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Debate: FIFA six-plus-five rules

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Should the game of football adopt FIFA’s six-plus-five plan for a maximum of five foreign players in a club side?

Contents

Background and Context of Debate:

In recent years football (soccer to Americans and Australians) has become a huge and highly international business. Once even leading teams were full of players born and brought up within a few miles of the club ground. Now many are foreigners attracted by the high wages on offer in the richest European leagues (e.g. England’s Premier League, Spain’s La Liga or Italy’s Serie A). In the Premier League only a third of the players were English in 2007-8, and in some games leading clubs such as Arsenal and Chelsea sent out sides with no Englishmen at all. To some people this development is a cause for celebration - the nationalism of the past has been set aside and the quality of games has improved with the best players in the world facing each other every week. Others argue that having too many foreigners harms the chances of domestic (locally-born) players, allows a few rich clubs to win everything, and weakens the national team. Arguments about foreign players have gone on for many years in the media, without much being done. At the same time the increasing wealth of the top European leagues, boosted by television money and sponsorship, has sucked in the best players from all over the world. European Union rules have made this easier, as citizens of member states are allowed to work in any EU country without restrictions. However FIFA, the international body in charge of football, has now proposed to do something about the situation. At the 2008 FIFA meeting in Sydney its President, Sepp Blatter, got strong backing for his six-plus-five proposal. This would make football clubs send out no more than five overseas players in their starting eleven. The aim is to bring this into effect in the 2012/13 season but whether it actually happens remains in doubt. It would have the greatest impact in Europe, but the EU has said that it would be illegal there as it attempts to restrict the free movement of labour. As the richest and most global sport, football gets the most attention from the media and politicians, but this debate is also important to other team sports. Cricket, basketball, baseball, sumo wrestling and handball have all sometimes seen complaints about the number of foreign players spoiling the game and weakening national sides. The arguments below focus on football and FIFA’s proposals to limit foreign players to five per side, but they could easily be adapted to other sports.


Write Subquestion here...

Yes

Limiting the number of overseas players will be good for home-grown sportsmen. At present only a tiny handful of the best native players will get a chance to play for top clubs. This means that talented young players see no reason to work hard and develop their game, because it is so unlikely they will get a chance to play at the top level. And clubs don’t have a reason to seek out local youngsters and train them, as it is easier to buy a fully trained player from abroad. Limiting the number of foreign players would create incentives for both players and clubs to make the most of their talents.



No

Limiting the number of foreign players will weaken the quality of domestic football. Seeing many of the best footballers from around the world competing against each other every week raises the standard of the whole game. Fans want to see their team playing exciting football and winning games – they don’t care whether the players are local boys or not. Youngsters are inspired by foreign heroes and work hard in order to follow in their footsteps, no matter where they were born.



Write Subquestion here...

Yes

Reducing the number of foreign players would be good for the national team. At the moment many European countries have so many foreign players in their top League that they outnumber the locally-born footballers. This means that only a few domestic players get a chance to compete at the highest level, and the national side suffers as a result. So while English clubs with many foreign players have done very well in the Champions League recently, the English national team has performed badly. Limiting the number of foreigners would give more local players a chance to develop, and so improve the quality of the national side.



No

Reducing the number of foreign players would be bad for the national team. The top sides field many overseas players because they think they are better than most homegrown ones. So those local players at the top clubs have had to fight hard for their places. They are playing against some of the best footballers in the world every week and their game improves as a result. It should be easy to pick 11 of them to form a strong national side. The fact that the England football team has done badly has much more to do with poor management and coaching than the large number of foreigners in the Premier League. If you removed some of the best foreigners and replaced them with less good local players, it will weaken both club football and the national team.




Write Subquestion here...

Yes

This plan would be good for club football. Once the local team was a real source of local identity, with many home-grown players proud to wear the shirt of the club they grew up with. Now players have no local feeling and move often in search of higher wages. How can fans identify with a club full of overseas players who will be gone in a season or two?




No

Local loyalties went out of the game years ago – it isn’t just overseas players who change clubs often in search of higher wages. Everyone agrees that when teams were only full of local boys the standard of play was worse. And strong local loyalties aren’t always good – they used to spill over into hooliganism as the fans from rival clubs fought. More overseas players in football, many with different colour skins, have helped reduce nationalism and racism in society.



Write Subquestion here...

Yes

No

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