owned by Giampaolo Pozzo and his family.

Some clubs frankly take the mickey. Thibaut Courtois is on his third season-long loan at Atletico Madrid.

No club, let alone one taking part in the money-printing exercise that is the Champions League, should be able to borrow someone else’s player for three whole years.

Likewise, no club should be able to buy an international player and hold his registration for three years without any intention of playing him.

Belgian Courtois is one of the best goalkeepers on the planet, and as such should probably be playing for one of the biggest clubs.

Chelsea, though, are never going to loan him to a rival who could realistically stop them winning silverware at home or abroad.

If there was no loan system, it would cause them a difficult decision between Petr Cech and a brilliant 21-year-old. Bundling Courtois off to La Liga will allow them to duck it until Cech is patently past it.

Loans can be beneficial. It does teenagers who have only known the cosseted life of academy football good to be thrown in to the real world, and cutting that route off would be a mistake.

Sammy Ameobi came back from Middlesbrough a better player, just as Jack Colback did from Ipswich Town.

It allows the likes of Carlisle United and Hartlepool United access to talented youngsters who would otherwise be well out of their price range.

Even loans between Premier League clubs can be positive.

Would Welbeck have been in England’s squad for last night’s crucial World Cup qualifier without his spell at Sunderland?

Yet the successes are too rare and the cost to the integrity of the game too high.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer