Football: Rules on imports relaxed

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's transfer system, which has been in a state of flux since the Bosman verdict, changed again yesterday when the Department of Education and Employment relaxed rules concerning work permits for non-European Union players.

Allowing Ilie Dumitrescu and Marc Hottiger to join West Ham and Everton respectively, a revised criteria for foreign international footballers was announced, allowing them one transfer to a new club regardless of the number of first-team appearances for their previous club.

Cheryl Gillan, the Education and Employment Minister, said the decision, which followed consultation with the Association, League, Premier League and the Scottish FA, was "good news for football". She explained: "We have recognised it is important to allow British clubs to benefit from the contribution which top-class internationals can make while still ensuring that opportunities for young players from this country to break into top-flight football are not stifled."

Romania's Dumitrescu moved to West Ham from Tottenham nearly a month ago for pounds 1.5m but his application for a new British work permit was refused because he had played fewer than 75 per cent of firstteam matches for Spurs since his arrival in England. A similar situation delayed Switzerland's Hottiger joining Everton from Newcastle in a pounds 750,000 deal.

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