Football: Foreign imports under threat

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The Independent Online
THE English game's authorities yesterday agreed to institute a policy of protectionism and crack down on the ever expanding non-EC foreign legion.

Players from outside the Community will now have to pass stringent entry requirements before joining clubs. Those who make the grade will also have to undergo annual eligibility check-ups.

The chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, Gordon Taylor, who has frequently aired his disquiet about cheap imports stymieing domestic talent, met this week with officials of the FA, the Premier League and Football League and 'agreed much tighter control on non-EC players'.

'From now on work permits will be issued on a yearly basis,' Taylor said. 'And they will be reviewed at the end of each season when we will check the number of appearances made by the player concerned and assess whether he is making a contribution to the game.'

Clubs can buy a non EC-national only if they can prove he is an established international but the recent fuss over Boncho Genchev's arrival at Ipswich has encouraged authorities to tighten the rules. The Bulgarian striker's representative record was clouded in confusion, obscuring the fact that he has only one cap. Now, the scrutinising will be stricter. 'The player will be expected to be a current international with at least two years' experience for his country,' Taylor said.

Ironically, Genchev's prolific form since moving from Sporting Lisbon is superior to other more famous imports and has boosted his chances of acquiring more caps.

Taylor, anxious to keep his union's members employed and encourage youth schemes, added that the calibre of the cap will also be taken into consideration when requests for permits are submitted. 'We will make sure that they (caps) came in competitive games, not just friendly internationals.'

Once in, imports' performances will be regularly appraised. 'We checked recently and of 60 foreign players half weren't appearing in the first team,' Taylor said. 'We must take injuries into account, but if they don't play in three- quarters of their team's matches during a season then they are clearly not meeting criteria.' A review board would then sit to decide whether to renew the permit.