When Bolton Wanderers travelled to Vicarage Road just a few weeks ago to visit Watford, most Bolton fans were a bit aggrieved by the sheer number of loan signings in the Hornets' squad on the day. Watford's starting lineup consisted of the following: Manuel Almunia, Lloyd Doyley, Joel Ekstrand, Fitz Hall, Daniel Pudil, Nathaniel Chalobah, Almen Abdi, Marco Cassetti, Cristian Battochio, Matej Vydra, and Troy Deeney. Jonathan Bond, John Eustace, Jonathan Hogg, Sean Murray, Nyron Nosworthy, Alexandre Geijo, and Fernando Forestieri made up the bench.
Of that starting eleven, only Manuel Almunia, Lloyd Doyley, Fitz Hall, and Troy Deeney were players owned by Watford. The other seven were loanees from Udinese (Vydra, Abdi, Ekstrand, Battochio, and Cassetti), Grenada (Pudil), and Chelsea (Chalobah). Watford's use of the loan system is nothing short of clever especially considering that the Pozzo family, Watford's owners, also own Udinese and Granada.
According to Sky Sports, current Football League rules "do not place a limit on the number of loan signings a club can make but restrict a matchday squad to containing only five on-loan players." Of course, since Watford played seven loanees (and had one more on the bench in Geijo), they obviously had more than five in the matchday squad. The current rules, again according to Sky, "do not encompass internationally-capped players so Watford are free to select Joel Ekstrand, Almen Abdi, Matej Vydra and Daniel Pudil outside that five player rule."
Through their use of the transfer market and the sheer quality of players like Matej Vydra, Watford have reached very lofty heights this season and are very much pushing for promotion (at the time of writing, they sit in third, just three points behind Hull City for automatic promotion). When playing Bolton, it was Matej Vyrda and Almen Abdi that scored Watford's two goals.
As a result of all this, the Football League is set to vote on whether or not the loan rules should be changed after this season. They will hold their Annual General Meeting in the summer and will decide whether or not internationally capped players like Vydra, Ekstrand, Pudil, and Abdi will count against that five-player-in-the-squad limit.
What do you think: are Watford playing fairly or have they exploited a loophole?