Fifa backs Blatter on quota plan
Fifa president Sepp Blatter remained bullish after the vote
Football’s governing body Fifa has endorsed president Sepp Blatter’s ‘six-plus-five’ principle, which would limit a team’s foreign players to five.
He wants to bring in the proposal by 2012/2013 – but the European Commission says it is discriminatory and illegal.
“The Fifa congress has merely backed Blatter to explore the idea – nothing more than that,” said BBC sports editor Mihir Bose.
“The vote was about a wish list and does not represent any rule change.”
Bose added: “There is no timescale on it either, so there is no knowing if and when this wish list would actually become a reality.
“This vote is exactly what Blatter told me he would do last week in Moscow, following a meeting with the Uefa executive.
“But he is under no illusions that the Europeans are against it, and that this would fall foul of European law.”
Speaking after the vote, which took place at the Fifa Congress in Sydney, Blatter declared: “The congress was very happy in a result of overwhelming majority, with 155 votes in favour and five against. 155 yes and five no.
“It is an overwhelming support to this resolution.
“The Fifa president has asked, together with the Uefa president (Michel Platini), to explore – and explore is not to discuss, it’s to go in depth – within the limits of the law.”
BBC Sport’s Phil McNulty
Blatter has a meeting with the EU on 5 June and he added: “Speaking about it is illegal? For whom? For when? If there is a law, a law can be amended.”
But the Commission believes a quota on foreign footballers would be incompatible with European Union law which allows workers to move freely between member countries.
Back in February, John McDonald, spokesperson for the European Commissioner for Sport, told BBC Sport that Blatter had no chance introducing the new rule.
“The implementation by Fifa of this proposal in the European Union would violate EU law,” said an EC spokesman.
“The Commission is not considering any change to allow Fifa to push forward this idea. Fifa is aware of this fact.”
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, has received EU backing.
That means four players in a Champions League or Uefa Cup squad must have been developed by the club, with another four having been produced by clubs from the same federation.
To be eligible, a player of any nationality must have been developed by the club for three years between the ages of 15 and 21.
Jan Figel, EU Commissioner for Education, Training and Youth, said Uefa’s proposals did not discriminate against nationality and encouraged clubs to develop their academies.
“Measures which require the top European clubs to preserve quality training structures seem to me to be necessary,” said Figel.
“The Uefa rule thus avoids the risk of professional football clubs abandoning training structures.”
The Football Association confirmed it voted in favour of further exploration of the ‘six-plus-five rule’.
But FA chief executive Brian Barwick is unconvinced by Blatter’s strategy and 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 Premier League agreed with Barwick, insisting that the foreign players in England had improved the sport in the country.
“EU official spokespeople have repeatedly said that a nationality-based player quota system would be unlawful within the European Union,” the statement said.
“They have also stated that any form of gentleman’s agreement to achieve this objective would be instantly challengeable.
“We want to see the greatest possible number of England-qualified players coming through in the Premier League, but this has to be based on merit and quality, and there is no doubting that foreign talent has aided the technical development of the English game.”
However, Scottish FA chief executive Gordon Smith believes Blatter’s proposal should be given the green light without condition.
“At club level there is good success, but the game’s not developing nationally,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“What Blatter’s trying to say is that it affects the national game – the fact that there are so many foreign players playing in the leagues.
“England is mentioned because England has got the most non-nationals in the leagues and England has been the country that has done well at club level this season, but not at an international level.”
Meanwhile, Fifa has introduced stricter rules to make it harder for players to switch nationalities and stop countries abusing the current system.
Before the vote, uncapped players could switch allegiances after living in a country for two years or if they had a parent or grandparent born there.
World football’s governing body have opted to extend that to five years.