Daily Telegraph

DESPITE objections from the Football Association, UEFA have ruled that by the 2008 season, clubs playing in European competitions must field at least eight home-grown players in their 25-man squad.

Of the eight, four will have had to be trained by the club’s own academy and a further four trained within the same national association. UEFA are also pressing for the ruling to be enforced in domestic competitions, although that is yet to be agreed by national associations.

The new rule will be introduced from the 2006-07 season with clubs needing to include a minimum of four home-grown players in a squad. That number will be increased to six the following season and eight in 2008-09.

At a meeting at UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, Geoff Thompson, the chairman of the FA, expressed doubts about the proposal. Thompson had been mandated by the Premier League, who at their last meeting had voted 16-4 against the idea. However, UEFA noted Thompson’s reservations, but approved the idea without it going to a formal vote.

Lars-Christer Olsson, the UEFA chief executive, said: “We think this is a reasonable compromise based on all the consultations we have had. Although we have had negative responses from some leagues and some bigger clubs in those leagues, all the others involved have been very supportive. We also think the proposal is legal, because it is a sporting rule, not a restriction, to develop and promote young players.”

Of the 32 sides in last season’s Champions League, five clubs would not have had enough home-grown players to satisfy UEFA’s new rule. They were Arsenal, Chelsea, Celtic, Rangers and Ajax.

This week Chelsea had only three home-grown players in the squad that played Blackburn, and Real Madrid, in a similar domestic match in Spain, only four.

Premier League clubs have legal advice which suggests that this move will fall foul of EU rules.

Yesterday the Premier League issued a statement saying: “As all the Premier League clubs have the potential to play in European competitions, they do have an interest in this issue. UEFA clearly believe they have a robust challenge to the legal question to institute these changes within their own competitions. However, it is extremely unlikely that such a rule change will be imposed in our domestic competitions.”

The statement indicates that any attempt to make this a rule change that would apply in domestic competitions in Europe, would be fiercely resisted. UEFA have left it to individual national associations to introduce these changes in their domestic competitions, and it is clear that the FA have no intention of doing so.

Arsenal deputy chairman David Dein has criticised the proposals, and believes it will lead to clubs recruiting players at a younger age to satisfy regulations.

“It’s a scaling-down process. We’ve got the best league in the world and you tamper with it at your peril,” he said. “There will be a great danger that clubs will bring younger-aged players, and their families, to the country so they have three years to make them `homegrown’ players.”

“Few Premier League squads would meet the proposals and the quality of the league would suffer. The best play with the best. We don’t think it is a good thing and it would be a scaling down process. All Premier League clubs have an academy and spend millions on developing home-grown players. The league are looking into it.

UEFA’S proposals

2006-2007 season

Squad size for European competitions must be limited to 25. Of the 25 players, two players, aged between 15 and 21, must have been developed in a club’s academy, while two others from the 15 to 21 age group can be purchased from a club in a league of the same national association.

2007-2008 season

The number of home-grown players to rise to six: three from each 15 to 21 category.

2008-2009 season

The number of home-grown players to rise to eight: four from each category.

© Mihir Bose


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