Friday, May 30, 2008

FIFA Approves Blatter's Rule; or When 6+5=0

Sepp Blatter's alleged romanticism about linking domestic clubs with their locality is rank. Yes, that's the stench settling over the game today. It stems from the approval given by FIFA's Congress to the so-called 6+5 rule which puts a quota on the number of foreign players a club may field.

The FIFA boss got his way, striking a death knell for football capitalism, free trade and economics in general. Hideous. The rule would mandate that clubs can start no more than five foreign players. Incredulously, it was passed by a 155-5 margin. Thankfully, this disastrous regulation seems in conflict with EU law and could be shot down, despite Blatter's promises to make the rule work within the confines of the law.

Perhaps I'm just a financial conservative, but what gives any leader the right to impose his will over independently run organizations, some of which are public entities with influential shareholders. If Arsenal wants to run 11 Frenchmen out there, it should be within its purview to do so.

Blatter allegedly wants the rule in place in the name of sportsmanship. Franz Beckenbauer is in Blatter's corner, quoted today by Reuters:
"We have clubs in Germany where there are no German players on the field. That is not in the interest of football and its future."
Why? Club supporters could care less about a player's nationality once a jersey has been donned. All supporters care about are victories and trophies. Nationalities? That's for the Euro, Copa America, Asian Cup and World Cup.

Blatters's primary argument is the current landscape impedes the development of local talent? Oh really? Let's look at a mid-tier club such as Sporting Lisbon, one with an outstanding youth academy. The club has essentially become a feeder system for Europe's biggest clubs, Manchester United in particular. Ronaldo, Nani, Figo, Quaresma, Futre, Simao Sabrosa, Miguel Veloso all graduated from the academy, and contributed not only for the Uniteds and Barcelonas of the world, but brought trophies to Sporting.

This is the essence of any sport. Develop young talent, "exploit" it as long as possible, win while you can and seed the future. Losing young talent is an inevitability. Look at Ronaldo; is he long for United? Greener pastures are calling, and it should be within his right to seek out those pastures, as it should be United's right sell him to the highest bidder. This is the framework under which football thrives. This is the framework the 6+5 rule puts in jeopardy.

This press release on UEFA's homegrown rule points out that 6+5 is in conflict with the EU's concept of free movement of workers. The key phrase:
"Rules requiring that teams include a certain quota of 'home-grown players' could be accepted as being compatible with the Treaty [of Lisbon] provisions on free movement of persons if they do not lead to any direct discrimination based on nationality and if possible indirect discrimination effects resulting from them can be justified as being proportionate to a legitimate objective pursued, such as enhancing and protecting the training and development of talented young players'."
Here's hoping 6+5 won't fly. It's against the grain of the game. It interferes with independent ownership, is potentially discriminatory and a sham. I hope this generates a slew of comments, because to me, 6+5, in this case, equals zero.


GlancingHeader said...

I wonder to whom Blatter is pandering this time but this 6+5 rule discriminate against African and Eastern European players, to say the least. Taking away opportunities to play top level football from these players will have detrimental effect on the development of football in those areas. The net effect is the continuation of monopoly by the European "powers" and perhaps the concentration of football wealth in the few established countries. Not only that, the market for talent will be badly distorted. Darren Bent for 16M pounds; Shawn Wright Philips for 22M, anyone?

Michael said...

this article misses the point immensely and i do hope the author replies.

Capitalism (free trade) and team sport are at odds clearly. To create fair competition in sport you need to give everyone equal chance to succeed by allowing free trade those with the most money succeed especially when those with the most money get more money for doing better. Thus creates a virtual monopoly. It would be like in an individual sport if performance enhancing drugs were allowed and they were a more scarce commodity and winning the tournaments and making more money allowed you to spend more on these drugs so you can make yourself better. It's unfair!

Football for me is about the balance between scouting and youth development, and equal weight should be placed on both. That is 50/50 squad wise.

The fact of the matter is football isn't entirely free, in most EU leagues you can only have 3 non EU players within your squad, free trade yeah?

The essence of sport is to see who is the best within the rules of the specific competition. What free trade allows is for the strong to get stronger and the weak to get weaker, and it is evident that since the bosman rule allowed free transfers no small club has won a major european league, whereas previously small clubs challenged and won as they were under no pressure to sell their players. Big clubs (like sporting lisbon) in small countries without massive TV contracts are forced to sell whenever they develop good talent rather than be allowed to compete to win, as the risk of losing them for free is to a richer club is too larger.

Now i am not advocating going back to how it was as it was clearly unfair to players, but what it did do was create an effective wage cap, as there was no threat to clubs of playes walking away for free meaning that players couldn't demand higher wages.

This is why I personally would prefer a wage cap, that would effectively do what the 6+5 rule wants to, as why would you leave a top romanian club for a average English club if you can earn the same amount of money? However the big clubs don't want it because manchester united would then be at the same risk of relegation as wigan which although good for sporting competition is against the interests of what is now a business.

That is the problem the short term business interests of too many clubs is in conflict with what is best in the long term for football.