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31st Mar 2023

Football chief wants to challenge EU over labour rules

The president of the World Football Association - FIFA - has indicated he is ready to challenge EU law on the freedom of movement of workers by suggesting a cap on the number of foreigners allowed in any one football team.

Football clubs should have no more than five non-nationals on the pitch at any time even if it goes against EU labour rules, said FIFA chief Sepp Blatter in an interview with the BBC on Friday (5 October).

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  • Are footballers artists or workers? (Photo: European Parliament)

Such a move would encourage the development of homegrown talent, he argued, saying that too many foreigners on a team is bad for the development of football.

"This is a matter of principle and we need to protect the national identity of the football clubs," Mr Blatter said, adding it would increase opportunities for homegrown players.

Football clubs in the EU currently have a restriction of three players from outside the 27 member bloc, but have had no restrictions on players from within the Union since 1995.

Twelve years ago, the controversial Bosman ruling by the European Court of Justice - named after the Belgian football player Jean-Marc Bosman who won the case - concluded that such restrictions discriminated against nationals of EU states.

The free movement of workers within the EU is one of the bloc's core principles.

"The EU say that this is not possible based on free circulation of workers but in football principles are different...You cannot consider a footballer like any normal worker because you need 11 to play a match - and they are more artists than workers," Mr Blatter argued.

"When you have 11 foreigners in a team, this is not good for the development of football. Football has never had the courage to go against this practice but it must now," he warned.

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