Does the Loan System in the Lower Leagues Still Benefit Players?

The loan system has been a tried and tested system with many clubs in the higher leagues sending their hot prospects to the lower divisions in England to prove their ability and gain much needed experience playing first team football. However, there are question marks being raised over the loan system and is it necessary in the modern game?

Loans in England work by one club sending a player to another club for either a short-term or long-term basis usually for no fee; especially if it is a younger player. Any player can be loaned out and depending on the financial implications of both clubs a decision will be made about how the player’s wages will be split.

Many lower league sides do benefit from the loan system and especially in League One and Two. They are able to acquire a player from a much higher division who can have more than enough qualities to help a lower league side.

It is an alternative to buying players for transfer fees and it is a way clubs can field a side. However, there are restrictions in place so clubs cannot use more than five loanees in the matchday squad.

In 2012, the Premier League scrapped the reserve league in favour of an under 21s league. Although this helped promote clubs playing youth prospects, it took away a certain competitive aspect and edge. Even though clubs can play three over 21 players in games, players are playing players of their same age. This means they are not coming up against players who might be physically stronger, have more knowledge about the game and have more on the line as to recovering to the first team. This is why a loan to a lower league club can often be a more productive way for a player to get matchday experience.

Many players like David Beckham, Danny Welbeck, Harry Kane, Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe (who all represented England) state how important their loan deals to lower league clubs helped them all push on and achieve great things in the game. They were pitted against seasoned professionals as young players and were expected to compete at the same level.

The benefit of the loan system also takes youth prospects from Premier League or Championship clubs out of their luxurious comfort zones and drops them into a life they have not experienced since they were plying football for their local side when they were 10 years old. With many facilities at these clubs able to dream of the Premier League quality, it is a real throwback for young players who have a lot taken care for them in the modern game.

However, a loan is not always about gaining experience. Players can go out on loan as a way of finding a new club. If a club no longer sees the benefit in having a certain player around the club anymore, they are willing to let them leave to showcase their talents elsewhere in the hope that a club might make the deal permanent.

A player can often push for a move themselves if they are struggling to break into the first team and their contract is running out, they would prefer to be playing games than training all week for no reward.

A short-term loan of 1-3 months can be a perfect opportunity for players recovering from injuries and it provides a chance for players to build up their fitness. A player may have picked up an injury during a really good run of games for a team and is struggling to break back into the first team, so in a bid to get match ready and compete with the chosen squad they can go out on loan to get full match fitness.

The loan system needs to be kept in place due to all the benefits for players of all ages. It is a perfect way for clubs to help promote young players, give a player some much needed game time and can be a perfect way for a club to see if the loan player would be a permanent fix for them. 

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