EU ready to approve 'homegrown' plans
BERNE, Switzerland, April 24 (Reuters) - European soccer's ruling body UEFA said on Thursday it had moved a step closer to agreement with the European Union over sport's status in EU law. UEFA said it had hosted a meeting with the French and Dutch ministers for European affairs resulting in a joint declaration that sporting federations should have autonomy 'in the organisation, regulation and promotion of their various sports.' UEFA president Michel Platini has been pressing the EU to formally recognise the social importance of sport and grant legal exemptions, particularly in the area of labour law. Although stopping short of any concrete agreements, Thursday's declaration for the first time gave provisional approval to UEFA's 'homegrown players' proposal under which clubs would have to retain a fixed number of players trained within the countries of the clubs in question. 'It is necessary to underline the importance...of encouraging the training of young sportspeople, for example by introducing rules which foresee a minimum number of locally trained ('homegrown') players in teams,' the declaration noted. World soccer's governing body FIFA has put forward a controversial rival plan to introduce quotas based on the nationality of players but Platini has argued that the proposals have no chance of gaining EU approval. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said he will put the issue to a vote during FIFA's Congress in Sydney next month. Thursday's declaration was also signed by representatives from the world governing bodies for rugby and ice hockey and the European governors of basketball, volleyball and handball. It concluded with the government representatives asking the sports bodies to present concrete proposals in the second half of 2008, when France will hold the EU's rotating presidency.