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The FIFA Football Committee, bringing together some of the world's finest male and female players as well as other top personalities from the game, considers the 6+5 rule in principle as necessary and also advisable from a moral point of view, but expressed certain doubts as to its effectiveness.
Meeting on 4 February under the chairmanship of FIFA Executive Committee member Franz Beckenbauer (Germany), the FIFA Football Committee addressed a range of topical issues regarding the game, such as the 6+5 rule, artificial turf, goal-line technology and FIFA's refereeing assistance programme (RAP). Lively debates yielded a variety of statements and opinions, all motivated by the common objective to preserve the essence of football and to improve the game.
FIFA President Joseph S Blatter made a strong plea in favour of the 6+5 rule, which basically provides that a club team must start a match with at least six players that would be eligible for the national team of the country in which the club is domiciled. "Over the years and decades, by signing more and more foreign players, clubs have gradually lost their identity, first locally and regionally, and today even nationally as in some cases all players hail from abroad or even from a different continent," said Blatter. "Young players lose their motivation in the same way as their perspectives dwindle in terms of one day getting a chance to play in their favourite club's first team. Strong club competitions with huge prize money for the participating clubs have brought about a two-tier society in many countries as the gulf between the haves and have-nots has widened. Only two or three teams play for the league title and all others are fighting against relegation."
Against this background, Blatter plans to take action by submitting the 6+5 rule to the FIFA Congress in Sydney, Australia, on 29 and 30 May. Mindful of the political environment, the FIFA President will not tackle supranational organisations such as the EU but rather convince them of FIFA's approach, referring expressly to the mention of the specificity of sport in the new European Treaty.
Chairman Franz Beckenbauer backed the FIFA President in his views. "We are living in a globalised world. But I do not think that open markets are the right future for the game. You can also be successful with domestic players, and money alone does not guarantee success."
Some members, however, voiced their doubts over the effectiveness of such a limitation. They fear that top clubs would still buy the best players off the market, effectively depriving medium and smaller clubs, as is currently the case, of good and affordable players. As an alternative, it was advocated that the presidents of clubs be urged to change their approach so as to restore the equilibrium.
Reviewing the latest findings on football turf, the committee agreed with the view that the latest-generation of artificial turf was an alternative but not a substitute for top-quality natural turf. Beckenbauer praised the current standard of such turf as relatively good but hoped that further research would eventually lead to even better pitches. The 2007 U-20 World Cup in Canada, where 29 out of 52 matches were played on artificial turf, resulted on average in more goals and fewer injuries than the 23 matches played on natural turf.
With respect to goal-line technology, the Football Committee questioned whether the very small number of situations requiring this technology warranted the implementation of such extensive, complex and costly measures. Moreover, concern was voiced over the fact that the universality of the game would be jeopardised if such systems were used only in certain events and countries.
The Football Committee further noted FIFA's latest efforts to enhance the quality of refereeing with satisfaction. The Refereeing Assistance Programme, aimed at professionalising the environment in which referees develop and work - at both national and international level - comprises two distinct but related parts:
(a) the preparation of potential match officials for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and the professionalisation of refereeing at top level
(b) the development of refereeing at member association level.
In order to achieve this, refereeing development officers will work hand in hand with instructors around the world to ensure a uniform approach. These efforts will be accompanied by close cooperation with the confederations, member associations and existing FIFA development offices.
While reviewing the 2007 FIFA competitions, the Football Committee was happy to note that the symposium during the FIFA Women's World Cup in China had provided further impetus to develop the women's game. However, it was felt the quality of the game did not yet justify an increase of the number of teams at the FIFA Women's World Cup as the difference between the top teams and the weaker ones was still significant.
Various members were unable to attend the meeting. The following were present:
Joseph S. BLATTER
Franz BECKENBAUER, Germany
Rafael SALGUERO, Guatemala
Zbigniew BONIEK, Poland
Anastasia TSICHLAS, South Africa
ABEDI PELE, Ghana
Sven Goran ERIKSSON, Sweden
Hege RIISE, Norway
Philippe PIAT (FIFPro), France
Pavel CEBANU, Moldova
Ali DAEI, Iran
Christian KAREMBEU, France/New Caledonia
Vlatko MARKOVIC, Croatia
Inaki SAEZ, Spain
Dejan SAVICEVIC, Montenegro
Andy ROXBURGH, UEFA