The Irish brawn drain: English league clubs and Irish footballers, 1946-1995.
British Journal of Sociology, 51
This paper draws on world systems and resource dependency theories to show how the changing recruitment practices of English League clubs have deepened the brawn drain from Irish football, thereby compounding its underdevelopment. An analysis of the origins, method of recruitment and destinations of Irish players (North and South) who appeared in the English League between 1946 and 1995 shows that English clubs imported large numbers of Irish players throughout the second half of the twentieth century. However, it was the inclusion of Irish teenagers within the youth policies of the largest clubs in the period after the 1970s that marked a break from the traditional pattern of buyer-supplier relations. Instead of continuing to purchase players who had established reputations within the Irish leagues, English clubs began to hire the most promising schoolboys before they joined Irish sides. As this practice spread, it eventually eliminated a valuable source of income: the selling of players to English clubs. Despite this development it would, however, be inappropriate to view the relationship between the Irish and English football industries as a simple zero sum game as Irish clubs benefit from employing highly trained young players who return home after failing to establish careers in England.
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