Relief at end of 'foreigner' rule

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The Independent Online
Amid the general dismay over the wholescale changes in football's transfer system, the silver lining yesterday was the abolition of the three-foreigner rule in the European club competitions, writes Guy Hodgson.

British teams have suffered this restriction more than others because England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are regarded as separate countries by Uefa. Partly as a consequence, British clubs have won only one European trophy since its introduction, the Cup-Winners' Cup in 1994, by Arsenal, and Rangers, Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers have all failed to get beyond the early stages of the European Cup in the last three years.

Rangers have been lobbying for a change in the three-foreigner rule for several years and yesterday the club's vice-chairman, Donald Findlay QC, welcomed its scrapping by the European Court of Justice. "We are delighted with the verdict," he said. "It means that our foreign players are now just Rangers players, pure and simple, and are available for every game."

Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United, who was forced to juggle his teams in 1993-4 and 1994-5 in the Champions' League, was also pleased, if a little frustrated. "It's come two years late for us," he said, "because we'd have had a chance of winning the European Cup in 1994 otherwise."

One dissenting voice was Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, who fears for England's future. "I think this will lead to a flood of foreign players coming here, which I believe will be to the detriment of our game. The only way to control the number of imports will be to ban non-European footballers from competing here."

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