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FIFA Votes For Quotas On Foreign Players


I’ve been meaning to do an in-depth piece on FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s proposal to introduce quotas on the number of foreign players that teams can field. Yesterday, FIFA held a vote and Blatter’s proposal cleared its first major hurdle. The FIFA Congress delegates voted 155-5 in favour of the proposal which would limit the number of foreign players who can start a match to five.

I’m certainly not a fan of Sepp Blatter but for many reasons I agree with this move and will explain the ramifications further in a detailed follow-up post. The main reasoning behind the move towards quotas on foreign talent is that there is a growing sporting and economic inequality amongst the clubs. Teams like Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester United spend large sums of money to obtain any player they want, often at the cost of pushing out young national players. There are also issues about young players moving countries when they are 15 or 16 and whether that is in the best interest of the player regardless of the money to be made.

Many astute minds within the game also back these moves. For example, German legend Franz Beckenbauer, chairman of FIFA’s Football Committee, fully backs the quota proposals. He told reporters: “We have clubs in Germany where there are no German players on the field. That is not in the interest of football and its future.”

Blatter’s proposal would start with a 4 home-grown + 7 foreigners ratio in 2010, 5+6 in 2011 and finally arrive at 6+5 in 2012.

FIFA also introduced strict new rules on Friday to make it harder for players to switch nationalities and stop countries abusing the current system. The FIFA Congress overwhelmingly supported a proposal to amend their own statutes on the regulations allowing players to represent countries other than their homeland. Under the previous system, the rules allowed uncapped players to switch allegiances if they had lived in a country for at least two years, or have a parent or grandparent who were born there. England midfielder Owen Hargreaves is an oft-cited example of this previous rule though there are many others, such as Patrick Vieira, choosing to play for a more prominent national team instead of choosing to play for their native countries. The waiting period has now been extended to five years as part of the plan to reduce the number of foreign footballers playing abroad.

FIFA & UEFA face some opposition from the European Union on this proposal but the hope is that the Treaty of Lisbon will be ratified by Jan. 1 2009 which would allow the European Union to recognize that sport may be a special case.

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  1. Michael

    May 31, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Good post Lonnie, I’ve been working on one just like it solely for my own site.

    Like everyone else seemingly is (other than the people at FIFA and Platini at UEFA), I’m very much against this proposal. Ty, jm, and Paul Bestall all make good points, and I’d go one step further by saying that this plan would be the death of the Premier League as we’ve gotten to know it.

    Teams have been used to bringing in foreign players, partly because they’re cheaper when they’re younger than English players of the same talent level, but mostly because foreign players are simply better than British players. Limiting the amount of foreign players in the PL would dilute the exciting product that we’re seeing.

    Think about it, the league’s top goal scorer and best player (Ronaldo) is foreign, the league’s best striker (Torres) is foreign, nine of the top ten goal-scoring leaders over the past year are foreign, the best goalkeeper is foreign (Cech, and it goes on and on and on. The reality is that there’s just not enough good English players to be able to start six of them at the same time and keep up the same entertaining product we know and love now.

  2. jm

    May 31, 2008 at 8:08 am

    I am interested in your longer defense of the 6+5 rule, as I find it a deeply problematic proposal. I will save my longer comments until then.

    In the meantime, I will say briefly that I think this proposal ignores the real reasons for club inequity in Europe, which are about the flow of money, particularly Champions League revenue. The 6+5 solution is an appeal to (a) nationalism about national sides and (b) in some, xenophobic reactions to foreigners in local leagues rather than a real solution. Market adjustments will elevate the value of top-tier English talent (to take the EPL example), and as long as the money inequities exist in such stark form, all this rule would do is readjust the nationalities of the dominating sides. It’s expected boons for the national side are tenuous as well, as they could just as easily be gained by a greater investment in the national training and infrastructure programs.

    Anyway, I’ll defend these claims in greater detail if you ever get around to writing a longer defense of the proposed rule.

  3. Matt

    May 30, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    7+4 is a good idea but 6+5 is a bit excessive.

    All pointless though because no matter how powerful Fifa and Uefa think they are, they arent more powerful than the European Union and Blatter’s plans contravene EU laws.

  4. tyduffy

    May 30, 2008 at 11:12 am

    This is a stupid proposal. Football should be about breaking down barriers between nationalities, not erecting them.

    The problem with English footballers is the coaching. It isn’t a “lack of access” to the Premier League. It is the fact that kids with talent are not coached. When you look at English players even the most talented ones – Gerrard, Rooney – they have obvious flaws in their game. The flaws never get corrected at a young age because coaches go crazy over their talent and push them through. You see the same problem with American players in basketball. Name me a French or Italian player who has obvious technical flaws.

  5. Paul Bestall

    May 30, 2008 at 10:56 am

    I don’t think the EU will ratify it at all, all it needs is someone to challenge it as a restraint of trade or everyone will be trying to gain joint nationality.
    To be honest, there are several reasons for British clubs to look abroad. Foreign international players are usually cheaper and technically better, less likely to enjoy the drinking culture and c list bimbos.

    The biggest problem is that the coaching structure in Britain is appalling, very few clubs look to sign skillful and technical superior youngsters, the majority want big, strong,fast players who run all day and couldn’t trap a bag of cement.

    Look at Shaun Wright Phillips, a winger that Chelsea paid £25 million for, whos crossing is so wildly inconsistent as to be ineffectual but he can run fast all day.

    That’s the problem and until the whole way youth players are coached is completely changed, nothing will improve at all. Once again FIFA comes up with the wrong solution to the problem. The players aren’t getting in because they’re too expensive and simply not good enough.

  6. kat kid

    May 30, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Yes. Poor, starving Portugal. I think the fact that England has two other national sports has something to do with it.

    Why are there so many top French or Italian footballers? Are these countries poor?

    Why has an African nation never won a World Cup? Could anyone match their desire?

    You are being a simpleton. This will no doubt hurt England, but their loss of footballing stature has more to do with the diffusion of interest in the game (and thus developing talent) and less to do with their GDP.

  7. Tim

    May 30, 2008 at 10:19 am

    The quota won’t happen EU have already stated it violates the law.

  8. Dave M

    May 30, 2008 at 10:14 am

    I always here English pundits saying they’re in favour of this because it would improve homegrown talent – all those poor English footballers who can’t break into the EPL. If so, it won’t be for a long time. If those footballers were any good, and they weren’t being given opportunities at home, they would ply their trade in other countries (but no English nationals play for top clubs outside of England – none). It’s not a matter of opportunity – it’s desire. The better footballers are coming from poorer countries – your Brazils, your Argentinas, Portugals, Bosnias. Richer countries (England, USA) will be all-world only when the matches are played on playstation, and the kids playing would most certainly choose foreigners to make up the teams they won with.

    A Quota system will have two immediate effects – it will drive up wages for the few top flight Englishmen there already are. The other effect (the one FIFA is seeking) will be for English clubs to do much poorer in Champions League and other European competitions.

    …the hope is that the propped-up wage system will lure more young athletes into football. More chances to play for Arsenal and Liverpool and make tons of cash. But when will that show any benefit – 10 years from now? Doubtful.

    Meanwhile the great clubs of today will have diminished to has-beens.

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