Foreign player limit could get FA Cup trial

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The Independent Online

Lord Triesman, the Football Association chairman, has professed a desire to turn the FA Cup into a trial for Sepp Blatter's proposals to limit the number of foreign players each club can field.

Triesman accepts that the Fifa president's plan to impose a quota of homegrown players on clubs – the so-called 6+5 rule – will probably never make it past European Union anti-discrimination laws and, since the FA is opposed in principle to the idea of quotas, cynics may portray these proposal as a way of currying favour with Blatter to boost England's 2018 World Cup bid.

But the FA chairman is keen to support the idea in an attempt to allay concerns among players and managers that the flow of English youngsters is drying up due to an influx of foreign players. His new proposition is the first time that the FA's flagship tournament has been suggested as a way of implementing quotas.

"The FA Cup is directly within our domain," he said yesterday. "Whether there are legal restraints or not there can be a means of implementing an optimum number of English players participating in the FA Cup.

"Sir Alex Ferguson has come out in support of this, stating his view that there should be more English players in major club competitions, and conceivably, there could be. Of course, it's very dangerous to try to enforce a minimum number of English players – but it can be achieved in ways other than enforcement."

The Premier League and its 20 member clubs, especially the "big four" are bitterly opposed to Blatter's 6+5. They consider it to be illegal as well as counter-productive.

Blatter has the support of Franz Beckenbauer, chairman of Fifa's football committee, and Michel Platini, the head of Uefa, and Triesman's suggestion cannot harm England's standing with them.

But coming amid doubts about the status of the FA Cup , the proposals will divide opinion. Blackburn Rovers, Birmingham City and Bolton Wanderers all played under-strength teams in last season's tournament because they were resting big players for the League – and were eliminated. Premier League survival, it seemed, was more important than a possible place at Wembley.

Handing the winners of the FA Cup a place in the Champions League would be a way of maintaining the competition's prestige – and, allied to Triesman's quota system, it would generate a real need to develop homegrown talent.

Meanwhile, Blatter, Platini and the head of the European Parliament have agreed to further talks over Blatter's controversial proposal. Both men met Hans-Gert Pottering, the parliament president, in Brussels this week and initiated discussions on the the plan, following the recent passing of a motion in favour of it by Fifa.

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