Wealthiest clubs reject limits on foreign players

July 8, 2008

NYON, Switzerland -- Europe's best and wealthiest soccer clubs rejected FIFA's plan to restrict their use of foreign players on Tuesday.

Members of the new European Club Association -- representing 103 teams from 53 nations -- used their first business meeting to reject the so-called '6+5' rule proposed by Sepp Blatter, president of world soccer's governing body, to protect the national identity of clubs.

The rule would force clubs to start matches with at least six players eligible to play for the national team and a maximum of just five foreigners, despite European Union law on the freedom of movement of workers.

Clubs prefer a plan put forward by European governing body UEFA which is based on a quota of players on the roster who were developed in that country, regardless of nationality.

"There is no necessity for a 6+5 rule and the organization favors instead UEFA's homegrown approach," the ECA said in a statement Tuesday.

Club delegates meeting at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, confirmed Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Joan Laporta as chairman and vice chairman of the ECA.

Rummenigge, the chairman of German champion Bayern Munich, and FC Barcelona president Laporta represented clubs last month at a meeting with the European Union during which Brussels made it clear that '6+5' was unacceptable.

ECA's priorities include changing the international match calendar so players spend less time away on national team duty, and developing better relations with governments.

It was created in January to replace the G-14 lobby group of clubs which was seen as elitist and wanting too much influence in how soccer was run.

The ECA was recognized by FIFA and UEFA as an independent and democratic forum to help solve soccer's problems. As part of the deal, the G-14 dropped legal actions and threats to form a breakaway league while the governing bodies agreed to pay clubs for releasing players to participate in the finals of the European Championship and World Cup.

Clubs can lose their ECA place when membership is reviewed every two years to reflect performances in the Champions League and UEFA Cup competitions.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press