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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 30, 2008

FIFA thumbs-up for 'six-plus-five' player rule

Football's world governing body today voted in favour of the 'six-plus-five rule', which would put a limit on the number of foreign players each team could field.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said he hopes the controversial rule will be in place by the 2012/13 season.

His vision appears to be a step closer following the overwhelming backing at FIFA's annual congress in Sydney, Australia.

The rule would limit every team to only five foreign players in their starting XI.

The FIFA boss has pointed to the Premier League's dominance in this season's Champions League as as example of why his organisation must implement the idea, despite legal concerns from the European Union.

Stressing FIFA would proceed 'within the limits of the law', Blatter said this week: 'It's to make sure that there is better balance in the competitions and not only three or four teams in a league of 18 or 20 are fighting to be the champion and all the others are just there to not be relegated.

'As (Newcastle manager) Kevin Keegan recently said: 'I can only start my season to fight to be fifth or sixth or seventh. It is impossible for me to go into the final four'.

'At the end of the Champions League in Europe you have in the quarter-finals four teams of the same association; in the semi-finals three of these teams.

'Then in the final you are surprised that you have two teams of the same association?

'We want to bring some remedies and this is the six-plus-five rule's objective.'

Despite FIFA backing the plan, the European Union has already indicated it would contravene European laws.

'We are giving the red card to the 6-plus-5 rule,' Europe's commissioner for equal opportunities, Vladimir Spidla, said on Wednesday.

FIFA's controversial proposal is different from a 'home-grown players' rule proposed by UEFA, European football's governing body.

UEFA defines 'home-grown players' as team members who, regardless of age or nationality, have been trained by their club or by another club in the National Association for at least three years between the ages of 15 and 21.

The Commission has approved the UEFA arrangement because, says Brussels, it contains no player conditions based on nationality.

Spidla said: 'Compared with the intentions announced by FIFA to impose the so-called '6-plus-5 rule', which is directly discriminatory and therefore incompatible with the EU law, the 'home-grown players' rule proposed by UEFA seems to me to be proportionate and to comply with the principle of free movement of workers.'

After today's vote, Blatter told a press conference: 'Inside the congress of FIFA today we had sunshine on different items, important ones.

'Because today we were somewhere in the crossroad between the interests of clubs and national teams, and the congress of FIFA has given very clear indications of where we have to go.

'Together with the chairman of FIFA's football committee, Mr Franz Beckenbauer, and Michel Platini, we come to this resolution.

'The congress was very happy in a result of overwhelming majority, with 155 votes in favour and five against. 155 yes and five no.

'It is an overwhelming support to this resolution.

'The FIFA president has asked, together with the UEFA president, to explore - and explore is not to discuss, it's to go in depth - within the limits of the law.

'The application of such a system would start only at the end of 2010 and we would start progressively with four, five and six.

'Even if it is necessary, because we have had Manchester United winning the European Champions League with six players eligible for the Great Britain team at the beginning of the match, so we are not far away.

'Chelsea had four. Zenit St Petersburg, when they played Glasgow Rangers, they had up to seven. Glasgow had four or five.

'We are not far away from a situation.

'Speaking about it is illegal? For whom? For when? If there is a law, a law can be amended.

'I have already now a meeting with the speaker of the European parliament - chairman as we say, but you say in the British version, the speaker - on June 5 in the afternoon in Brussels, as he said, to explore now the ways.

'If he says to explore the ways, it's not to say 'stop it', so you see we're on the right track.''

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