Date:Monday October 8 2007
It was certainly interesting to hear FIFA president Sepp Blatter`s comments regarding the introduction of a 'foreign player` quota during the week. With the number of non-home grown players plying their trade in the premiership and Europe as whole increasing once again this season, some would say it was inevitable. Mr Blatter has suggested that there should be a maximum of five foreign players on the field at any stage during a match - but the question is has he actually got a case? Blatter feels so strongly that he is willing to take on the might of the European Union in order to get his way and secure the quality of home grown talent in what is the most affluent football continent on the planet.
The case for reducing the number of foreign players is very strong. There is a real danger of a shortfall in quality players representing their respective countries in the coming years, not to mention a loss of national identity in the top European leagues. There is little doubt that the national side would benefit from such system and the price of English players would be reduced accordingly.
During the summer a number of high profile English clubs spent a lot of money on foreign talent, the net result being more than a 1000% increase in foreign players the last ten years. A case in point is the situation at Manchester City where Sven has brought in a whole host of foreign players and not a single Englishman, although with no small amount of success it has to be said. Another man under the spotlight is Arsene Wenger. Arsenal rarely include any home grown players in their starting eleven and the last time an Englishman scored for the gunners was Justin Hoyte in January of this year.
However, Arsene did make the point that players should be signed and played on merit alone, with any possible quota system having potentially catastrophic effects on the quality of club football being played at the top level. Having a quota system in South African cricket certainly caused controversy and was scrapped in 2002 after a number of top players defected to other parts of the world. A certain Kevin Pietersen was one of those who left to seek a career overseas as a result and I don`t think anyone would argue that the only losers were the South African cricket board.
A quota system in football contravenes European law and in my opinion would be almost impossible to implement with the top clubs paying large transfer fees and wages for the services of best players in Europe. We did have such a quota system before the Bosman ruling in 1990 of course, whereby only three non-English players could be in the squad at any one time. Ironically, the Bosman ruling had a number of wider implications than was first thought and of course resulted the opportunity to sign out of contract players from overseas without paying a penny in transfer fees whilst saving a bundle on wages in the process.
The bottom line is that foreign coaches will want to sign foreign players. Just look at the French influx at Arsenal or the Spanish contingent at Liverpool. Therefore if we want to secure the future of the national team and bring through young talent, we need more English coaches with more money invested in the academies of every single professional club in the land. Then and only then we will ever have a truly successful national side - are you paying attention at the FA?
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