This morning, the Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) announced a raft of new changes to the domestic game rules, including an increase in the Home Grown Player (HGP) rule from one player on the field to three at all times.
Photo (C) William F Gracia
The changes come after a study of the two seasons that the current HGP rules have been in place, which revealed that in the Premier Division the percentage of HGP’s in teams starting XI’s was just 19% – an alarming figure but not a surprising one to anyone who has watched the local game in the last two season. With 42% of HGP’s simply sitting on the bench and never playing, plus team’s pushing the rules to the bare minimum by consistently subbing out HGP’s for other HGP’s, it was painfully clear to anyone who watched that action needed to be taken.
In addition, teams can only register 25-man squads in both Premier and Second Divisions, meaning teams can not simply stockpile 30 or 40 players in their squads, with no intention of playing half of them, which has happened at times. The reserve and Under 18 leagues, which have had their own faults too, have been revamped as an “Intermediate League”. This league allows an 18-man squad to be registered, but 13 of them must be HGP’s and only five of the 18-man squads can be over the age of 23 years old (born before 1995 for the 2018/19 season). While HGP’s registered for the Intermediate League can play an unlimited number of first-team games, non-HGP’s in this new league can only play three first-team games per season. The same rule applies to over-23 players, regardless of HGP status.
There are also changes affecting the Second Division too. While the HGP rule obviously applies to this league as well, the Second Division Cup is being reintroduced for the 2018/19 season, after it was withdrawn from the schedule last season. Their domestic season now starts on August 13th, a vast improvement on the late September start of last season. The Premier Division also starts earlier, with August 17th the date penciled in. This is possible due to the GFA acquiring the Victoria Stadium, and the movement of the MTV Presents: Gibraltar Calling music festival from early September (during the international break), to late September. Announcements are expected in due course about how the league will be impacted during the time that the Festival takes over the Victoria Stadium.
There are also changes to the Pepe Reyes Cup, which is between Lincoln and Europa – most notably the removal of extra-time after 90 minutes, and that it takes place on August 12th, to remain as the curtain-raiser for the domestic football season. Finally, the domestic transfer window opens on Monday 11th June, and closes on August 31st, in line with most of Europe (but not England who chose to close their window the day before their season starts).
Overall, the changes are arguably the biggest move forward for the local league and local players especially since the beginning of the UEFA journey in 2013 – with a number of teams short in Premier Division level locals though, it should also make Gibraltarian footballers very high in demand this summer – we expect teams already have the wheels in motions to snap up the best local talent before the August start.