The European Union’s has restated its opposition to a FIFA plan to limit the number of foreign players at clubs.
EU Sports Commissioner Jan Figel warned FIFA president Sepp Blatter earlier this year that his proposals to limit the number of foreign players starting any club match to five breached EU laws on the free movement of workers.
But Blatter has continue to lobby for support in recent months in an attempt to persuade the EU of the merits of his so-called “6+5” rule.
“As you know Sepp Blatter visited the president of the European Parliament … but the message is clear, 6+5 is not compatible with EU rules, I am not a lawyer, I am an engineer, but this is definitive,” EU Sports Commissioner Jan Figel told Reuters.
Any country which allows its associations or leagues to introduce the 6+5 rule will face legal action by Brussels at the European Court of Justice, which could lead to hefty fines, Figel said.
Blatter argues that sport’s social aspect means it should be exempt from some EU laws because of its special nature—known as specificity.
“Specificity does not mean defacto exclusivity,” Figel said. “Sport cannot be above or outside the legal space.”
Blatter has been lobbying EU governments ahead of a meeting of sports ministers from the 27-member bloc in November.
But Figel was adamant that any such review would not happen until 2012 at the earliest when Brussels is due to evaluate the “home-grown player rule” of UEFA, which sets a quota of locally trained players at clubs but does not discriminate on the grounds of nationality.
“UEFA approach is much more compatible with legal space, we will see the full impact in three years after a gradual phasing in and we want to come back to this issue in 2012,” Figel said.
“But this (home-grown rule) is a concrete rule, it’s not theory and we have studied it as far as we can.”