Football Needs Autonomy
In June 2007, the European Union decided to implement a revised treaty by the end of the year. International sports federations’ governing bodies, including FIFA, appreciated the efforts made in the first draft to integrate the idea of sport’s specificity.
This is a crucial matter for FIFA, since the future of football depends on it, and explains why FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter gave a group interview in Zurich on Friday 5 October. Here are some of the topics he touched upon.
The revised European Union treaty
“IOC President Jacques Rogge has sent a letter to the heads of government of European Union countries concerning the specificity of sport in general. FIFA is completely behind the IOC on this subject. Our point of view is as follows: we respect national and international political organisations in their exercising of laws and in the support which they give to sport. However, along with the IOC, we would ask that these political institutions respect the existing rules and statutes and allow sporting organisations to maintain their autonomy. Football is strong enough to manage itself and does not need political institutions to help it in this respect. However, the European Union’s support is more than welcome in matters of security, the fight against drugs, stadiums, corruption and violence, which are related to common law. We therefore support this revised treaty, but we would like it to be amended in such a way that the idea of autonomy for sporting organisations is included.”
The reasoning behind integrating the idea of autonomy into the new treaty “Asking the European Union for more autonomy is not just to do with the number of foreign players allowed. We wish, for example, to maintain the right to manage relegation and promotion within our leagues to avoid problems such as the Granada 74 case. Football needs to have the courage to ask Europe for its autonomy. This is why this crucial question will be discussed at the FIFA Executive Committee at the end of October and then submitted to the May 2008 Congress to be held in Sydney. Ideally, we would like to be able to implement the “6+5″ system (six players eligible for the national team and a maximum of five non-eligible players in a club’s starting 11) by the start of the 2010-2011. But first of all, we are making Europe aware of this wish. And where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
The number of dub players who are not eligible for the national team
“The idea is to find a way of protecting the national identity of the clubs. This explains our desire to push forward the “6+5″ principle, which would have a number of benefits. Players who are trained at a club from an early age will have the chance to play in the first team, which is not currently the case in some leagues, while the financial advantages for the clubs are obvious, since they will no longer have to pay out exorbitant transfer fees to acquire players. The knock-on effect for national teams is also clear. Certain championships are already applying this principle, including Ukraine and Russia.
I would particularly like to congratulate Scotland, who have implemented a rule which requires teams to include a quota of under-21 players in their squads. As a result, their under-20 team qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup last year and their national team is currently performing brilliantly in the qualifying matches for the EURO. I must repeat that the problem of non-eligible players is limited to Europe. Everywhere else, there is a maximum of four or five foreign players. The results of the two most recent FIFA Club World Cups are interesting in this respect. Sao Paulo, with 10 local players on the pitch, beat Liverpool in 2005, while Internacional of Porto Alegre and their 11 Brazilians beat the mighty Barcelona last year. Finally, I would like to add that we have the support of some of the biggest names in football, including Franz Beckenbauer, Alex Ferguson, Patrick Vieira and Johann Cruyff.”