Jerome Champagne, FIFA's Director of International Relations, talks about the 6+5 rule and its importance to the future of football.
FIFA World: Why are the findings of the INEA report important?
Jerome Champagne: They are important for at least two reasons, firstly because in the last year a lot of people told us ‘We love the concept of 6+5 but ...', and the ‘but' was whether or not it was compatible with EU law. Now for the first time this independent report has demonstrated that it is compatible. Secondly it shows that we are fulfilling the commitments we gave in Sydney to explore all four avenues: speaking to the football stakeholders, then the International Olympic Committee and other sports federations, thirdly the politicians and fourthly exploring the legal dimension.
So should this report be enough to end all opposition to 6+5?
I think if some people want to carry on believing the rule is incompatible with EU law then they will do so. This report, carried out by extremely competent independent professors, provides the scientific and legal evidence however to demonstrate that the rule is compatible. What is also clear is that the dividing line has changed. Before the situation was being presented as FIFA versus the EU. But now everyone can see that FIFA is backed by the IOC, other team sports federations, the players' union
FIFPro, many club chairmen, individual European parliament members and of course the European sports ministers who already expressed their support at the meeting we held with them in Biarritz in November.
What about the argument that football coaches should be able to choose the best players available to them, regardless of what national team they play for?
There is a theory that 6+5 would constrain a little the technical quality of a few teams but it's also possible to argue that the opposite scenario is the case because we believe some of the players who would come in, aged around 20 or 21, would actually raise the quality of these teams if they were given the chance to expose their talents. Just as importantly the rule would help to restore some competitive balance and perhaps stop some of the one-sided score-lines that we have started to see again in the European Champions League. 6+5 is all about putting the 'contest' back into competitions, so I think it's surely a false argument to say it will level down the overall quality.
Most of the media's attention has been focussed on the debate over EC law, but presumably there are other trade blocs around the world who would be affected by 6+5?
Certainly, it is not just an EU issue although clearly Europe has the biggest professional football scene which is why the debate here has dominated the headlines. But when the FIFA President opened the floor for discussion at the Sydney Congress we heard first from the representatives of Guatemala and Saudi Arabia who spoke about the need for 6+5 in their regions where there are also unified labour markets in place or being created. The Australian FA President Frank Lowy told us how they need 6+5 there to protect the local football base from an invasion of nearly-retired European professionals. In Brazil, we have had President Lula asking the FIFA President to help end the migration of young Brazilian players. There are different continental or regional organisations covering political or trade issues everywhere, but our vision is that 6+5 should be valid worldwide. The overriding issue in all of this is that sporting bodies must have autonomy in sporting matters and we do not want the universality of football and its regulations to be fragmented by national or continental regulations.