Foreigner invasion debate rages in UK

BRITAIN’S Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe has joined the debate about the impact of foreign players in English football yesterday saying the Premier League had “not got the balance right”.


With England facing the failure t

o qualify for next year’s European Championship finals, the likes of Reading manager Steve Coppell and Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard have supported the idea of a quota system for clubs.


“I understand the complexities of the issues around freedom of movement and competition issues but it just doesn’t feel like we’ve got the balance right at the moment and that we need to look at what is possible,” Sutcliffe said in The Times.


“We may need to have some sort of independent look at what needs to happen. We have got the best league in the world and its great that we have got the talent that is there in terms of the Premier League.


“But obviously we need to see how that impacts on and affects the national team.”


However, the European Commission in Brussels poured cold water on any plans to implement a quota system in England, citing entrenched European Union laws on the free movement of labour.


“At the moment any such quota would be illegal,” a spokeswoman for the EU executive arm said.


“We are of course carrying out a review of UEFA’s homegrown player rule but there is still a long way to go on this and anyway the principle which is being spoken about in England would never be allowed.”


FIFA president Sepp Blatter has also proposed a cap on the number of “foreign” players at every club but this was also rejected by Brussels.


World soccer’s top official remains convinced that the new EU reform treaty, to be adopted in December, gives sport an exemption from normal EU rules, known as “specificity”.


“The treaty changes nothing. EU rules remain EU rules,” a senior Commission official told Reuters.


“The treaty allows more scope for negotiation but Mr Blatter and the British sports minister are putting the cart before the horse as it were.”


Premier League leaders Arsenal fielded a completely foreign team in their 3-1 victory over Reading on Monday, while Manchester United had only three English players in their starting 11 against Blackburn Rovers.


Sutcliffe has been outspoken since taking on the job. Earlier this month he caused a stir by labelling the wages of Premier League players “obscene”. — Reuters.