"I am persuading British companies - our retailers, our manufacturing companies - to offer jobs to those people on the unemployment register who are inactive at the moment.As if Brown had not gotten himself in enough hot water over "British jobs for British workers" even in his own party, the Guardian now points out that Brown wants "British players for British [football] clubs." As you probably know, wealthy club owners have splurged on hired guns from elsewhere to play in the English Premier League. While you may not see a fault with providing fans with the best players from around the globe to watch, many now claim that the English national squad does not fare well in international competition because English sides are filled with furriners and not local boys. Hence, the latter do not stand up to the rigors of top-flight competition. If England doesn't qualify for Euro 2008, expect even more rumblings of discontent. Another big humbug from me, but you can make up your own minds...
"If you have got 600,000 vacancies and you have got British people who are on the register as unemployed, the challenge for us is to match the jobs that are available to the workers without jobs. That must be a priority for any government.
"I think what is going to happen over the next few years is that increasingly our retailers are going to turn to the inactive register and say "Look, here are single parents, here are people on incapacity benefit, here are people who are unemployed, and we want to give them the chance of a job. Nobody is discriminating against anybody in doing so."
The Premier League is in discussions with Downing Street over ways in which it can increase the number of home-grown players appearing regularly for England's leading clubs.
Discussions have begun with senior advisers to the prime minister and James Purnell, the culture secretary, to try to develop a consensual "British solution" to the apparent decline in the number of British and Irish players in the nation's top sides. The Premier League is acutely aware of the criticism that will flow its way over the issue if England fail to qualify for Euro 2008. In the past 10 days Michel Platini, Uefa's president, has criticised the large overseas presence in the English game, singling out Arsène Wenger for failing to select English players at Arsenal.
The Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, meanwhile, has proposed a quota system that would limit the number of foreign players in club sides, a plan that has the support of the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.
Downing Street has been hugely supportive of the Premier League in recent months, and while advisers to Gordon Brown share some of the concerns at the overseas presence in the English game, they are keen that any measures reflect the realities of the Premier League, which has based its success on its international flavour. They are also determined to tread carefully, and are mindful of the sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe's recent interventions on the issue of player wages, and the Chelsea captain John Terry's in particular, which went down almost as badly in Downing Street as at Stamford Bridge.
The Premier League opposes the various quota proposals that have been floated by Uefa and Fifa. From next season Uefa will require all Champions League and Uefa Cup entrants to include eight home-produced players in their squads of 25 players, but there is no compulsion for any of them to play or appear on the bench.
Blatter's proposal, meanwhile, is that six of any starting XI be eligible to represent the country in whose national association their club plays. This is considered unworkable by the Premier League under European law, and there are anomalies between the systems. Owen Hargreaves, for example, would not count as home-grown under Platini's plan as he learnt his football in Germany, but he would qualify under Blatter's.
The alternatives under discussion at Downing Street are unlikely to be as prescriptive. The Premier League will resist attempts to limit its clubs' competitive edge in the European game, and No10 is wary of applying conditions to sport that step outside European and national law.
The Premier League is willing, however, to examine the issue of coaching, which it feels has a major role to play in the relative skills of English and overseas players. There is a view that an emphasis on teams and results at the expense of individual skills may play a part in the relative attributes of players from the UK and the continent, and the league will look to address this in consultation with the FA and the Football League, to whom it now contributes significant money.
They will also examine measures that would help English players being usurped by overseas talent in the 14 to 16 age groups in club academies. The league is treading with great care as it is reluctant to open the door to unwelcome regulation of the game, but will concede some ground to ensure that it retains the invaluable support of government going forward.