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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 31, 2008

FA give qualified backing to '6 plus 5'

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has received the support of the Football Association for their controversial 'six-plus-five' proposal designed to limit teams' use of foreign players. Blatter has said he hopes the rule, allowing teams to name only five foreign players in their starting XI, 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 with 155 votes in favour and only five against. The FA have confirmed they voted for it because of their desire to increase the development of 'high-quality' English players, but admitted the rule seems to contravene European law. The FA voted 'in favour of further exploration' of FIFA's proposal while the Premier League have outlined their concerns. The European Commission have already branded the proposal 'unacceptable' and 'a non-starter'. An FA spokesman said: 'Bringing through more high-quality English players in the future is an absolute priority for the FA. 'One of our reservations has always been that the 'six-plus-five' rule appears to contravene European law and we welcome further exploration of its legality. 'However, this is a question of balance and we believe first and foremost in a meritocracy system, where players appear in club teams based on performance and ability. 'This is at the core of our coach and player development strategy over the coming years.' However, the Premier League - whose ultimate priority is maintaining the quality and profile of the English top-flight competition - issued a statement insisting while they share a desire to see more homegrown players, it must remain fair. 'EU official spokespeople have repeatedly said that a nationality-based player quota system would be unlawful within the European Union,' the statement said. 'They have also stated that any form of gentleman's agreement to achieve this objective would be instantly challengeable. 'We want to see the greatest possible number of England-qualified players coming through in the Premier League, but this has to be based on merit and quality, and there is no doubting that foreign talent has aided the technical development of the English game.' Blatter 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 FIFA backing the plan, the European Commission has already indicated it would be illegal. 'The European Commission is showing a red card to the 'six-plus-five' rule,' said European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs Vladimir Spidla. 'This would be direct discrimination on the basis of nationality, which is unacceptable. It's a non-starter. 'Professional football players are workers, therefore the principle of non-discrimination and the right to free movement apply to them. 'If EU member states allowed the application of the six-plus-five rule they would be in breach of EU law and players who are discriminated against could take the member states to court - and they would win.'

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