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Premier League in danger, says ex-Arsenal star

Former England and Arsenal soccer ace Sol Campbell has told CNBC that foreign players are stifling the prospects of homegrown talent and has backed a British exit from the European Union.

"I think it's all about quality really and bringing back control," he told CNBC Thursday.

"When I first started playing football, there were a few Scandinavian players playing, but now obviously the money in football is immense ... for me it's all about the British players that are growing up through the ranks."

Campbell - who has ventured into politics after a glittering career in the game - has criticized bemoaned the use of young foreign players being imported by large Premier League clubs at the expense of domestic talent.

In an opinion piece for the Mail on Sunday earlier this month he said the Premier League is in danger of becoming a "free-for-all" because of European rules on freedom of movement meaning that it was "virtually impossible for us to get a proper grip on the situation."


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Alex Livesey | Getty Images

He told CNBC that a so-called "Brexit" could help control this problem but would also not stop the best players from the continent coming to the country to lay their trade.

The Premier League is one of the most lucrative leagues in the game of soccer and attracts the highest wages, global broadcasting revenues and some of the best footballing stars. In 2010, the league introduced a quota on home-grown players which meant clubs have to include eight home-grown players out of a squad of 25.‪ Europe's top club competition - the UEFA Champions League - also employs a similar rule.

However, Campbell's critics have highlighted that these homegrown players could still be foreigners that have arrived on English turf as children and that the approach could create a cost premium for the most promising U.K.-born talent.

Campbell's' comments have added to a fierce debate in the U.K,. which is set to hold a referendum on its EU membership on June 23. Bookmaker Ladbrokes is currently predicting there's a 33 percent chance that Britons will vote to leave the European bloc.

The debate has strained relationships and seen major political heavyweights like Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson put forward opposing views.

Analysts at Credit Suisse in January said a "Brexit" would result in an "immediate and simultaneous economic and financial shock for the U.K." It added that it could see a drop in business investment, hiring and confidence. The CBI (Confederation of British Industry) released new independent research last week showing it could cost the economy £100 billion ($142 billion) and 950,000 jobs by 2020.

Meanwhile, the "leave" campaign point to pressures on the U.K.'s state-run national health service, the threat of terrorism and the costs of EU membership. The current concerns over the country's steel industry has added more fuel to the debate with some claiming tight EU regulations has limited the government's response.

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