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Football: Blatter's plan to limit foreign imports to be rejected

THE EUROPEAN Commission will today reject calls for new limits to be imposed on the number of foreign players in European teams, a spokesman said yesterday.

The European Union's executive will instead call for a fund to be set up to compensate clubs for the loss of talented youngsters who come up through small clubs' youth systems only to be snapped up by the game's elite.

Viviane Reding, the EU sports commissioner, will argue in a report on the role of sport in Europe that any attempt to return to quotas on players from other EU countries would be against EU law on freedom of movement. "We're proposing to have a compensation system for clubs which train young players," a Commission spokesman said. "It's impossible for us to impose limits. That's something we would never say. It would be contrary to the principle of the free movement of people. We can never change Bosman in that way."

The 1995 Bosman ruling in the European Court of Justice dramatically changed the European game by lifting restrictions on the number of foreign players allowed in each team and outlawing transfer fees for out-of-contract players.

Since then, British clubs have been swamped with players from other European countries and smaller clubs across Europe have complained that there is little incentive for them to train youngsters if they simply lose them to the big clubs without financial reward.

Earlier this month, Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, and Lennart Johansson, the Uefa president, asked Reding to support their efforts to limit foreign players in European teams. Blatter has been pushing a voluntary scheme under which each team would start each game with at least six players who were eligible for that country's national squad.

The official said the Commission might be able to turn a blind eye to a voluntary scheme set up by the federations, as long as it was non-discriminatory. But he admitted such an arrangement might be open to a legal challenge.

In a document intended for discussion by EU leaders next week, Reding will also highlight the problems clubs face in some countries because of tax regulations.

"There are inequalities in the fiscal regimes in different countries which cause some clubs severe difficulties," a spokesman said. But he added that there were no plans at this stage to give the EU extra powers to legislate on sport. Reding's paper also supports the campaign to eradicate the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport, following a number of high-profile cases in recent months.

The Euro 2000 organisers launched a campaign yesterday to recruit 3,200 volunteers over the Internet to help next summer's tournament run smoothly.

The volunteers, who will be drawn mainly from the two host nations Belgium and the Netherlands, will be selected and trained by an employment agency which has set up two special websites.

Euro 2000 said they were looking for 400 volunteers to work as drivers, parking attendants and accreditation assistants in the eight host cities. However, dedicated fans should think twice before applying.

"The chance of volunteers being able to watch the Euro 2000 matches is not great," the organisers cautioned. "They are part of the operational organisation and this will be running at full speed around and during matches."

The website addresses are: http://euro2000.adecco.be and http://euro2000.adecco.nl.