UEFA has announced proposals aimed at fostering the development of homegrown players by European clubs. The proposed measures are aimed at increasing competition in domestic leagues and nurturing the national-team game.
The proposals - which will now be put to all major sporting, commercial and political stakeholders in European football - involve the inclusion of a minimum number of at least seven or eight homegrown players out of the 18 players on the match sheets, and a limitation on the number of players in club squads to 25.
The changes proposed by European football's governing body were announced to the presidents and general secretaries of UEFA's 52 member associations at a conference in Lisbon today. UEFA hopes that the proposed new rules could be introduced for the 2005/06 season on a national and international basis.
The measures would be designed to create a better balance in domestic competitions, prevent clubs from simply "hording players in squads" and create a system whereby homegrown players would be given a greater opportunity to play regularly in club teams - thereby providing a large reservoir of talented players for national teams.
UEFA has expressed concern that clubs are fielding too many foreign players who bar the way to the first team for young players. "Some clubs are fielding teams with eleven foreign players," UEFA vice-president Per Ravn Omdal told the conference. "We have to ask ourselves whether this is a development that is wanted in football."
The proposals are not based on nationality-related issues as UEFA has no intention of violating European Union legislation on, for example, the freedom of movement of labour across borders. It launched its proposals after identifying a number of perceived problem areas including a lack of incentive in player training, a lack of local and regional identity as far as many club teams are concerned, a lack of competitive balance, overstocked squads and concentration of wealth among an élite few clubs in many countries.
"We wanted to first introduce these ideas to the member associations," said Omdal. "In the autumn, we will discuss the proposals within the UEFA bodies, as well as with the players' unions, clubs and leagues, and the European political authorities.
"We think this is a question that should be debated, and we hope to gain as many supporters of our views as possible. We think that it is proper and correct to introduce a limit on squads as well, because you cannot have seven or eight homegrown players in a squad of 40. We think it makes sense to limit squads to 25, as is the case for the European cup competitions."
Mr Omdal said he expected opposition to UEFA's proposals "for individual, selfish reasons". He added: "I think it is the task of a sports body like UEFA to create competitive equality. If you look at the tendency in the different leagues, you find two or three clubs out of 18 are dominating, mainly because of financial power. I think that it is correct to move ahead with proposals which make national leagues competitive. All national leagues need fierce and hard competition."
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