Blatter plans stricter rules on foreign players

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The head of world soccer’s ruling body told Reuters the quota proposals being put before Fifa’s Congress in Sydney from May 29-30 were decisive for the future of the sport.

“We are on the edge of where football is going, so the Sydney Congress is very important,” Blatter said.

“If the Congress says it does not want these measures then we would have to rewrite our statutes, because football would no longer be able to fulfill the aims of Fifa which include a role to develop the game everywhere.”

Fifa wants to impose a “6+5” ruling on club teams allowing no more than five foreign players to start a match.

The European Union has warned that the rule would conflict with its own laws on the free movement of workers, risking court action.

“I am not convinced that the proposal is against EU law,” Blatter insisted, “because we are not placing any restrictions on the number of foreign players who sign contracts with the clubs - just the number who start each game.

“Of course it will eventually lead to a reduction in the number of foreign players signed because of the need to always have six players (in the starting line-up) who are eligible for the national team in that country, but this will come in step-by-step.

“Congress will receive a concrete proposal to start (the quotas) from 2010 with at least four national players on the pitch, going up to five players in 2011 and the full six by 2012.

“I will also ask the Congress for a mandate to take the issue up with the other main political and sporting authorities.”

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) said later in the day that it was “open to discussing the matter” with Blatter, despite the opposition of the English Premier League, one of its leading members, to the plan.

Blatter said there would be no restriction on the nationalities of the three substitutes used by teams, meaning that up to eight foreign players could end up on the pitch even if “6+5” was fully implemented.

Uefa president Michel Platini has described Blatter’s proposals as a “wonderful philosophy”, but argued that they are unworkable under EU law.