Use of B teams is an example to follow
By Cam Melling
In many countries across Europe, a system is utilised in which teams from the top division have reserve sides playing lower down the same football pyramid. The most famous examples are Real Madrid and Barcelona, who both have their 'B' teams play in the second division.
The basic principle is that a club can develop their youngsters at a competitive level which just cannot be competed with by reserve league football. This has allowed the likes of Lionel Messi and Juan Mata to nurture their skills whilst playing at the highly ambitious level of the Segunda Division, where the likes of Villarreal and Racing Santander battle it out to win promotion to Spain's premier division.
The success is obvious. Barcelona are now arguably the world's greatest team and Spain are no doubt the king of international football. No fewer than twelve players who have played for the Catalonia giants' B team, have made full international appearances for Spain. This surely is enough to persuade the toughest of traditionalists that the system can work.
So why not have it here in England? The hottest properties of the Premier League could be cultivated before making their first team bows, allowing to be ready for the step up. It would also rid the need of finding a team willing to loan a youth player, as they could play at an equally impressive standard at a side's second string.
Of course there would be rules, similar to those which govern the system in Spain. A side's B team can not be in the same division as the first team. Villarreal B were at the hand of the ruling this season, who despite finishing 12th were demoted as the first team were relegated from La Liga. In addition, once a player has played a league match for Barcelona for example, they then cannot play for the reserve team.
The creation of the Barclays Under 12 Premier League this season has seen more rules put in place for a club's young players to feature more from a lower level. However, most players still use it as just a stepping stone or route to recovery from injury. This would not be the case if the sides were competing in the Championship for example.
Yes this system would be a considerable change to the English league structure and maybe slight confusion with promotions and relegations but if we really want our national sides to compete in major tournaments, it could well be a necessary change.