Greg Dyke has warned England will "fail to compete seriously on the world stage" altogether if an "alarming" lack of homegrown talent is not urgently addressed, and the new Football Association chairman has set the target of winning the 2022 World Cup to focus minds.
"The problem is serious, very serious," he warned of the "frightening trend" of fewer and fewer homegrown players playing in the top flight. "English football is a tanker that needs turning," said Dyke in his first major speech in the role, calling on the game to unite to address the problem. "I want to set the whole of English football two targets. The first is for the England team to at least reach the semi-finals of the Euro Championship in 2020 and the second is for us to win the World Cup in 2022."
Speaking on the eve of two England World Cup qualifiers and amid renewed fears over the paucity of talent available to the national coach Roy Hodgson, Dyke cited statistics that showed the number of English players in the starting lineups of top-flight clubs had slumped from 69% to 32% in the past 20 years.
Turning his attention to the recent transfer window, he said the proportion of new signings by Premier League clubs qualified to play for England had fallen from 37% to 25% in the past two years. "Last weekend only 65 English players started in the Premier League with another 14 coming on as substitutes," he said. "Taking into account that some of these players are not international standard, I think it's fair to say we already have a very small talent pool and it's getting smaller."
The former BBC director general, who took up the FA position in June, announced the formation of a commission to examine the issue that will include the new chairman of the Premier League, Anthony Fry, and the Football League chairman Greg Clarke.
He said it would report by January and examine a range of possible solutions including the feasibility of a quota system for homegrown players, a re-examination of the work permit system, a fresh look at the loan system and the possibility of introducing a winter break.
"English football – and in this context I mean football played by Englishmen – has got a problem which is much bigger than just not doing well in a couple of tournaments," Dyke said. "As I've said, England is already short of players who regularly turn out at the top level for their clubs and are qualified to play for England but the real problem is that, year by year, the position is getting worse."
Dyke, one of the architects of the Premier League in his role as a television executive, said its effect on the England side had been a victim of the "law of unintended consequences".
The FA chairman, who has given himself four years to make an impact on some of the major obstacles that have hobbled his predecessors when it comes to improving the national side, praised the opening of St George's Park, the emphasis on training more quality coaches and the overhaul of elite academies under the £340m elite player performance plan.
But he added: "Where it seems we still have a serious problem is in the transition of young players – and particularly young English players – out of academies into first-team football."
Mindful of the potential consequences of being drawn into a damaging row with the Premier League, he insisted he does not want to get into a "blame game" but said there was little doubt the situation is reaching a crisis point.
Dyke quoted a 2007 Professional Footballers Association report entitled "Meltdown" that warned the Premier League had become "a finishing school for the rest of the world, at the expense of our own players". Since then the situation has got worse, he said.
"I think the situation is serious, very serious. But saying that is easy. Before we can actually do anything we need to understand why this is happening," said Dyke, speaking at a lunch organised by the England sponsor Vauxhall.
The new commission will place Dyke in an interesting position in his new role, given the Premier League's insistence that its success has not hindered the national side.
Dyke said the new commission would answer "three simple questions: why has this happened, secondly what could be done about it and thirdly to work out how, if possible, we actually make those changes".
He said the commission would be encouraged to look for radical solutions but given the congested English fixture calendar, the Premier League's long-standing opposition to a winter break and legal issues with quotas, some of the proposed solutions could remain beyond the FA's reach.
Dyke said he had canvassed opinion across the game, including leading players and managers, before writing his speech. "In short we all have a responsibility to do our best to reverse this frightening trend because if we fail we will be letting English football down and we will be letting the nation down.
"I believe my job, as chairman of the FA, is to ensure that the structures are in place to give future England teams the best possible chance of achieving success and that is what I intend to do."