FIFA has been discussing a change to the loan army rules for some time now. If they are approved, Chelsea will need to change their entire model.
It has been discussed for some time but FIFA does not like the loan system anymore. Larger clubs such as Chelsea and Juventus have used it to hoard players and to create profit. Furthermore, most football associations complain about their players not getting enough opportunities in their own country. That could possible change if FIFA has their way on the loan army.
FIFA is looking at limiting the loan army to just eight players. For those that need a reminder; Chelsea currently has 40 players on loan and could yet send more out. A sudden cut back like that would cause panic at the club and would force the Blues into some very tough decisions.
It is worth noting that this deal is unlikely to happen soon. And if Chelsea ever decides to get moving on the technical director role, the new person might have a different vision for young players. By the time the rule is implemented, the Blues may not even have a loan army. But it is best to work under the assumption that Chelsea stays with their ways for now.
First of all, 32 players would need to be sold almost immediately. Chelsea is a rich club, but they would not want to pay the wages for all those players to sit in the reserves. And, because it would likely be sudden, they would need to sell them at a cut rate. Chelsea would still make money overall, but far less than they would have.
Furthermore, the notion that a player “slipped through the cracks” will become permanent. If a club can only loan eight players at a time, they are sure to lose at least three academy players a year to another club. Then it is only a matter of time before someone makes Chelsea look foolish for letting them go.
In addition, the margin for error would be practically gone. With 40 players, Chelsea has a lot of chances to not only find the good players, but to give the ones with bad seasons second chances. That will go away under the new rule. If a player struggles at all, they are likely to be sold immediately to make way for someone with more promise.
The work around Chelsea may find is buyback clauses. The Blues have been using them more frequently in recent years, but have yet to activate one. The player would be sold at a cut rate with the ability to buy them back at a cut rate. If Chelsea wishes to maintain a large footprint in the youth market, that could be their indirect work around.
Regardless of when this rule could potentially begin, Chelsea needs to prepare for it. The loan army is already far too big and needs to be slimmed down. It did not need slimming down to eight but this possibility may force their hand. Only the most promising academy stars will see themselves on loan. Everyone else will need to stay with their own club and do things the old fashioned way.