Quota idea looks doomed to failure
Reading’s erudite manager Steve Coppell kicked it off earlier this week, Steven Gerrard supported it on Wednesday and it’s immediately a hot issue.
Now the great and the good, including FIFA president Sepp Blatter, UEFA president Michel Platini, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and none other than the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, are all involved.
According to reports, discussions involving senior advisors to the prime minister will try to develop what The Guardian calls a “consensual British solution” to the apparent decline in the number of British and Irish players in the nation’s top sides.
Having so many foreigners is, according to Coppell, one of the few men in football with a University degree, having a damaging effect on the England team. If it hasn’t already, it will do soon.
Arsenal, the best team in the country right now, have been singled out by Platini for fielding so few English players. They did not start with one Englishman in the side when they beat Coppell’s Reading 3-1 on Monday. Arsenal manager Wenger totally disagrees with his countryman, and says that the foreigners coming here have improved the standards of English players playing alongside them.
“I have only been here since 1996 but between 1966 (when England won the World Cup) and 1996 you had 30 years without foreign players and you still didn’t win anything,” said Wenger, and you can’t argue with that.
In any case, the argument is flawed.
After the Bosman Ruling of 1995 when the barriers came down on cross-border movement of players within the European Union*, English clubs signed up almost anyone with two half-decent feet and a clever agent for far less than an English player would have cost them. Gradually many of the world’s best players came to England for huge salaries funded by clubs cash-rich from huge TV deals.
So the English game, whether it be the FA, the Premier League, the major clubs and even those lower down the scale all benefit because of the glamour the overseas players bring.
Yet, the argument goes, the English game is suffering because there are too many overseas players here and not enough home-grown talent. You can’t have it both ways. Also, as everyone from the Prime Minister down knows: under EU law you cannot prevent a Polish footballer playing for a top club, any more than you can prevent a Polish plumber fixing a leaky tap in Plumstead.
Saying you MUST start with six English-born or home-grown players in the starting line-up would also not be tolerated by the likes of Wenger or Alex Ferguson. They want to pick the best players available to them on the day.
The authorities have tried before to get round the EU laws without success. I don’t think they will do any better this time.
Mike Collett, Reuters Football Correspondent, London
* See here for a full explanation of the Bosman ruling and a look at the surrounding issues.
PHOTO: Gerrard celebrates his goal against Besiktas in the Champions League, November 6, 2007. REUTERS/Phil Noble