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 has a parent or grandparent who was 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.