Fifa has voted overwhelmingly in favour of President Sepp Blatter’s ‘six-plus-five rule’, which would limit the foreign players in a team to five.
Fifa wants to bring in the proposal by 2012/2013 but it faces opposition from the European Commission and a number of Football Associations and Federations.
The EC says it is discriminatory and illegal as EU law currently allows workers to move freely between member countries while the FA chief executive Brian Barwick is unconvinced by the strategy. He said: “It’s about balance. We still believe in the meritocracy of players in the team on performance and on ability first and foremost.”
The Fifa congress supported Blatter’s plans by 155 votes to just 5 against. Blatter can now plan for his scheduled meeting with the EU on 5th June and said: “Speaking about it is illegal? For whom? For when? If there is a law, a law can be amended.”
But an EU spokesman said: “As far as the EU is concerned, Blatter is flogging a dead horse and any discussion is pointless.”
Blatter wants to restrict the number of foreign players in teams by the start in the 2010/11 season, with a minimum of four home-grown players.
He added he expects it to grow to six, with a maximum of five foreigners, by 2012/13 – and claims the plan has the backing of key European delegates.
In contrast, the “home-grown players” rule which is set to be expanded from next season so that eight players in a Champions League or Uefa Cup squad (their nationality being irrelevant) must have been developed by the club has received EU backing.
As Blatter’s ideas go, and let’s remember that another of his brainwaves was for women players to “wear tighter shorts” it’s probably not a bad one. He obviously believes that by having more home born players remaining within their national league structure, national teams will benefit. And he uses England’s non qualification for Euro 2008 as one of his leading arguments for the change.
But it’s hard to see. Players themselves, particularly English ones, say they have improved thanks to working closely with foreign players. Would they say so if they were forced to play alongside mediocre home grown talent?
Also, if foreign players remain within the country of their birth and national teams benefit as a result, it’s likely that they’ll do so at a similar level resulting in nothing more than the status quo.
Admittedly, some of the ‘lesser’ teams might improve but then again, how many internationals do the likes of Honduras, Japan, Guinea and Chile, all top 50 sides in the latest world rankings, have playing overseas? Not too many.
Unlike a number of Blatter’s other madcap schemes, you can, at least, see why he’s trying it. He says it’ll be his legacy to the sport. But with no proof that it will work and with Uefa and the EU dead against it, the Fifa President faces an uphill battle if he’s to implement it in the time frame he’s set himself.