Friday, May 30, 2008

6 plus 5 equals what?

Sepp Blatter, the President of FIFA has won a vote on a proposal to introduce quotas of home players to all football teams. Only 5 overseas players would be allowed in a starting 11. It could fall foul of European discrimination law, so it may never be introduced here, but I'm trying to work out what I think of it as a proposal.

It does seem a bit odd to refer to Arsenal as an English team in the Champions League when there are no English players on the pitch. In what sense can such a team authentically represent the nation where it is based? When Celtic and Man U won the European Cup in the '60s, it was to a large extent a result for their respective nations as well as the team (yes I know Best & Law weren't English). On the other hand if football is now primarily a business in a global market, why should they be limited in what they can buy in to achieve their goals? (sorry about the pun - just noticed it)

Another argument is that the limited number of opportunities for English players to break through into first XIs in the Premier League may be limiting the development of the pool of talent for the national team. (Although presumably it's theoretically the same in Germany and Italy...) It's worth noting that Man U & Chelsea regularly field 4-5 English players each, so success isn't just about filling your squad with expensive overseas talent.

I'm not sure what I would have voted at the FIFA meeting, although I think my instincts are for the proposal, on the grounds of making international club football a more authentic representation of the nations of origin.

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