UEFA Chief Executive Lars-Christer Olsson has underlined UEFA's firm commitment to its stance on the local training of players.
Football's future at risk
Speaking after a two-day meeting of the UEFA Executive Committee in Nyon, Switzerland, Mr Olsson said that football's future was at risk if the development of local talent was left neglected.
Finalised in February
Following its latest deliberations on the issue, UEFA's Executive Committee will finalise proposals on homegrown players at its next meeting in February, in order for the proposals to be submitted to Europe's football parliament, the UEFA Congress, in Tallinn, Estonia in April.
This summer, UEFA made public a first set of ideas on the subject and issued proposals for the inclusion of a minimum number of homegrown players (for example, seven or eight) out of the 18 players on match sheets, and a limitation on the number of players in club squads (for example, 25). UEFA is concerned that some clubs are not training enough of their own players, but simply signing them from elsewhere.
The objective is to create a better balance in domestic competitions, preventing clubs from simply 'hoarding' players in squads and creating a system whereby homegrown players would be given a greater opportunity to play regularly - thereby ensuring a large reservoir of talent for national teams as a result.
"There are signs in different countries that it is difficult to recruit young players, because they see that there is no opportunity for them to develop in their own clubs in their own region, " said Mr Olsson.
Danger for the future
"There is a danger for the future. It's so easy to buy players from other continents. We have to safeguard the recruitment of the top talents into football so that they do not choose another sport."
The UEFA CEO said various issues remained to be discussed and some points still needed to be finalised, such as the exact number of players (in squads) and the definition of a homegrown player. "We are also having talks with the European Union to identify what is meant by homegrown without discriminating on nationalities, and we are confident of finding an agreement," said Mr Olsson.
"We have discussed [in Nyon] how the scheme would be introduced - would it be a step-by-step procedure already from next season, or would it make sense to have tougher criteria to be introduced in 2006/07? Clubs would need time to adjust," the Chief Executive explained. "There has to be consensus in this matter, and we want to present a solid proposal to Congress."
Mr Olsson said that UEFA was aware of opposition to its proposals, and was continuing to pursue dialogue with clubs and leagues in particular. "We are going to have a working group consisting of clubs and leagues in January to discuss the final proposal," he said.
"Our ambition is to promote the recruitment and development of local talent. This is where we see the risk for football for the future. We think that it should be beneficial for clubs to invest in their own youth education rather than buy players. We are convinced that for competitions, it's better to have good players in a number of teams rather than all the good players being in a few teams, and sitting on the bench," Mr Olsson concluded.
uefa.com user input
uefa.com's users are also included in the consultation process. They are being asked to give their feedback via an online survey on Europe's football website during December. Users wanting to participate in the 'Investing in local players' survey, should click here.
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