Thu, May 08, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Sepp Blatter calls for limit on power of European soccer

AP , GENEVA

FIFA president Sepp Blatter yesterday renewed his campaign to stop European soccer clubs from hoarding most of the world’s best players.

“It cannot be that only one continent will be the focus of all football,” Blatter said in a conference call with reporters.

He said European clubs were “drying out” soccer in Africa by signing the best young players and preventing professional leagues from developing.

Blatter was outlining his plans for a “six plus five” rule, which would force clubs by 2012 to field at least six homegrown players in their starting lineups and limit the number of foreigners to five.

The FIFA president believes the rule will reverse the trend among some of Europe’s elite clubs — including Arsenal, Chelsea and Inter Milan — to field teams entirely made up of foreign players.

Blatter has railed against the practice in the past, but no international rules are currently in place to prevent teams from ignoring players in their own countries.

“If there is a FIFA regulation that there shall be this six-plus-five system, then players in Africa and Asia and especially South America will stay home,” Blatter said. “It will be good for the development of football.”

He said soccer federations outside Europe supported his plan “because the other continents are the suppliers of all the players in Europe.”

“We are now stimulating new leagues where players can earn their living decently,” he said. “At the same time we are fighting, let us say, the drying out of local leagues in Africa.”

Blatter said African soccer federations were in favor of his plan when it was discussed at a January meeting in Ghana, even though it could mean that some African players would lose their positions with top clubs.

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