BBC Sport, October 5, 2007
Fifa president Sepp Blatter has told the BBC he is ready to challenge the European Union to get a quota on foreign players within European teams.
Blatter made his comments in response to an NOP poll of football fans for BBC1’s Football Focus.
He wants clubs to be limited to five foreigners in their starting XI to allow homegrown talent to flourish.
Premier League spokesman Dan Johnson told Focus: “It’s just not legal—under EU law we couldn’t do it.”
However, Blatter says football needs to act and says a reduction “is a good solution”.
The 71-year-old Swiss argues that football deserves special treatment because it is not like any other job.
“Workers in Europe can circulate freely but footballers are not workers,” he said.
“You cannot consider a footballer like any normal worker because you need 11 to play a match—and they are more artists than workers.”
BBC Sport revealed last month just how much the number of foreigners plying their trade in the Premier League had increased since 1992 and the Football Association has already expressed its concern over the impact that has had on home-grown players.
Now Football Focus has shown that fans have concerns, too.
When asked if there should be a quota of foreign players per club in the English Premier League, 56% of the 1055 people surveyed said they were in favour.
The EU has recently unveiled plans to impose more regulations on football and says the sport should only have limited immunity from rules governing employment.
However, Blatter says he is ready to fight any EU move.
“Football has never had the courage to go against this practice,” he said.
“When you have 11 foreigners in a team, this is not good for the development of football, for the education of young players, and there is a financial aspect, too.”
But Johnson says clubs in England are ploughing money into their academies in order to produce homegrown players.
“Our structure is important, our academies are important. Look at the impact the likes of John Terry and Steven Gerrard have had on their local teams—why wouldn’t clubs want that?”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, has poured scorn on Blatter’s quota proposal.
The Frenchman said: “I am against it. Sport is competitive and competition is based on merit.
“It does not matter where you are born, it matters who you are.
“It is my first responsibility for my club for us to play the best football, with the best players.”
The Football Focus survey also asked for opinions on several other important issues, notably: