Football (soccer), restrictions on overseas players
Should the game of football adopt FIFA’s six-plus-five plan for a maximum of five foreign players in a club side? Should the European Union change its rules to allow this?
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Limiting the number of overseas players will be good for home-grown sportsmen. At present only a ti...
Limiting the number of overseas players will be good for home-grown sportsmen. At present only a tiny handful of the best native players will get a chance to play for top clubs. This means that talented young players see no reason to work hard and develop their game, because it is so unlikely they will get a chance to play at the top level. And clubs don’t have a reason to seek out local youngsters and train them, as it is easier to buy a fully trained player from abroad. Limiting the number of foreign players would create incentives for both players and clubs to make the most of their talents.
Limiting the number of foreign players will weaken the quality of domestic football. Seeing many of the best footballers from around the world competing against each other every week raises the standard of the whole game. Fans want to see their team playing exciting football and winning games – they don’t care whether the players are local boys or not. Youngsters are inspired by foreign heroes and work hard in order to follow in their footsteps, no matter where they were born.
Reducing the number of foreign players would be good for the national team. At the moment many Euro...
Reducing the number of foreign players would be good for the national team. At the moment many European countries have so many foreign players in their top League that they outnumber the locally-born footballers. This means that only a few domestic players get a chance to compete at the highest level, and the national side suffers as a result. So while English clubs with many foreign players have done very well in the Champions League recently, the English national team has performed badly. Limiting the number of foreigners would give more local players a chance to develop, and so improve the quality of the national side.
Reducing the number of foreign players would be bad for the national team. The top sides field many overseas players because they think they are better than most homegrown ones. So those local players at the top clubs have had to fight hard for their places. They are playing against some of the best footballers in the world every week and their game improves as a result. It should be easy to pick 11 of them to form a strong national side. The fact that the England football team has done badly has much more to do with poor management and coaching than the large number of foreigners in the Premier League. If you removed some of the best foreigners and replaced them with less good local players, it will weaken both club football and the national team.
This plan would be good for club football. Once the local team was a real source of local identity,...
This plan would be good for club football. Once the local team was a real source of local identity, with many home-grown players proud to wear the shirt of the club they grew up with. Now players have no local feeling and move often in search of higher wages. How can fans identify with a club full of overseas players who will be gone in a season or two?
Local loyalties went out of the game years ago – it isn’t just overseas players who change clubs often in search of higher wages. Everyone agrees that when teams were only full of local boys the standard of play was worse. And strong local loyalties aren’t always good – they used to spill over into hooliganism as the fans from rival clubs fought. More overseas players in football, many with different colour skins, have helped reduce nationalism and racism in society.
Competition would also improve if foreign players were less common. At the moment the richest clubs...
Competition would also improve if foreign players were less common. At the moment the richest clubs can buy up all the best global players and so dominate domestic competitions – often no more than two or three teams have a real chance of winning the big European leagues. This makes tournaments predictable and boring, while clubs become the playthings of billionaire owners. Even international club competitions like the European Champions League are now dominated by just a few teams – in 2008 three of the four semi-finalists and both finalists were English. Forcing clubs to develop home-grown talent would level the playing field, make money less vital, and give more teams a chance to compete for top honours.
This plan would be bad for club football by lowering the standard of games. It is also unnecessary – Manchester United is one of the most successful club sides and often fields more locally-born players than its rivals. Most big clubs are working hard to build strong football academies to bring talented youngsters through. In any case, money will still remain vital to success – this plan would mean that the richest clubs will simply pay silly sums of money to buy up all the best local players.\
Really the FIFA proposal is just an attack on English football clubs as they have been so successful recently. The issue wasn’t raised previously when Italian and Spanish club sides dominated European competitions.\
This plan would be good for world football. At present poorer nations (e.g. in Africa or South Amer...
This plan would be good for world football. At present poorer nations (e.g. in Africa or South America), or those where football isn’t as well developed (e.g. Australia, the USA), lose all their best players at an early age to the rich European leagues. This weakens their own leagues and can lead to the public losing interest in football. Poor quality games and loss of public support for domestic clubs also means little money comes into the game from ticket sales, television or sponsorship, so nothing goes into grounds, training or youth systems. It is also hard to put a good national side together when the best players hardly ever spend any time in their own country.
In practice this plan will do nothing for football in countries outside Europe. Already many overseas players have dual nationality (which is especially easy to obtain for South American players wanting to play in Spain or Portugal). Other players are from countries (e.g. South Africa, Caribbean states) with labour agreements with the EU and can work freely in European countries. Both groups would be able to claim that they didn’t count as overseas players under the FIFA plan, so little would change. One danger is that many good players will completely switch nationality in order to play overseas, and so not be qualified for their original country at all in future. \
And what FIFA plans to do about the many Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish footballers playing for English teams is very unclear. Would they be banned from playing in their own country?
The six-plus-five plan is not necessarily banned under EU law. Although it would be illegal to stop...
The six-plus-five plan is not necessarily banned under EU law. Although it would be illegal to stop clubs in Europe from employing as many overseas players as they wish, this is not what the plan proposes. It simply puts a limit of five on how many foreign players can start a game – so clubs can employ as many foreigners as they want, they just can’t play more than five of them at the same time. Given the tactical use of reserves and the squad rotation common in modern football, clubs are likely to keep signing overseas players. But under FIFA’s plan domestic players will still be given more of a chance than they are now.
FIFA’s plan is illegal under European Union rules. These say that you can’t discriminate against people from other EU countries on the grounds of their nationality - exactly what the six-plus-five plan would do. And the EU has agreements in place allowing people from non-EU European countries like Switzerland and Norway to work freely in EU states, plus a lot of countries in Africa and the Caribbean as well. This means most of the overseas players currently with European clubs would be able to take FIFA to court if it tried to put its plan into practice. And if six-plus-five won’t work in Europe, there is no point applying it elsewhere.
UEFA’s plan has its own drawbacks, which make the FIFA idea better. There is already a problem with...
UEFA’s plan has its own drawbacks, which make the FIFA idea better. There is already a problem with talented teenagers from Africa and other poorer countries being recruited by rich European clubs to train at their academies. This takes them far away from family and friends and ties them into long contracts they don’t understand – some have called it a form of slavery. And if they get injured or turn out to be not quite good enough, then they can be thrown out without proper support. At the same time, poorer footballing countries are deprived of many of their most promising players, without even getting the transfer money paid when adult players move to a new club overseas. The UEFA plan will make European clubs recruit far more of these teenagers, in the hope that some of them will turn out well, and so will make a bad situation much worse.
Although FIFA’s plan to limit the number of foreign players is against European Union law, UEFA has another proposal which has gained EU support. This would mean clubs would have to play more “home-grown” players, meaning those who have had at least three years of training between the ages of 15 and 21 in the same country. Because football academies train youngsters from many countries, this would not break EU rules.
The EU doesn’t understand sport and should be made to change. Sport isn’t a business like any other...
The EU doesn’t understand sport and should be made to change. Sport isn’t a business like any other - it is a competition within agreed rules. If football worldwide chooses to change these rules for the benefit of the game, then that is none of the EU’s business. The EU should be pushed by national governments into changing its rules so that the normal labour laws do not apply to football and other sports.
Football is a big business, a branch of the entertainment industry. Many European clubs have an income of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Players are well paid but can easily get injured and end their careers at an early age, so they deserve the same protection from unfair treatment as other workers. Freedom of movement is one of the most important principles of the EU and should not be given up lightly.\
In any case, there are other ways to raise quality and improve competition. A salary cap could be introduced (as in rugby league) to prevent rich clubs from buying up all the best players. Or revenue for money-spinning competitions like the Champtions League could be distributed much more evenly. At the moment the most successful clubs get almost all the money, allowing them to buy all the best players and so ensure they stay on top in the future.
What do you think?