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World football head wants only five foreigners in club teams


Hamburg : World football supremo Joseph Blatter does not foresee a conflict with the European Union (EU) over a planned introduction of the five foreigners in club teams.

Blatter told a media conference call Wednesday that world body FIFA must take action to stop growing inequality in the sport and that he expects to get a mandate for talks over the issue with football officials and politicians at the FIFA Congress in Sydney at the end of the month.

“There is something wrong in the essence of the game,” FIFA president Blatter said.

“I would not go into a struggle against existing laws. 6+5 is not against any EU laws…The principle of 6+5 does not go against free movement in Europe. We protect other EU laws such as fair competition and (anti-) monopolisation.”

Blatter said that it would be possible to hold talks with the EU or governments, and that football figures such as UEFA boss Michel Platini or Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson or federations from countries like Germany were in support. He also said that sports like basketball and volleyball were seeking similar solutions.

“We are not alone,” said Blatter, also citing support from the International Olympic Committee of which he is a member.

Under the planned rule, professional clubs would need to field at least six players from the club’s nation and no more than five foreigners in the starting line-up.

Various EU rulings over the past decades forced football to end all foreign-player restrictions. A club like England’s Arsenal fields no English player at all in most matches. Blatter said there was a growing inequality in the sport, partly through the Champions League and its big income opportunities.

“Shall we let the rich get richer and say nothing?…We have to be proactive and try to fulfil this mandate,” Blatter said.

Blatter said that the implementation of the new rule should happen in three stages from 2010 (4+7) to 2012 (6+5).

National teams and clubs would benefit, young players would have a better chance to play top level football and other continents would also profit, Blatter said.

“I would tell an Arsenal fan: Would you like a strong national team?” Blatter said, fully aware that England have not qualified for Euro 2008.

“There will be a better balance of competition. Four fifths of the teams in the leagues fight for relegation, not the title…The big clubs will be strong, but others have a chance to be strong.”

Blatter said that leagues in Italy and Spain would have hardly any problems implementing the rule because they field many home-grown players. He stressed that Zenit St Petersburg had “eight or nine Russian player to take out big Bayern Munich” in the UEFA Cup semi-finals.

But he said that 60 percent of players were foreigners in England and 50 percent in Germany.

According to Blatter, the new rule will help continents such as Africa and Asia to set up more domestic leagues there: “We are stimulating the creation of national leagues in Africa and Asia. We are working to install a football league in India.”

Such leagues will see more good players remain in their home country – at least partially ending another imbalance.

“It cannot be that one continent (Europe) is the focus of all football,” he insisted.