BRUSSELS - FIFA president Sepp Blatter's attempt to convince European Union sports ministers at a meeting on Thursday to curb the number of foreign players at clubs is expected to be in vain, a document showed. Blatter has continued to lobby EU capitals to back his plans to limit the number of foreign players -- known as the '6+5' rule -- despite opposition from the European Commission which deems Blatter's proposals in breach of the bloc's strict rules on free movement of workers. The EU's sports commissioner has warned that any country allowing its soccer associations or leagues to introduce the rule will face legal action at the European Court of Justice -- Europe's highest court -- which could lead to hefty fines. But Blatter said on Wednesday he would tackle the issue of 6+5 when he meets the ministers alongside the president of the International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge. "I am delighted to have this opportunity ... to once again defend the specificity and autonomy of sport as well as issues such as the protection of minors and training clubs, and in particular, the principles and objectives of 6+5," Blatter said in a statement. But draft conclusions prepared for the two-day meeting and obtained by Reuters make no reference to Blatter's proposal and enforces the Commission's view that the so-called "homegrown player rule" of the game's European governing body UEFA is the only rule compliant under EU law. UEFA's home-grown player rule sets a quota of locally-trained players at clubs but without any discrimination on nationality. "The ministers consider that the European Commission's position on the participation of a minimum number of players ... is of the sort to reinforce the training of young players in these clubs," the conclusion said, referring to UEFA's home-grown player rule. UNDERAGE TRANSFERS FIFA opposes the homegrown player the rule arguing it encourages recruitment at a young age and earlier this month Rogge pledged his support for Blatter in the face of EU opposition. EU Sports Commissioner Jan Figel and EU Employment Commissioner Vladimir Spidla have said previously that Blatter "is flogging a dead horse", while aides close to Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso say the EU executive chief is also not for turning on the matter. "6+5 is flying around. But we have made our position clear and that will not change. There can be no discrimination and the EU rules must be protected," Figel told Reuters on Wednesday. UEFA president Michel Platini will also meet the ministers with Blatter, but his speech seen by Reuters makes no reference of support for 6+5. Platini has said he supports the "objectives" of Blatter's plan, but accepts it cannot be implemented in the EU and persuing the issue will only cause tensions with Brussels at a time when they are seeking its support in areas such as financing, racism and illegal betting. The former France player will focus instead on bolstering the homegrown player rule in his speech by urging EU sports ministers to consider banning all transfers of players under the age of 18, something which Figel said he "has sympathy for", but the English Premier League oppose.
26 November 2008
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