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The UEFA Proposal - Is It Time?

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 06/07/2004

UEFA have announced that they are putting forward a proposal to limit the number of foreign players in clubs across Europe and placing a limit of 25 players in a squad including eight 'home grown' players.

The proposal by UEFA is to stem what they call a problem with "the growing influx of foreign footballers with fans no longer relating to their local team and clubs going heavily into debt in the pursuit of success"

On the face of it, this might seem to be a sensible step forward. But is it?

The fact that clubs drive themselves into debt is a separate issue and not a 'football' problem as such. It is people serving as directors who have little knowledge of budgetary planning who gamble on the future of their club for short-term gain.

Directors, who have a legal responsibility to ensure that the books balance, but appear to skip away without penalty when the club falls into administration.

Maybe this is an area that UEFA should be pursuing.

What UEFA in this instance seem to overlook is that footballers like workers in other trades or professions, have rights, stipulated by the EC, to work anywhere in the European community (providing they are Europeans).

IF UEFA are now saying that football is a separate and special case in employment terms, why did they not plead that football was a special case to the European Commissioners when a ruling was made regarding TV rights in Britain?

Could it be perhaps that the big and wealthy clubs, who we envy, are providing opportunities for employment to other players, which directly affect clubs in the lower leagues such as Grimsby Town?

With increasing numbers of foreign players on the books, some British players have to start looking for employment in the lower leagues, if they wish to stay in the game and, over the last few seasons we have seen the effects of that with first, second and third division clubs retaining players who previously were out of their financial reach.

There has always been controversy about foreign players in the English leagues but if one looks at the whole picture, has English football benefited from their involvement?

The Premier league is now regarded as the best league in the world with many players overseas stating their ambition to get the opportunity to play in it. That was never the case before English clubs took on more 'foreigners'.

The quality and standard of football has improved, with the 'foreign' influence and we have seen clubs recognise that fact by the increasing numbers of clubs employing foreign managers which, in turn, gives the lower league clubs access to better quality managers who have left the Premier league. (I accept that not all would agree with the term better quality in regard to some)

We still have a long way to go, but if UEFA stop dabbling and let natural processes determine the size of squads and the involvement of foreign players, could it be that we might see less players ending up on the dole?

Despite their so-called inflated wages, players are still workers and anything that affects the employment opportunities for the workingman, no matter what his calling, should be rejected out of hand.

I was one of those who resented the influx of foreign players into the English game but based on what I see now, I believe their involvement has added a great deal to the game. That is not to say that we have got the right balance yet. But UEFA's proposed ruling may not be the answer either.

Football has changed considerably over the last three years with the failure of ITV Digital and the decrease in TV rights fees. The full effects of those changes have not yet reached their peak but the indications are that clubs have realised the importance of good fiscal management and they are now being forced to take a different line.

Maybe UEFA are right but, in my opinion, their proposal is too early. It will be at least another 2-3 years before we will see where the future lies. Acting hastily now may bring even more problems than those the proposal is intended to solve.

But what do you think? Are UEFA right? Are foreign players and squad sizes a problem?

Your views on the Message board please or, if you wish to submit an article, see next paragraph.

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