Thu, Dec 15, 2005 - Page 19 News List

FIFA group hopes to restore`national identity of clubs'

AP , TOKYO

When Sepp Blatter suggested too much money and migration could ruin club competition in some competitions, the FIFA president couldn't have asked for better contrasting examples than the Club World Championship semifinalists.

Liverpool, the most successful of England's big clubs in terms of trophies won, is playing Costa Rica's Deportivo Saprissa tomorrow in the six-team competition.

Liverpool's roster includes players from 10 nations, including five from Spain, the home of coach Rafa Benitez.

Saprissa, the Purple Monsters, is made up entirely of Costa Rican players at the insistence of owner Jorge Vergara, who also owns Mexican team Chivas de Guadalajara and has continued a century-long tradition of nationals-only at the Mexican club.

Liverpool pays out millions of dollars each year, while Saprissa keeps its salaries comparatively modest. The top earner on the San Jose-based team would earn less in a season than Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard earns in a week, despite salaries in the Costa Rica league being high by Central American standards.

Blatter is leading a drive to restore what he calls "national identity" to clubs in all countries and wants to impose minimum quotas for homegrown players in all clubs in all leagues.

The Bosman Ruling prohibits limits on the number of European players that continental clubs can hire, along with guidelines that allow migration for European workers around the EU. Although setting the minimum quota for local players could circumvent the Bosman ruling to some degree.

Blatter said a FIFA taskforce "for the good of the game" was investigating restoring the "national identity of clubs."

"It's very important. The regulations on the club competition are not made so far by FIFA, but by the national associations concerned," he said. "It's up to the federations and the leagues to limit the entry of foreign players. It's a good solution."

Blatter said EU principles of free circulation for citizens made it difficult to impose limits on clubs.

"It means as long as footballers are considered workers and not as artists, then in the European clubs, they can field many players from other European places," he said. "We are aware of it. What is the solution is to set a minimum. FIFA's idea is to have at least, in every club football match, six players from each club eligible for the national team of the country where they're playing. This is the system: six plus five."

Blatter said the problem was not restricted to England, where the high-paying Premier League attracts players from all over the globe.

"It's not just England. Bayern Munich is one, maximum of two or three German players. This is a situation that's not good for football."

Retaining England midfielder Gerrard was considered one of the most important signings of the season for Liverpool, given he's a homegrown talent. After guiding the Merseyside club to the Champions League title, he figured his value had soared 25 percent to a reported ?100,000 (150,000 euros) per week.

Blatter has already met with representatives of the EU, including British Sports Minister Richard Carbon, to discuss ways of curbing the exorbitant salaries for top players and ensure the game develops at all levels.

For years, FIFA has been involved in a feud with the G14 group of the richest European clubs.

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