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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 4, 2007

Sports minister attacks number of foreign players

Sports minister Richard Caborn will tell the Premier League this week that the number of foreigners in the top flight is harming the England team.

Caborn is meeting all the chairman and chief executive from the 20 Premiership clubs on Thursday, and one of the items he will address is the need for more home-grown players.

The purpose of the meeting is for Caborn to try to win support for the Independent Football Review, the UEFA-backed report which calls for limits on the number of foreign players and a link between clubs' income and what they can spend on transfers and wages.

Caborn said: 'In my view the most famous team in this country is the England team. It's not Chelsea, it's not Manchester United or Liverpool.

'If we take actions that undermine the England team then that's wrong. And I think that's true in football, rugby and all sports.

'You have got to put in certain regulations that protect the European model of sports and part of that is home-grown players' ability to get into their national sides.

'It's interesting what Arsene Wenger has been saying about things like that, that if you don't have a very clear percentage of home-grown players playing here then it could have a detrimental effect on the England side.'

Caborn warned that the effect has been apparent in other sports and other countries.

He added: 'This is not just about football. It's about every major sport.

'Austria has gone from second or third in the world hockey league to 10th - and when I spoke to my counterpart in Austria, he said the reason for that is the import of North American players and non-EU.

'If you look at rugby union there is a concern that we are importing players at the expense of home-grown players.'

Caborn is anticipating some strong opposition from some Premier League figureheads, but he said the huge new £2.7billion TV rights deal raised questions about the best way the top-flight could help the rest of the game. The minister said: 'It will not be a bloodbath, it will be a strong exchange of views I've no doubt, people are passionate about it.

'They run the best league in the world, these are big commercial organisations and my challenge to them is are you going to join the party to influence the governance of football here and in Europe or do you want to sit on the sidelines?

'People will be entrenched until you have a proper debate. They are not bigoted, they are highly intelligent people running successful businesses and in the interests of that business we ought to be looking at how the game is governed more effectively and particularly as commercialisation has had quite an effect on it.

'I am saying that the success of football has enabled them to bargain with TV companies for levels of income that they themselves wouldn't have believed themselves were attainable.

'They have got to look at that and say how can we use that in the best interests of the game. How can we look at the issue of home-grown players? How can we look at some relationship between earned income and expenditure? How do