Scudamore jumps to Premier League's defence
How much can the Premier League be blamed for England's dismal showing at this summer's World Cup in South Africa?
On the one hand, half of England's top clubs are owned or part owned by foreign businesses or individuals. 58% of the players playing in the competition are from overseas and the demands of the club season - and here we must include the Champions League, FA Cup and Carling Cup - make it the most punishing of domestic campaigns in the world.
Yet the League would argue they cannot be held responsible for all the problems exposed by the failure of Fabio Capello's side last month. Was it their fault that England's players underperformed in an outdated system and that the Rustenburg camp seemed to be divided? Is it their fault alone that there is a lack of English talent coming through the elite system?
Today Richard Scudamore, the League's chief executive, launched a typically robust defence of his position saying that he shared the pain of England's supporters following the 4-1 defeat by Germany in the second round in Bloemfontein but that the success of the national team was not his priority.
On the face of it that is a statement of fact. But somehow it feels like an admission that nothing is really going to change following South Africa, a confirmation of that nagging doubt in the back of my mind that England's shortcomings will quickly be forgotten once the Premier League circus rolls back into town at the start of August.
That's not to say the League is not trying to do something about the development of young English players. This morning Scudamore and the League's head of youth development Ged Roddy invited journalists to their Gloucester Place headquarters to explain impressive changes to the academy system that were already in the pipeline before a ball was kicked in the World Cup.
Roddy wants to introduce a classification system for Premier League academies based on the quality of coaching, the number of coaching hours offered to youngsters as well as reforming the compensation rules which make buying English youngsters so prohibitive and looking abroad so attractive.
The League says that of the 300 players aged between 16 and 18 on the books of their academies, 245 are English - a sign that the pool of talent which Capello criticised in the run-up to this World Cup could be getting deeper.
And from this season clubs will have to comply with new "home grown" player quotas which limit the number of senior (over the age of 21) foreign players to 17 in a squad of 25. The remaining eight must be "home grown".
Richard Scudamore insists the Premier League is not to blame for the England team's problems
But the well-known problem with the "home grown" definition is that foreign players can qualify under that rule if they have spent three or more years at an academy before the age of 18. Arsenal, for example, have six "home-grown" players in their quota of eight who would not qualify to play for England - although it must be said the club is unusual.
All of which begs the question; will any of this make the slightest bit of difference?
Scudamore argues strongly that in 10 years' time the effects will be self evident and that while there is no clear mission to develop a stronger England team, it is in the clubs' interests to seek out and develop what he describes as the English gem.
However, the feeling on the ground is very different. At Birmingham City - one of the League's foreign-owned clubs - there is a definite sense that the two objectives of delivering a successful national team and developing young talent for the future of a Premier League club are, to use the words of their own academy manager Terry Westley, "miles apart".
The problem essentially boils down to how many English players are getting their chance to play in the first team and develop their careers. Nothing illustrates this point better than the discrepancy between the 81% of players aged between 16 and 18 in the academy system who are English and the 42% of English players playing first=team senior football.
As I pointed out ad nauseum in the aftermath of England's World Cup failure, it's all a question of priorities. Does English football want the best League in the world or do the national team and World Cups still matter? The two shouldn't cancel each other out but recent evidence suggest the opposite is true.
Perhaps it is simply that the world has moved on and more people care more about their clubs or prefer the regular diet of top-class players offered up week in, week out every season by the Premier and Champions Leagues. And on this I would be really interested to hear your views.
The first test of the public mood comes next Wednesday when Capello's team play Hungary in a friendly at Wembley.
Three days later the Premier League is back. Only once the richest league in football returns will we really be able to judge the extent of England's World Cup hangover - or whether it will simply be big business as usual.