Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Look at the FIFA 6+5 Rule

From an Arsenel Fan?Yeah, seriously.
Let me just nail my colours to the mast, I’m an Arsenal fan who is for the 6+5 rule, a paradox I hear you cackle. I’m a football purist and I believe that the essence of club football is that clubs are agents of the communities they take the name of, and that they should represent these communities to the fullest.

As an Arsenal fan, I and many of my Gooner mates love the likes of Fabregas and van Persie to bits, but if either of them were a Londoner and to a slightly lesser extent English, there is no doubt in my mind we would love them a billion times more. Just look at the love for Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere. I am in no doubt this would be the same for fans up and down the country, and across the globe. For me it is all down to identification, and that is what the modern fan is losing. Clubs aren’t representative of them anymore and are more akin to American franchises, stock piled full of the best “here-today-gone-tomorrow” talent.

This is all why I hope that the 6+5 rule allied to the locally trained players rule goes through. Imagine every team with 5 world class foreigners, allied with 6 local lads battling for the cause. Obviously a slightly exaggerated, romantic and unlikely example, but you get the gist.
Interesting, outside of Europe's top leagues (which is really what FIFA is talking about) the 6+5 rule would not really impact most leagues, which are largely dependent upon native players. Indeed, in MLS, clubs have only a limited number of foreign player spots.

I think the impact of the rule, intended to develop local players and native players, will be to actually diminish the commercial quality of soccer on an international level. But it will have its greatest impact on places like Africa and Asia where high quality players head to Europe and make an impact and draw attention to their nation's footballing skill. But by denying the number of European spots available to world class players from say Africa and Asia, these players don't benefit from playing at a higher level and as a result their national teams and national programs will suffer.

For South Americans, particularly, Brazil, the effect will be the opposite. Brazil exports thousands of players every year, but with restrictions on the number of foreign players, the market for Brazilians will dry up. That means only the very best, top talents from Brazil will get exported, meaning that other quality players will play in the Brazilian leagues and improve the quality of that league, which quite frankly can help that nation's football league.

While I applaud the effort to develop home grown talent for clubs, I think this is a solution in search of a problem.

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