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Loan loophole shut as clubs unanimously vote to tighten international loan rules

Michael Regan

Loans are a very useful tools for clubs short on up-front cash to bring an injection of quality into their sides for a relatively short period of time. Just about every single club uses the loan system in order to add depth or starting quality to their teams.

There has, however, existed a loophole that did not cap the number of international loans that a club could bring in. Clubs could essentially bring in as many loan players as needed so long as only five dressed for the matchday squad with internationally-capped players not counting against that cap.

A vote on the subject scheduled for this summer, something that we've known was coming for months, has just occurred and the results are in. Per a Football League spokesman, "the proposal was voted for unanimously."

The Football League's 72 clubs met in Portugal and voted "unanimously" to officially amend the rules, forcing international loans to follow similar rules to domestic ones. From next season on, clubs are restricted to a total of five loan players in the 18-man matchday squad and clubs can bring in a maximum of just four players from any one club over the entirety of the season.

The vote is, of course, a response to the way that Watford handled their squad last season. The Hornets had a total of 14 loan players in last season with ten of them coming from Udinese, the Serie A club that the Pozzo family (Watford's current owners) also run. A further two players came from Granada, another Pozzo-run club, with the remaining two players coming from Standard Liege and Chelsea.

In mid-February, when Watford took on Bolton Wanderers at Vicarage Road, only four of Watford's starting 11 were not loan players. Watford's squad consisted of 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).

During the meeting, the Football League also voted to cap player sell-on fees at 50%.