European football fans have stressed that clubs should maintain their regional identity - and that money is becoming more important in deciding which teams win trophies.
According to the results of a survey undertaken by UEFA via uefa.com on the local training of players, UEFA and the European national associations should take measures to address these trends - with fans and UEFA sharing many of the same views on the issue. UEFA is presenting concrete proposals on local training of players to its member associations at Thursday's Ordinary Congress in Tallinn, Estonia.
The response to the UEFA survey, in which uefa.com users were asked to give their views on the matter, was excellent - more than 5,000 replies were received from throughout Europe and from the other five continental confederations. Individual comments were also submitted by many of those taking part in the survey.
There was overwhelming backing for clubs maintaining a local or regional identity - more than 80 per cent were for, and just eight per cent against. In addition, strong support was forthcoming for the assertion that money is an increasingly vital factor in bringing success. Around three-quarters of the fans who responded either agreed or strongly agreed with the view.
Again, around three-quarters of fans either agreed or strongly agreed that UEFA, as European football's umbrella body, and its member associations should come up with measures to address such developments. UEFA is also recommending that its member associations introduce similar measures for the local training of players at domestic level, and will be discussing this with its member countries in Tallinn.
Under the proposals, the 'A' list that teams submit for UEFA club competitions will continue to be limited to 25 players, and from season 2006/07, at least two places on this list will be reserved for players trained by a club's own football academy and a further two places for players trained either by the club's own academy or by other clubs from within the same association.
The 'B' list will also continue to exist - involving an unlimited number of Under-21 players who have been at the club for two seasons. In the following two seasons, one additional place for a club-trained and one additional place for an association-trained player will be reserved on the 'A' list, so that by the 2008/09 campaign, each club will have in its 25-man squad four club-trained and four association-trained players.
UEFA is concerned that some clubs are not training enough of their own players, but simply taking them from elsewhere. The proposed measures have the objective of creating a better balance in domestic competitions, preventing clubs from simply 'hoarding' players in squads and creating a system whereby locally-trained players would be given a greater opportunity to play regularly in club sides.
One encouraging factor to emerge from the survey is that fans feel that UEFA is taking the lead and showing the way forward by proactively identifying problems in European football, developing proportionate solutions and implementing them.
The fans who responded to the survey also welcomed the fact that UEFA is ready to consult them on major policy issues - and the results of the survey demonstrate that, in broad terms, UEFA and the fans share the same views. Further details will be published in due course.
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