Thursday, May 08, 2008


Updated: May 8, 2008

EU assembly rejects Blatter's quota plans

BRUSSELS, May 8 (Reuters) - The European Parliament dealt another blow to FIFA president Sepp Blatter's controversial plans to curb the number of foreigners at soccer clubs by voting against the proposals on Thursday.

EU lawmakers rejected Blatter's '6+5 rule', allowing no more than five foreign players to start a match, by 518 votes to 49 but most backed the 'home-grown player rule' of European soccer's governing body UEFA.

'The parliament calls on the member states and sports associations not to introduce new rules that create direct discrimination based on nationality, such as FIFA's 6+5,' the resolution said.

'It calls on the Commission to recognise the legality of measures favouring the promotion of players who have come through training schemes, such as a minimum number of locally-trained players, irrespective of their nationality.'

FIFA opposes the UEFA rule, which sets a quota of locally-trained players at clubs but without any discrimination on nationality, arguing it encourages recruitment at a young age.

UEFA says Blatter's proposal is unworkable in the EU because it contravenes the bloc's laws on the free movement of workers and could lead to costly legal challenges - a view echoed by the EU assembly.

'Unfortunately the 6+5 rule is not compatible with the free movement of persons in the EU. The European Treaty is very clear on this point: discrimination on the basis of nationality is not allowed and this also counts for football,' Belgian MEP Ivo Belet, author of the parliament's report on the future of professional football, told the assembly.

'We therefore ask FIFA to join forces with the European Parliament and the European Commission and fully back the 'home-grown' rule.'

MEPs also slammed Blatter's idea of reaching a 'gentlemen's agreement' with the individual associations at FIFA's congress later this month, saying he risked a repetition of the 1995 'Bosman Ruling' by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The ruling by Europe's top court, named after Belgian player Jean-Marc Bosman, gave all sports professionals within the 27-member bloc the freedom to change clubs.

'We ask Mr Blatter not to take us back to Bosman. We cannot go back to the pre-Bosman era. A professional footballer is a worker and should be treated like any other worker,' Greek MEP Mnolis Mavromatis, who wrote Thursday's resolution, said.

Dutch MEP Toine Manders said: 'In the jungle of sport we need clear legal guidelines. If you ask if these gentleman's agreements will hold, you are very wrong.'

'We are talking about big business, powerful clubs who will go to court if necessary. Mr Blatter will only open up another pandora's box like Bosman.'

The Commission is expected to come forward later this year with a proposal on locally-trained players in all sports, which will require the backing of both the EU assembly and the 27 sports ministers.

To change FIFA's rules, Blatter needs 75 percent support at the congress in Sydney on May 29 where each of FIFA's 208 member associations who are eligible to vote have one vote each and UEFA as an organisation has none.


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