Rule changes will not hit Norwich City

David Cuffley Norwich City still have room to recruit more first team players despite new limits on squad numbers agreed by Football League clubs yesterday.At the League's annual general meeting in Malta, the 72 clubs voted in favour of new rules restricting first team squads to 25 players over the age of 21.

David Cuffley

Norwich City still have room to recruit more first team players despite new limits on squad numbers agreed by Football League clubs yesterday.

At the League's annual general meeting in Malta, the 72 clubs voted in favour of new rules restricting first team squads to 25 players over the age of 21.

They also stipulated that 10 of those 25 must be “home-grown” - registered in domestic football for three seasons before their 21st birthday.


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There will be no restriction on the number of players in the squad below the age of 21.

Neither rule is likely to damage manager Paul Lambert's squad building ambitions, however.

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With five departures and four new signings since the end of the season, City currently have 21 players who were over the age of 21 at the cut-off point of January 1 this year - if one includes midfielder Darel Russell, whose contract runs out at the end of June and whose future is undecided.

If 22-year-old goalkeeper Fraser Forster returns on loan from Newcastle, that would use up another place, but still leave room for manoeuvre in the squad.

And even if further new signings bring City up to the new limit of 25, it is understood they could create space in the squad by not including players in their named 25 who are under contract but not in the manager's first team plans. Clubs will also be able to amend their list of 25 when they make signings or players leave.

The good news for City is that, for next season, any player born after January 1, 1989, will count as under 21. It means that players such as Korey Smith, Declan Rudd, Michael Spillane, Tom Adeyemi, Luke Daley, David Stephens, Jed Steer, George Francomb and Josh Dawkin are not part of the restricted 25.

The home-grown ruling is no threat at all to City, since three seasons in “domestic” football before the age of 21 simply means in England - the qualifying period does not have to be spent with Norwich.

It means the home-grown tag applies to nearly the whole squad with the exception of Scottish imports Simon Lappin, Stephen Hughes and Steven Smith and Danish defender Jens Berthel Askou.

A rule was already in place last season stating that four of the 18 players named on the teamsheet for a League match must be home-grown - a stipulation City never had a problem meeting.

Other new rules agreed at the annual meeting will see clubs being hit with a transfer embargo if they do not file their financial accounts in time, but a proposal by Leyton Orient to impose a relegation of two divisions for any club going into administration was rejected.

League chiefs will, however, review the punishments for administration to see if they need toughening up.

The clubs have also closed a loophole so that clubs that go into administration are hit with sporting sanctions even when the club is part of a group company.

The new financial reporting rules will see the transfer embargo imposed on clubs that fail to lodge their accounts with the League at the same time they are required by Companies House. City were late with their accounts last season.

Football League chairman Greg Clarke said: “This has been a positive and constructive meeting at which we've looked at many of the important issues currently facing football and taken steps to address a number of the most pressing governance concerns.”

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