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FIGC enacts new squad rules for Italian clubs

The governing body of Italian football put new squad rules in to place today to bring them in line with UEFA standards, and tightened down on existing regulations for bringing in players from outside the European Union.

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It's been a season of change in Italy. No, Juventus haven't been toppled from their throne atop the league, nor has Roma fallen out of the race behind them (yet!). The changes have been off the pitch, but soon they'll start to have a marked effect on the clubs in Serie A and throughout Italy.

So far this year we've seen co-ownership end, a new and highly controversial FIGC president get elected, and that same new president propose major changes to the structure of Italian football. One of those changes, crafting squad rules and restrictions, was voted almost unanimously in to an official FIGC rule today well ahead of the initially expected "slow integration" period that had initially been expected when the change was proposed two months ago.

The changes, which take Italy from having no squad size rules to being in line with the standard used in UEFA competitions, limit Serie A clubs to 25 over-21 players. Of those, no more than 17 can be non "home grown" players, meaning players who spent at least three years between the ages of 15 and 21 as part of an Italian club, be it in their academy or first team squad, or even away on loan so long as an Italian club still holds the player's contract.

Adding a further layer of restriction is that, of the eight roster slots held for players who trained in Italy, four of those are reserved for "club trained" players, meaning players who spent at least three years in that younger age range with the club that currently holds their registration. While most Italian teams won't have any issue with the first home grown restriction, the club trained player requirement will likely trip up many clubs.

Players who are under-21's (not yet 21 at the start of the calendar year in which the season began) are unaffected by these changes and can be used freely.

Despite the difficulties many clubs will face in meeting these requirements, all 20 Serie A clubs have agreed to immediately restrict their squads to follow these rules*. The change was put in to place not just to bring Italian squad rules more in line with UEFA's, but also to help aid financial stability for clubs by reducing bloated squads while promoting the strengthening and better usage of Italian academies.

*UPDATE - An earlier released version of the FIGC's statement did not sufficiently clarify the starting date, and left an implication that the rule took effect immediately. It was later updated to reflect that the rule is effective as of next season.

While for now this change doesn't affect clubs in lower divisions, it seems likely that some form of restrictions will be put in place there eventually. Also apparently unaffected is the large matchday squad size in Serie A; while most top-division leagues and UEFA competitions have an 18-man matchday squad with the eleven starters and seven subs to pick from, Serie A allows coaches to name a 23-man matchday squad, greatly increasing their options off the bench.

The FIGC also enacted tighter constraints on the ability of Italian clubs to bring in players from outside the European Union. Previously, there were restrictions on acquiring non-EU citizens based on a club's position and how many non-EU players were already in the squad, but nothing else past that. Now, the FIGC will only allow academy-aged players to sign with Italian clubs if they've already established four years of residency in Italy.

They've also made it harder for clubs to replace a sold non-European citizen with another, adding a requirement that such "replacement" signings must have been signed to a professional contract for at least three years. That makes it functionally impossible for Italian clubs to sign up-and-coming stars in South America or Africa before they get more expensive, something that clubs who have had issues developing their own young talent have done for years.

These will be pretty big changes to how Italian clubs operate, especially in the transfer market. Seeing how the squad size restrictions play out with Italian clubs will be interesting to watch unfold, and tomorrow we'll be taking a look at how Serie A clubs could be affected by this new rule.