Soccer's global governing body, FIFA, has set itself up for a clash with the European Union after its annual congress in Sydney Friday voted overwhelmingly to further explore a proposal to limit the number of foreign players in a club's starting XI.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter hopes to introduce the scheme incrementally from 2010, limiting the number of foreign players to seven at first, and decreasing it by one player a year to five by the start of the 2012-13 season. Blatter also told the congress that he would be meeting with the speaker of the European parliament June 5 to discuss ways to avoid a conflict with the EU, which Friday reiterated that any such rule would contravene its employment laws on discrimination and freedom of movement.
"The 'six plus five rule' of FIFA is simply a rule that is based on grounds of nationality, so that is incompatible with community law," said EU spokesman John McDonald. He added that if the rule was implemented, any players who felt aggrieved by the rule could take their case to court and "would probably win." UEFA President Michel Platini, meanwhile, said he fully shares the "philosophy and objectives of the rule." UEFA has already outlined milder guidelines of its own on the issue that would avoid any conflict with EU law.