FIFA: We’ll convince Commission on national quotas

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FIFA is determined to convince the European Commission that imposing the controversial ‘6+5’ rule on football teams does not breach EU law and will benefit the sport by restoring some level of national identity to clubs, combating the over-concentration of wealth in top clubs and guaranteeing equal opportunities to compete in the sector, FIFA’s chief of international relations told EURACTIV in an interview.

Jérôme Champagne is the Director of International Relations of the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA). 

To read a shortened version of this interview, please click here

Why did FIFA decide to explore the possibility of introducing the 6+5 rule and who supports the idea of such a rule? 

First of all, FIFA identified some of the problems currently being faced by football, including the following: 

  • Young talents are not able to develop in the clubs at which they are trained because they do not get a chance to play in the ‘A’ squad of their club. 
  • Competitions at national and international club level are not balanced – the gap between the top clubs and the bottom clubs in all competitions is getting wider as there is a concentration of wealth in some top clubs, which buy all of the top players in the market. Some top players are not even able to play as they sit on the benches of the top clubs. 
  • National team coaches see how there are less and less national players that are playing in the clubs of their countries, and therefore their choice of players for the national team is reduced. 
  • Players move from one club to another continuously and there are few players from the region or the country in each club, creating a loss of the national identity of clubs and difficulty for fans to feel identified with their club and players. 

Having analysed these problems, FIFA determined that the ‘6+5’ would provide solutions because: 

  • It would give young players a chance to play for the club in which they are trained. 
  • It would create a better balance in the competitions at national and international level by putting the focus back on the training of young players and not so much on financial power. 
  • It would help strengthen national teams by giving national players better chances of playing for the top clubs in their country. 
  • It would make it easier for fans to feel identified with their clubs. 

Support for the ‘6+5’ has been growing continuously. The IOC [International Olympic Committee], as well as all the international team sports federations (basketball, handball, volleyball, rugby union, hockey…) have all backed this proposal, to the point that many of these sports are now trying to apply similar rules. 

‘6+5’ has received praise from players and former players such as Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Johann Cruijff, Steven Gerrard and many others, as well as from managers such as Fabio Capello. FIFA has also received support for this proposal from several sports ministers of EU countries. Not least, the member associations of FIFA have shown strong support for the proposal by overwhelmingly voting in favour of it during the FIFA Congress in Sydney on 30 May 2008. 

In addition to the European Commission, who is opposed to the introduction of such a rule and why? 

Those who oppose the ‘6+5’ argue that it goes against EU law, and in particular the freedom of movement of workers within the EU. FIFA considers that this is not the case, and that the specific nature of sport and football in particular should be taken into account, for a number of reasons. First, whereas the movement of workers within the EU is overall below 10% (Eurostat statistics), the movement of players in the main European football leagues is over 40% on average. Thus, in football we see a distortion of the law related to the freedom of movement within the EU. 

Secondly, the recent Treaty of Lisbon, approved in 2007 by the member states of the EU, says that the “specific nature of sport and of its structures” must be recognised. Thirdly, the EU allows for the ‘cultural exception’, with quotas in European cinema, for example. The specific nature of sport should allow for a ‘sporting exception’ to be applied in the EU.

Fourthly, one of the main principles of the EU is the one stating that there should be no concentration of wealth within any one sector (anti-monopoly legislation) and that equal chances must be given to all those competing in any sector. Currently, in football, we see a monopolisation of resources and wealth by some clubs which dominate all competitions, directly influencing the predictability of the sports results. 

Finally, ‘6+5’ only refers to the number of players elegible to play for the national team of the country where the club is based at the start of the match. There is no restriction on the number of non-eligible players that a club could have under contract. 

What is the calendar for exploring the 6+5 rule and do you expect some support from the current French EU Presidency? 

The implementation of the ‘6+5’ is currently being explored following the mandate given by the FIFA Congress in Sydney to the FIFA and UEFA Presidents to do so. The FIFA President has stated in the past that there could be a gradual implementation of the proposal, with a 4+7 in the 2010-2011 football season, a 5+6 in 2011-2012, and finally the 6+5 in 2012-2013. 

The French EU Presidency has expressed its strong support for the specific nature of sport within the EU and French Sports Minister Bernard Laporte has backed ‘6+5’ on several occasions, asking the EU to look into the possibility of applying this proposal. 

Will you introduce the 6+5 rule regardless of the European Commission’s opposition? 

FIFA’s goal is to be able to convince all of those involved, including the European Commission, that this is a good solution. The FIFA Congress in Sydney adopted a resolution to fully support the objectives of the ‘6+5’, asking the Presidents of FIFA and UEFA to continue to explore, with the parties involved, all possible means within the limits of the law to ensure that these crucial sporting objectives be achieved. As the FIFA President stated during that congress, FIFA wants to for consultation, not confrontation.

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