Fifa is to hold new talks with the European Commission to discuss plans to limit the number of foreign players, after a report by the Institute for European Affairs (INEA), commissioned by Fifa, says the plans do not fall foul of EU regulations.
Football’s world governing body wants to stop clubs fielding more than five non-nationals in a starting XI, a move the EU says would be illegal.
“There is no conflict with European law,” said INEA boss Jurgen Gramke.
He also insisted that although the report was commissioned by Fifa, it was completely independent.
“We took no instructions from Fifa,” added Professor Gramke. “INEA accepted this commission on condition that our requirements of complete independence were met.”
But the European Commission insists a quota on foreign players would be incompatible with EU law as it amounts to discrimination at work and a restriction on the free movement of workers.
“The first impression… is that we don’t find any reason to change our view,” a Commission spokesperson told Reuters.
“Our position is well known, FIFA’s 6+5 rule is based on direct discrimination on the grounds of nationality and is thus against one of the fundamental principles of EU law.”
However, the report added: “The key aim of the 6+5 rule in the view of the experts is the creation and assurance of sporting competition.
“The 6+5 rule does not impinge on the core area of the right to freedom of movement.
“The rule is merely a rule of the game declared in the general interest of sport in order to improve the sporting balance between clubs and associations.”
The 6+5 rule states that at the start of a game a club must field at least six players who would be eligible for the national team of the country of the club.
However, there would be no limit on substitutes, meaning a game could end 3+8 in favour of foreign players, and no limit on the number of non-national players that clubs can sign; it is this condition that FIFA believed would see it bypass EU discrimination laws.
The INEA report said the Bosman ruling (named after the Belgian player Jean-Marc Bosman who challenged the transfer system) had increased the use of foreign players to such a degree that up to 56% of national league players are now not eligible to play for the national team of the league in which they play.
A Fifa spokesman said the report would form the basis of a new round of talks with the EU.