FIFA congress backs Blatter over foreign quotas

May 30, 2008

SYDNEY -- FIFA president Sepp Blatter cleared the first major hurdle with his controversial "6+5 rule" on Friday when the congress of world soccer's governing body voted overwhelmingly in favour of him pursuing the plan.

Blatter remained firmly on a collision course with European lawmakers after the Sydney congress voted 155-5 in favour of the objectives of the rule which would limit the number of foreign players who can start a match to five. There were 40 abstentions.

The congress passed the resolution, asking Blatter together with European counterpart Michel Platini to "continue to explore for Europe... all possible means within the limits of the law to ensure that these crucial sporting objectives be achieved".

The European Union says the "6+5" rule would contravene its free movement of workers rules.

Blatter, however, was bullish.

"It was an overwhelming majority, overwhelming support," he smiled in a news conference. "I am sure it will be done... I am very confident about it.

THORNY ISSUE

"They are saying it is illegal. For what, for whom and when? And if there is a law ... you know a law can be amended or altered."

Blatter said he expected the Treaty of Lisbon to be ratified by Jan. 1 2009 which would allow the European Union to recognise that sport may be a special case.

Platini, president of European soccer body UEFA, said he fully supported Blatter's idea.

"It is a thorny issue. Europe is not (in) a comfortable position but we will do all we can to help the FIFA president reach this objective," he told the 200 assembled members.

"(If the rule as it stands were implemented) then we as UEFA would find ourselves in a difficult place and could find ourselves in court.

SHARE PHILOSOPHY

"I fully share the philosophy and objectives of the rule."

Germany's Franz Beckenbauer, chairman of FIFA's Football Committee, fully backed the quota proposals.

"England -- perhaps it is unfair but that's the way it is -- is the best known example (of foreign players dominating teams)," he told congress.

"Three English teams in the semi-finals (of the Champions League), Manchester United and Chelsea in the final, an extraordinary match.

"But then after the match everyone regretted a single fact. That England will not be represented at the Euro.

"There is a reason for that," he said, alluding to the glut of foreign players at English clubs.

"This is the case in other countries too. 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."

REASONABLE PEOPLE

"I have always thought that when reasonable people sit around the table, a reasonable solution can be found and that is what I hope will happen here."

Blatter stressed that it was not his intention to confront lawmakers.

"When trying to introduce such a solution, naturally we shall not forget we are living in a world where we have to face national and international or regional law and it is not our intention just to go into confrontation with our governmental authorities.

"To go forward, we would say that it is the result that six players eligible to play for the national team of the country should be on the field of play at the beginning. It means that with the substitutions you could have 3+8 at the end.

"We need some consultation with the government authorities, especially in Europe, but we would propose to start a 4+7 in 2010, 5+6 in 2011 and we would be ready to apply 6+5 in 2012."