LONDON - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said that he fears for the future of the game if players start to invoke the little-known Webster Rule regarding their contracts. Wenger, who is keen to keep all his talented young players at the Emirates Stadium for as long as possible, told the Sunday Express that football could be thrown into chaos if players and their agents began to widely apply the ruling. "There is a wind of change blowing through football. It could affect many clubs. We must all be wary. We are living in fear at the moment, Who knows what the future might hold?" Wenger was quoted as saying. The Webster Rule came into force after Andy Webster discovered a loophole in the European Union's employment laws which were adopted by FIFA, world soccer's governing body. Webster was allowed to leave Scottish club Heart of Midlothian in the third year of a four-year contract provided he joined a club in a foreign country and as long as he gave his club enough notice. He joined Wigan Athletic in England and is currently on loan at Bristol City. Wenger said that Mathiue Flamini and Alexandr Hleb left Arsenal because of the rule, and he does not want any of his other players to follow. "Cesc (Fabregas) could leave under the ruling. But I know he loves it here. It is important also we get him to sign the new deal offered." Wenger said that clubs below the Premier League could be hit harder by players looking to move on for nothing after three years. He added: "Many in football forget that the Webster Rule exists. After three years a player can either sign a deal or go. "Top clubs might handle this but, at a lower level, it could ruin them. "Agents at the moment have been reluctant to go into the Webster ruling. But it will happen in the same way as the Bosman ruling. Football is in fear at the moment."
8 December 2008
The Bosman Ruling, which came into force 13 years ago, allowed players freedom of contract and movement and revolutionised the face of European football.