English football's domination of this season's Champions League is proof that the game needs quotas on foreign players, Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, claimed yesterday.
Blatter, 71, has made the quotas on foreigners his pet project in what is likely to be his final term in office, and will seek a mandate at Fifa's Congress in Sydney on 29-30 May to legislate within the game.
The European Commission has warned Blatter his plans are discriminatory under European law, and therefore unworkable, but Blatter wants to work towards a “6+5” rule by 2012, when he envisages no team in any domestic league will start a match with fewer than six players from the country where that team is based, and no more than five foreigners.
Blatter wants a “4+7” variation in place by 2010, moving to “5+6” in 2011 and “6+5” the following year.
"This season there were four English teams in the last eight, three in the semi-finals and two in the final,” he said. "The Champions League has been very successful financially but it has also favoured national inequality. That's why, being in charge of football, I have to bring this item to the attention of the Congress.
"This is the sporting situation but let us start with our idea of the six-plus-five rule and then we will see what the difference will be in the future. This rule will be fighting against the monopolies of clubs and leagues.”
Uefa, European football's governing body, wants to work with the EU on a quota system based not on nationality but on where players are trained. Indeed a version of this is already in place for all Uefa club tournaments. A Uefa spokesman pointed out that in recent years, Spain and Italy have produced both finalists, and that “there's always been cycles of dominance by countries or by clubs.”
Blatter says “6+5” will not contravene EU labour law because it will not limit hiring of players, just the number who play.
The EU stills views this as discrimination, and is expected to vote against “6+5” today in the European Parliament in a motion tabled by a Greek MEP, Manolis Mavromatis.
"Our view is that the Fifa rule is not workable and we favour Uefa's homegrown player rule," Mavromatis said.