The 6+5 Rule Would Radically Alter Football, But Not in a Good Way


FIFA recently approved the “6+5 rule” in a 155-5 vote among member nations.  The rule would mandate that clubs field at least six players from the nation in which they play.  By targeting wealthy clubs, particularly English ones, buying foreign players, FIFA feels they would revive national teams and achieve greater parity.  This policy would do neither.

The rule is unworkable.  It is illegal in Europe.  The European Union forbids employee discrimination among member states.  Contrary to Sepp Blatter’s bleating, the EU is not going to change its laws to accommodate his whims.  Upon implementation, the rule would be challenged immediately by players or clubs under European Law and be overturned.

It would cheapen the quality of the game.  Managers would be forced to base tactics on flags rather than football.  The rule would subsidize and promote inferior players because of their nationality.  Managers with injured English players would have to call up kids from the U-18s rather than experienced foreign professionals to maintain the ratio.  It would entirely alter the way matches are managed, for no tangible benefit.

The rule would exacerbate existing problems rather than solve them.  The reason English clubs buy foreign players is that it is more cost effective.  It makes far more sense to pick up Robin Van Persie for £2.5m than to shell out £17m for Darren Bent to rot on your bench.  English players often get stifled at lower clubs because they are so overvalued (see Gareth Barry or Micah Richards).  The 6-5 rule would only raise the already inflated value of English players, pricing the elite ones out from all but the top teams.

It would also hinder players’ development further by thrusting talented youngsters forward even more quickly.  England’s national team is the only major European side with a slew of flawed players.  Even the elites – Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Joe Cole – have obvious tactical and technical flaws in their game.  The players are rushed through the system because of their talent and are not coached.  That is the problem that needs to be addressed, not their perceived lack of access to Premier League places (even though ten English players started for Manchester United and Chelsea in the Champions League final).

If there is no direct benefit to the national teams, the assumed intent would be to achieve parity.  However, the backhanded effort does little to create parity.  Inflating the value of national players may even limit cost-effective alternatives and widen the gap further.

A far more sensible policy for promoting the domestic game would be the implementation of UEFA’s homegrown player rules.  It encourages clubs to invest in their youth system and player development without foisting unwieldy tactics upon managers or breaking EU laws.

A better way to police big clubs would be to directly address them by imposing spending caps, a salary crap, or some form of revenue sharing/luxury tax in domestic leagues.

Trying to accomplish both in a slapdash, ill-considered way to achieve demagogic popularity is doomed to failure.

Also just for speculation, would Cardiff have to field six English players or six Welsh players?

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