Fifa president Sepp Blatter has had enough of English teams dominating the Champions League and has won approval from his executive committee to introduce a system that demands clubs use local born players.
His "6 + 5" plan is that each football club in Europe has a minimum of six 'local' born players in the starting line-up by 2012. His plan is expected to be legally ratified by the European parliament and will then start in 2010 with a "4 + 7" target, and then a "5 + 6" in 2011 and finally the "6 + 5" in 2012.
In comments to the media, Blatter sounded disappointed that three out of the four semi-finalists in this year's Champions league tournament were English teams. The fact that England didn't even qualify for the Euro 2008 Championships has emphasised the importance of top foreign players to the top English teams and Blatter sounds like he is using this English dominance of the top club competition to garner support from the other European members who would like a slice of Champions league glory.
Manchester United actually started with six 'local' players in the final, and Chelsea had four - so not far off Blatter's target. Arsenal and Liverpool will need to do more work in this area to meet the expected requirements. But it wasn't so long ago that the Italian teams were dominating the tournament, and before them it was the Spanish. My opinion is that the power in European football circulates among the top five or six countries every few years depending on a range of variables. It could be a crop of new young talented players, a massive cash injection into the local league, the success of the national team for example.
The English teams are enjoying this dominance now, but with or without Blatter's restrictions, there is no way any one league can dominate for too long.
Never forge a relationship
What interests me about the quota on local born players is the impact it will have on South African football. It's probably the worst time to talk about foreign players in SA, but keeping this strictly to football matters, our youth team players don't develop because their senior team opportunities are restricted because the club bosses keep bringing in cheap foreign labour. I don't blame the foreign players who are desperate to earn a living, but it becomes a vicious circle as they will play for next to nothing, and while club bosses wish to keep their costs down, local players therefore either play for nothing as well, or they don't play.
South Africa has also become a 'next step' for a lot of African players who want to go to Europe. The problem with this is that the fans never forge a relationship with these 'one season' wonders as before you know it, they are off. There needs to be some minimum requirements on foreign players playing in SA. They need to have a minimum number of international caps, and must play for a minimum of two seasons. I know this infringes on free trade and all the other politically correct labour laws, but something has to be done about it otherwise our football and our young footballers will fade and die.
George Dearnaley: Media24's Mr Soccer... and Sport24 columnist.
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