During the Conference on the Specificity and Autonomy of Sport, which took place at the Hungarian Parliament today, 21 October 2009, the European Parliament Vice-President, Pál Schmitt (Hungary), and the FIFA President, Joseph S. Blatter, met to discuss the situation of sport within the European Union and possible common steps to protect the values of sport in general and football in particular.
Messrs Schmitt and Blatter, both IOC members, concurred on the urgency to recognise and respect the specific characteristics of sport in Europe in line with Article 165 of the Lisbon Treaty and on the basis of the document presented in 2008 to the European authorities by the Olympic and Sport Movement under the title of 'Position of the Olympic and Sports Movement on the Specificity and Autonomy of Sport'.
Moreover, Mr Schmitt, who fully supports the FIFA-proposed 6+5 rule, accepted the role of '6+5 ambassador' to the European Parliament in order to promote and defend this rule intended to protect national teams, the training of young players, training clubs as well as the national identity of football clubs.
Messrs Blatter and Schmitt defined an action plan to be implemented in coordination with the programme of the next three rotating presidencies of the European Union - Spain and Belgium in 2010, and Hungary during the first semester of 2011.
At the conference, also attended by IOC Executive Board member and IIHF President René Fasel, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter made the following suggestions: the number '6' - which corresponds to the minimum number of players that a club must select at the start of a match in a club competition who must be eligible to play for the national team of the association in which the club plays - would include players, irrespective of their nationality, who have been registered for clubs belonging to the association in which the club plays on a continuous basis since the age of 12 or earlier. It would also include players, irrespective of their nationality, who have played professional football for clubs belonging to the association in which the club plays on a continuous basis for five years since the age of 18.
Prime Minister of Hungary Gordon Bajnai: "I do support the specificity and the autonomy of sport. I and the Hungarian government wish to congratulate FIFA on its initiatives towards the protection of national teams."
European Parliament Vice-President Pál Schmitt: "I look forward to the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, which represents historic recognition for sport and its specific nature and autonomy. It is my personal conviction that sport is part of national identity and culture, and the '6+5' rule is a symbol for all team sports and gives an opportunity to young talents to take part in the highest level of competition. I expect that besides football, other team sports will also support this initiative since local stars in the line-up make sport more popular and attractive, therefore it draws young people back to the grounds."
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter: "I'm particularly pleased that such a high-level and diversified group of participants at the conference called for a recognition of the specificity and the autonomy of sport. We are not alone in sharing these views, which speak for themselves. The '6+5' rule which FIFA defends is nothing but a fair rule to maintain the integrity, the balance and the uncertainty of competitions. These values are crucial to football."