Fergie support for Blatter stance on imports

November 6, 2007

Sir Alex Ferguson believes clubs should be seen to have 'a proportion of home-based players' - and feels rivals Arsenal would 'protest the loudest' at such a rule.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has announced he will lobby for restrictions on the number of foreign players in each team and Ferguson has voiced his support.

'It's certainly not wrong that clubs should be seen to have a proportion of home-based players,' the Manchester United manager said.

'I totally agree (with Blatter) but it would be a problem for a club like Arsenal. That's why they'll protest the loudest.

'You want to protect your own, and there is nothing wrong with that. But, for the good of the game in England, it would be good to see more home-based players at the top clubs.

'United's critics would say `It's all right for you, you already have English players in your side'. But I think if you asked a neutral, they would rather see more home-based players.'

He added: 'Under the present Treaty of Rome you couldn't make it law. It would have to be an agreement between the clubs. But if it went to a vote, I think it would get through [even though] there would be opposition from clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal, who have strong Spanish and French connections.

'It would certainly be a contentious issue but I agree with the principle of it.'

In an interview in the club magazine, Inside United, Ferguson also called for agents to be more strictly regulated to prevent money flowing out of the game.

'I think we need a tariff for agents that brings them in line with other professions, like lawyers or accountants,' he added.

'Agents need to be regulated in a far stricter way than they have been in the past.

'They are a very lucky breed because as long as you have greedy club presidents, agents will always be in the driving seat. But if world football recognises the need for regulation, that would make a real difference.

'The set up has to be more professional.'

Wenger has also expressed his views on the topic in Arsenal's club magazine, and feels no coach 'at the highest level' would think it is a good idea.

'I find the whole proposal completely ridiculous,' he said.

'The thinking behind it, I believe, is to protect the national teams. But it won't protect the best players, it will protect the mediocre ones and you don't win a World Cup with mediocre players, you win it with world-class ones.

'The best English players - the Rooneys, the Owens, the Gerrards, the Lampards - they are all playing for their clubs anyway.

'FIFA are wrong if they think this will improve international football. Look at rugby for example. The Argentina national team - all their players play in Europe, and the national team takes advantage of that. Had they all stayed in Argentina, would they have made the semi-finals? To mix the best with the best makes everyone better.

'I am worried that it could happen. I would say that it's more than 50% likely to be brought in.

'FIFA is powerful enough to implement the rule internally, if (Sepp) Blatter has the support of the council and his committees. Will it go through or not, I do not know but it looks as though it could. I have already had many discussions at UEFA and it looks as though it could happen.

'I don't believe one football coach at the highest level would say it's a good idea. A football coach is always confronted with the same problem - he wants to reward good players.'

Asked what would happen if the rule was introduced, Wenger added: 'First of all we have to fight against it.

'If you fight it that should buy us some time. During that time you have to adapt to it.'

The Gunners boss fears the issue could prove divisive and refused to rule out clubs splitting from FIFA.

'Maybe, I don't know what the evolution will be,' he added. 'I always think that it's the strength of the sport if it's unified at the top level and you do not have a split.

'Because then the rules can begin to change and before you know it you have different sports. So that is dangerous too. If the football bodies don't take care of the sport that could happen and that's a real danger.'