Greetings from London, England. I am not going to go into great detail about myself as that information is available in the ‘About’ section. I would, however, like to thank Darren once again for welcoming me to the team.
In my first article I have decided to give my opinion on a topic that has dominated the back pages of British newspapers in recent weeks. It concerns suggestions by Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA (football’s world governing body), to introduce new rules requiring football clubs to field a minimum number of ‘home-grown’ players per game, a stance also supported by Michel Platini, President of UEFA (Europe’s football governing body).
UEFA has defined a home-grown player as a ‘locally trained player…who has been registered for three seasons/years with the club between the ages of 15 and 21’.
In the light of the English national team’s recent failure to secure qualification into the European Championships in 2008, both the British media and respected figures in football have voiced their support for Blatter’s proposals, believing that it would improve the quality and talent of young English footballers, thereby having a positive effect on a national team that has, in the opinion of many, under-achieved in recent competitions.
In support of this concept it can be said that without restrictions on home-grown players many young English footballers are discouraged from pursuing their careers in the sport as, in many cases, they will feel that the competition from their foreign counterparts is such that their chances of ‘making it’ are slim to none. If there were a rule requiring clubs to field a fixed minimum number of home-grown players per competitive match, many up and coming youngsters might believe that their goals of reaching the ‘top’ are attainable.
However, whilst the European Court of Justice has previously indicated that it is willing, in certain circumstances, to give a degree of leniency for sporting rules it is difficult to see how this type of rule could be deemed legal. For one, it seems destined to infringe the EU law principle that the free movement of workers must be secured within the European Community. These new rules would clearly obstruct the access of talented and able footballers from across the continent from gaining employment at English football clubs, and would likely be in contravention of Article 39 EC, which embodies the right of freedom of movement for workers in the EU. It could also be argued that the rules would constitute an illegal restraint of trade.
Whilst it is possible to sympathise with those who are frustrated with the lack of success of the English national team in recent years, perhaps we should be looking at other ways of improving the quality of the athletes that we are producing here in the UK. Yes, these new rules would give young English players more opportunities to play for the ‘big’ clubs, but a likely result of this is that the quality of top-tier football in Britain would deplete. The English Premier League is arguably the best league in the world, certainly in terms of the quality of the football played. It cannot be denied that the presence of world class foreign footballers has generously contributed to the riches of the Premiership.
It is worth pointing out that in the year 2000 the Australian government’s funding for sport worked out at around £67 per head. In the UK it was a mere £1 per head. It is little wonder then that countries like Australia continue to produce world-class sports men and women whilst Britain strives to improve but to little or no avail. Perhaps the British government should assess its policy and commitment towards sport in the UK before intervention with the current rules in football is deemed necessary.
-James Alexander Taylor