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All Things Footie | Monday, February 7 | Jordan

Stupid is as stupid does?

So UEFA, in their infinite wisdom, have decided that from 2006, club squads for European competitions must have a minimum of 4 ‘club-trained’ players (6 in 2007, 8 in 2008—presumably by 2014 they’ll have to have 20…). Apart from being a pathetic (and misguided) attempt to try and make national football seem important again to countries with strong domestic leagues, and for reasons I’ll go into shortly, totally unaffective, this plan also has the major drawback of being illegal.

Over the last couple of years—since this whole ‘homegrown’ player quota idea has started to be be floated around—I’ve been involed in a raft of pub conversations that ran along the lines of ‘it’s a great idea … blah blah’, ‘you only object because your team’s full of foreigners … blah blah’, that I want to set straight now once and for all.

First, A little background reading :

“Any national of [an EU] Member State is entitled to take up and engage in gainful employment on the territory of another Member State in conformity with the relevant regulations applicable to national workers. He is entitled to the same priority as the nationals of that Member State as regards access to available employment, and to the same assistance as that afforded by the employment offices in that State to their own nationals seeking employment. His recruitment may not be dependent on medical, occupational or other criteria which discriminate on the grounds of nationality.”

Read that paragraph again. Now tell me that it’s possible to legally tell a professional footballer from an EU country can be prevented from working for his employer because he was not born in the country he is playing in. The act above came into force in 1976—UEFA (laughably calling itself a ‘European’ giverning body yet still clearly ignorant of the laws of the region it’s presiding over, even when they’re nearly 30 years old) prove once again they’re staffed and run by idiots with no concept of the game of football as a global game. Which given their status as a multinational governing body is a little ironic I think you’ll agree.

The wordy argument from UEFA will no doubt be that they are not restricting foreign nationals per se, they are simply encouraging ‘homegrown’ (I hate that term—are they vegetables?) talent. Fifteen minutes in a European court would clarify they’re talking out of their Blatter.

Regardless of the legality of it all, it’s a stupid idea anyway. The proposed ‘club-registered’ player is defined by UEFA as one who has been registered for a minimum of three seasons with the club between the age of 15 and 21. Given that most of the top sides (thus, ones who play in European Competition most regularly) sign up players at very young ages from all over Europe and the World, and train them through the youth and reserve teams until they’re ready for first team debuts, it wouldn’t affect these ‘jouneymen’ foreign players at all. The players affected would be the prodigious overseas talents—the likes of Kolo Touré, Arjen Robben, John O’Shea, Ronaldo, Cesc Fabregas—who may not have been given chances because an inferior Englishman wouldn’t affect the ability of the manager to include Thierry Henry, Petr Cech or Ruud van Nistelrooij.

In comparison with domestic competitions, International football is a very poor relation, it’s true, and you may be thinking that it’s all very well for me to criticise this proposal, but what’s the alternative? Well, frankly, it’s a lot simpler than most of the governing body’s moronic think-tank’s would like to think it is. They justify huge consultancy fees and wasting millions of pounds that could be pumped back into the game by sitting around big tables coming up with crappy ideas like this, when all it takes is a few logical steps:

This system would create a realistic, exciting, and marketable competition; sponsors would pay serious money (lets get over this stupid, hypocritical notion that international football should be some kind of altruistic, pride-driven competition that players will do for free and shouldn’t make a profit) and games would be televised all over Europe and the world. International squads would become more close-knit, the quality of the games would improve, the quality of the players would improve as they’re given a regular chance to play in a different setup to the one they play in at their clubs. The money made—as well as lining the pocket of some shit who nicks my ideas—could be used to finance the development of football in the poorer European nations, and bring a bit of equality to the game.

A European club league will never work, and will never happen (I’ve been into this before, so I’ll spare you now), but a European country league is a genuinely interesting prospect, and one that may help drag this area of the game out of the mire it’s currently wallowing in.

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