Why Uefa's not a foreign body

Uefa is trying to stem the growing influx of ‘foreign” footballers by forcing clubs across Europe to have up to eight home-grown players on their books and a new maximum squad size of 25.

The Uefa leadership has finally brought forward detailed proposals to counter what it regards as serious problems — fans no longer relating to their local team and clubs going heavily into debt in the pursuit of success. Both issues have long-term harmful effects for the game.

If implemented, Uefa would revolutionise the game by compelling clubs to survive with far fewer personnel and to use players qualified to represent the club in question’s host country.

But Europe’s leading clubs, including the powerful G14 group that features Manchester United and Arsenal, may well try to block the measures. Many of the continent’s top teams maintain large squads, especially in England and Italy, and they will have to reduce their numbers drastically if Uefa gets its way.

United, for example, have 43 players in their first-team squad while Chelsea have 41, Arsenal 39 and Liverpool 35. Teams have assembled bigger and bigger squads in recent years to cope with competing both in Europe and domestically.

Uefa president Lennart Johansson has criticised clubs such as Chelsea and Rangers for fielding teams composed entirely of foreigners, warning that it will make it harder for local fans to identify with them.

Under Uefa’s plans, four of the players in a squad of 25 would have to be products of the club’s youth system while another four would have to have been trained in that country.

The proposals are Uefa’s attempt to get round European Union labour laws, which bar discrimination on grounds of nationality, and avoid the possibility of a Bosman-style court challenge. The young players could be from any country within the EU, but there would still be quotas imposed on players from elsewhere.

Uefa hopes to have the new rules in place by the 2006/07 season.

‘We foresee a system where it is required that a club has to have trained seven or eight players from the first-team squad itself, or have some trained within the national association,” said Uefa vice-president Per Ravn Omdal.

‘A possible solution would be to have four trained by the club and four within the national association, or three and three, but we are not talking about nationality.” —

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