The 2007-08 Premiership season kicked off earlier today with Sunderland’s 1-0 home win over Spurs, as substitute Michael Chopra (above) put one past keeper Paul Robinson in extra time. The new campaign begins with the inevitable outcry over the dwindling percentage of British players in the EPL, as England’s top flight is now composed of more than 50% foreign talent. From the Independent’s Nigel Morris :

James Purnell, the Culture Secretary and an Arsenal supporter, has indicated that he wants clubs to devote more money, time and effort to nurturing talented young British footballers, rather than filling their squads with overseas stars. Mr Purnell has privately conveyed to the football authorities his dismay at the way some clubs are failing to encourage domestic talent as they spend huge television revenues.

It is the first time a Cabinet minister has made clear his disapproval of the preference of football’s big spenders for shopping abroad in the pursuit of honours. Previous suggestions of an EU-wide system for governing football, including quotas on foreign players, as well as caps on salaries and controls over transfers, were supported by the former sports minister Richard Caborn. But they were ruled out by Downing Street, which said it was hostile to Brussels having any influence over Britain’s national sport.

But, in the meantime the trend for foreign acquisitions has accelerated. This season, Liverpool have so far signed 11 foreign players, Manchester City at least eight, Bolton seven, Manchester United four and Arsenal four. The transfer window will only close at the end of the month.

When the League was launched 15 years ago, just 11 foreigners were registered to play in England.

The European Union has suggested that clubs consider imposing quotas for domestic players, in a similar way to the English cricket set-up. But such a move could amount to a restriction of trade and the Government is urging football clubs and the sport’s governing bodies to sort out the problem for themselves.

However, the Government’s latest intervention suggests it could be prepared to act if major clubs become increasingly dominated by foreign talent.

It’s a rather simplistic argument to suggest the fortunes of England’s national team suffer from the influx of foreign players in the Premiership. Were the league 90% homegrown, you could just as easily maintain the level of competition paled compared to that of La Liga, Serie A or the Bundesliga.

In the not-quite-as-glammy Championship, QPR were spared a season opening defeat at Bristol City when the ‘Hoops’ Damion Stewart answered Scott Murray’s 90th minute strike with one of his own in a 2-2 draw. Earlier, Martin Rowlands hit the woodwork twice, while John Gregory may have fondled a sealed vinyl copy of ‘The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle’ two or three times. I can’t really tell from here.

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