Call for curbs on imports gets support

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The debate was sparked this week by Reading manager Steve Coppell, who said there were too many foreign players in the Premier League and that quotas should be introduced because it was damaging the England team.

This is a view shared by many South Africans who maintain that imports from other continental countries are hampering the development of local talent.

They say with the lucrative prizes being offered in the PSL and the cut-throat competition in the First Division Streams, along with the fact that the Reserve League died a sudden death after only one season’s existence, promising youngsters are not getting game time and experience at a higher level.

“I am all for there being a rule change,” Gerrard told a news conference yesterday. “Something has got to happen otherwise there will be more and more foreigners and they will take over.”

Compilation about Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.

Under European Union law, however, footballers, like every profession or trade, have unrestricted access to work in member countries and introducing quotas would take the Premier League into a legal minefield.

“I am sure the quotas idea won’t do any harm,” he said. “I am sure it will help the national team. We want as many homegrown players playing in that league as possible.

“As an England player, we want top players involved in the squad and I am sure the quotas will help.

“I think there is a risk of too many foreign players coming over which will affect our national team eventually - if it is not doing it now.

“It is pointless having the best league in the world if our national team is going to suffer in the long run,” he added with obvious reference to the fact that England is in danger of missing out on a place in next year's European Championship finals.

Uefa president Michel Platini also wants to stop the practice of plundering overseas clubs for talented teenagers.

Although an import himself, Platini, who helped Italian club Juventus to two Serie A titles and a European Cup, and France to its European Championship triumph in 1984, was critical of how top clubs such as Manchester United and Arsenal have such a sophisticated international scouting system that they can lure players as young as 14 from overseas clubs.

“I don’t like the system that scours other countries for the best young talent to bring back to their team.

“I want to protect the young players of 14 or 15 years of age who need to stay with their hometown clubs, with their families, and then if they go to England at the age of 20, 21, 22 it’s no problem,” he said.

“Many will come back at the age of 16 destroyed because it was not a success.”