Socceroo and AC Milan goalkeeper Zeljkoalac © Getty Images

The European Commission (EC) has recently scuppered FIFA’s plan to implement a new ruling, which imposes a quota on the number of foreign players, allowed to be fielded by a club. Called the ‘6+5’ Rule, it is intended to curb the influx of foreign professionals by putting in place a restriction that only allows clubs to field five foreigners in the starting line-up. The remaining six must be eligible to play for the country in which the club is based.  If implemented, the rule could have seriously limited the opportunities for the many Australians such as ‘keeper ZeljkoKalac (pictured) to excel on the world stage and even forced some with dual nationality to select their European heritage in lieu of a Socceroo cap.

According to the EC, which is the executive body of the European Union (EU), this rule is a violation of its free trade law as it intends to curb the movement of players within the EU’s 27 member countries.

Championed by FIFA president, Sepp Blatter and the chairman of the FIFA Football Committee, Franz ‘Der Kaiser’ Beckenbauer, the duo’s main argument for this rule is that if European clubs are allowed to continue to invest only in overseas talent, they stand to lose their identity and the local community will no longer be able to identify with the team.

It is clear that the ruling is aimed at the likes of Arsenal and a clutch of Belgian clubs who have in recent seasons, not fielded even a single local player in the first XI.

But, the proposed concept has already been met with heavy criticism from within European football circles as many club owners already feel that they are already too many restrictions being placed on them.

Glasgow Celtic has been vociferous in their opposition to FIFA’s brainchild and not surprisingly, Arsene Wenger has also spoken out claiming that a manager’s priority is to field the best possible side without any restriction on where a player is born.

Blatter had intended to present this proposed rule to the 58th FIFA Congress scheduled in Sydney from 29 to 30 May, 2008, however, in the wake of this setback it remains to be seen if this item will be put on the Congress agenda.

From an Australian perspective, the rule would make it more difficult for local players to obtain playing contracts in Europe and could even result in our players being forced to take up dual nationality, which would result in a talent drain from the Socceroos.

PFA Executive Chairman Brendan Schwab said all current and aspiring Australian professionals can now breathe a sigh of relief.

“We are pleased that the EC has again upheld the players’ rights to freedom of movement and employment,” Schwab said.  “We also feel the decision is good for football, as the global movement of players has dramatically increased interest in football in many developing football nations such as Australia, and enhanced the international competitiveness of many national teams, including the Socceroos.  It has also seen an explosion in the commercial value of the best European leagues, which attract an international television audience through the skill and diversity of their players.”