Six Plus Five Equals Nothing

FIVE PLUS six equals boom time for Boro? No chance. There is a feeling in some quarters that new FIFA plans to make clubs field more local lads could suit a club like Boro who have put great stock in the academy production line, that somehow such legislation would level the playing field by preventing the cash-bloated Big Four breaking the bank in their crazed real life version of collecting Euro 2008 Panini stickers. But it won’t.
In fact such legislation would be a disaster for Boro. It would simply prompt Manchester United and Chelsea to switch the focus of their shopping sprees to domestic talent and they would ransack the Riverside for Stewie Downing, Luke Young and David Wheater, burgle Blackburn for David Bentley and ambush Aston Villa for Agbonlahor, Young and Barry rather than spend in Portugal or France.

The knock-on would be a calamity. The big four would stockpile the best of British youth leaving the rest to scrap it out over journeymen in the Championship to bump up their quota. And prices would shoot up so while Boro would initially cash-in as United and Arsenal got caught in a price war for Stewie and Wheats before paying £30m for the pair but that money would then need to be immediately reinvested in replacements at inflated prices. Boro would end up paying £6m for James Morrison and another £4m for Andrew Davies to make the numbers up.
Luckily, far from being the harbinger of a grand meltdown of the globalised juggernauts of the G14 and a return to a era of English lads dominating the domestic game, Sepp Blatter’s protectionist vision of the future is a complete non-starter.
It is unworkable, unacceptable to the big clubs that run the game and on the surface appears illegal under European emploment law on the free movement of labour. And despite rising xenophobia and dark rumbles of anti-immigration feeling across the continent there is no demand whatsover to limit the numbers of foreign workers in this particular industry. The clubs don’t want it, most fans don’t want it – most want big name foreign signings with European pedigree rather than lower league potential – and there is very little clamour in the press.
But Blatter’s latest outbreak of hostilities against the burgeoning global club competitions that are threatening the market position of his own World Cup brand does point up two particular issues that are deep and on-going problems within the game.
Firstly is the problem endemic within national leagues in bringing through local talent. In all the top leagues the numbers of domestic players starting games for the biggest clubs is in free-fall, with the Premiership the hardest hit of all. Only 170 of the 498 players who started matches in the top flight in 2007-08 were English – just 34.1% of the total. Last season, fewer than one in five starting line-ups would have met Blatter’s quota – Boro, Villa and West Ham are the best insulated while Arsenal and Liverpool are the furthest adrift.
At root it is partly an economic issue – as with many areas of imported labour it is simply cheaper to bring in players of a similar ability from low wage economies – but also partly a cultural one. The pressure for immediate now drive teams to scour the world for ready made talent rather than foster their own potential. And the potential is there, Boro have proved that a well stewarded academy can find and develop first team players but it takes time that some teams have not been prepared to invest. Arsenal for instance have shed from their academy Steve Sidwell, David Bentley, Juston Hoyte, Jermaine Pennant and Matthew Upson, players now trading for big money who were released on the cheap for want of a bit of patience.
The second issue it points up is the legal anomaly of football within European legislation. Blatter is currently pressing for football to be completely exempt from EU labour laws that allow free movement of labour between member states. He says the game has already been given partial exemption in other areas – the Premiership club’s were allowed to side-step anti-monopoly laws and operate as a cartel to sell TV rights collectively for example – and wants that extended. “Where there is a law it can be amended,” he said.
Blatter has been appealing to tabloid populism to outline a ‘commonsense’ position that players should be treated as extra-legal entities, special performers that should not be shackled by employment law . “Workers in Europe can circulate freely but footballers are not workers,” he said. “You cannot consider a footballer like any normal worker because you need 11 to play a match – they are more artists than workers.”
But freedom of movement and employment is at the heart of the European ideal and to change it would not be tinkering at the edges but would mean a fundamental change in political philosophy and the legal basis of the union. And no one can stop a French artist getting their crayons out in London or Berlin because they are not “normal workers.”
John McDonald, spokesman for the European Commissioner for Sport, said: “It is a non-starter as far as we are concerned,” he said. “The resolution of FIFA is to explore within the limits of the law the six plus five rule. And they can explore as much as they like but unfortunately a six plus five rule is against Community legislation.”
Besides, sport is by its nature about the pursuit of excellence, about competing at the highest possible levels and testing yourself against the best athletes, not about artificially keeping the bar low for domestic economic or political reasons or being the best in a limited arena. That is why FA chief executive, who has turned getting it wrong on the big issues into an art form, got this one spot on when he dismissed Blaltters’ central plank saying: “We believe in the meritocracy of players in the team on performance and on ability first and foremost.”
So it looks like Blatter has been thwarted – for now. As we speak he will be in his James Bond super villain style Alpine stronghold, stroking his white cat ‘Havelange’ and thinking up his next evil plan to achieve world domination. Hahahahahahahahahahhahahahaha!


21 thoughts on “Six Plus Five Equals Nothing

  1. I can help but think that even at £4, Andrew Davies would still be overpriced. 🙂
    **AV writes: The deadline has passed for ‘earlybird’ purchases of English utility defenders now and he goes up to the full £4 million.

  2. The big clubs will get around whatever restrictions the authorities put on them. Even if you say they can only play five foreigners it doesn’t stop them employing 20 and rotating them.
    English quotas will just push the prices up so the likes of Boro won’t be able to afford the best of English players and can’t afford to sign imports who can’t play every week.
    Also, English quotas will mean big clubs will start poaching the best kids from academies. They can afford to take a chance on paying £100k for a 15 year old Downing or Wheater and write it off if they don’t make it.

  3. I think at the heart of Blatters obvious disdain for the Prem is the other leagues are giving him earache because of the popularity of our leagues. The Fox Soccer Channel (USA) is now feeding us more and more of that corrupt, obnoxious Italian Seria A rubbish. I’d rather watch teams from the Conference

  4. I can’t see it being brought in the EU will fight it, so will every club in the FA. It’s a ridiculous proposal and as you say will only widen the gap between the big 4 and the rest of the leaugue, especially as 6 is such a big number. One or two I could understand but 6 is out of the question.
    This might be a thick question but what are the rules concerning a players nationality? Is it birthplace or parent nationality? Could a player like Drogba claim political refuge?
    **AV writes: FIFA have a “granny rule” which means that an individual can qualify to play for the country of their birth, of their parents birth or their grand-parents birth. That allows plenty of flexibility.
    That is complicated by different countries having different rules on the legal qualification for nationality and rights of residence. For instance Britain, France, Belgium and Holland all extend passport and citizenship rights to people born in their former colonies. That is why players born in Senegal, Ghana, Chad or Nigeria or wherever qualify.
    That will make ‘six plus five’ even harder to police.

  5. As people have posted the big clubs will get round the rules. We have Barry at Villa wanted by Liverpool. Benitez leaks to the press that he has spoken to O’Neill and will be speaking again after the season ends contrary to what O’Neill has said.
    An ex-Liverpool player, Berger, being paid by Villa says he should go to Liverpool. Barry’s agent says he should go.
    On the England trip to Trinidad Gerrard comes out and says Barry should go.
    Villa dont appear to have sanctioned any move.
    It is disgraceful, nods and winks are one thing but this is different. I am not saying any club are worse than another but it will get worse if Blatters proposals go ahead.
    The problem we have is that several clubs at the top have turned their back on English talent, some dont even have the first team and academy at the same complex. Some have even said they dont want English players and that is the real problem.
    I wonder how many Gooner fans rail at foreign workers doing ‘English’ jobs? If their kids were denied opportunities because of overseas tradesmen would they say it’s OK?
    There has to be a will to develop young players such as at Boro, Citeh, Villa, even at ManU. Without that will to educate and develop, to link to the community then there will be a continued disenchantment with football.

  6. I would like to see all of Europe conform to a single standard for allowing non-European players to live and work in the Community.
    Either that or the UK should adopt the standards of the Belgians etc who allow young players in regardless of their nationality, seemingly.
    Why else do the big 4 have “alliances and feeder clubs” simply to bypass the UK rules?
    Having read earlier in the year that some African boys have been cast adrift by unscrupulous agents once their talent is seen to be not good enough I also think that each young player should be given their fare home and a year’s salary (trainee wages) to encourage them to get some further education at home.
    Any club which gets a young non-European player should be exected to register these players with the PFA and only then would they be allowed to play them.
    The PFA would monitor the players development and ensure that in the event of them not making the grade they would be suitably repatriated. It is scandalous that the PFA are not taking an active role already in this.
    On the subject of the PFA why are they not censuring players who make career-threatening tackles on fellow union members?
    If footballers want to be seen as “entertainers” they should be forced to obtain a union card and adhere to strict rules as to their conduct. Deviation from the rules would carry the final threat of withdrawal of their card and thus exclude them from the game. I believe that actors have to have a valid “Equity” card before they are allowed in the theatrical industry?
    As a member of the viewing public I would like to be entertained on all Bank holidays and have often wondered why there is usually no football on the August Bank Holiday Monday. Why isn’t a League Cup round played on that day? Just some random rants AV!
    **AV writes: Belgium has very liberal residency and nationality laws. Basically it is easy to get a working visa and then if you work there for three years your are entitled to apply for nationality.
    Arsenal twigged this early and have a feeder club there where they park good young players from Africa that would not qualify for a work permit in England. Three years later they are naturalised Belgians and can join Arsenal as EU nationals. Sorted. Result. Loophole.
    A lot of unscruplous agents are also using the backdoor to bring in kids to lower league Belgian sides who they hope to get naturalised then sell on for a profit and sadly if they don’t make it they then just get dumped on the streets. It is a form of football slave trade.

  7. AV the rumour mill is turning everyday with stories of Boro signing the likes of Steven Davis, Wayne Hennessey, Michael Bradley, Edu….Michael Johnson 🙂 etc etc etc.
    When do you anticipate Boro will make their first signings? Hopefully not last minute like in previous seasons and then you have players not doing a full pre-season and suffering the effects during the season and Southgate moaning “he missed pre-season and needs time”.
    The quicker they get players in the more chance people wil buy season tickets for extra revenue.
    “First in, best dressed”
    As per you comment about Peter Harrison and Porritt, umm maybe you a right but i think that was all Chelski fault tapping him up. However i think Michael Johnson would be an absolute star for Boro and he is young, strong and runs all day. Any chance you can start a rumour in the Gazette that Southgate is interested in him? it might set the wheels in motion 🙂
    **AV writes: Start a rumour in the Gazette? Why that is a preposterous notion!

  8. The arguments about EU freedom of movement is a complete red herring. That refers to employment. Any player who sits on the bench all season without ever getting on the pitch is just as much an employee as one who plays 90 minutes every game.
    The proposal is for a team to have a minimum of 6 homegrown players on the pitch at any one time. That is nothing to do with employment law and comes under the jurisdiction of the governing body of the sport.
    We had the same issue several years ago in county cricket who for some years ruled that only two overseas players could be on the field at any one time. Yet Warwickshire were able to circumvent it and play four of the then current West Indian test players by virtue of them having been educated at UK universities.
    In football the rule would be circumvented similarly. All existing contracts would be honoured and the players exempted from the ruling. There are the ways round it of qualification for the home country by means of a couple of years residence etc etc. Not to mention the farcical ways you can qualify for other countries merely because your grandfather was shot down in a zeppelin over that country in World war 1 etc etc!!!
    In the end nothing would change. FIFA has authority today but only until one day the big clubs decide otherwise.

  9. These ideas are all well and good, the idea of protecting the “game” from the cash rich Premiership and disguising it as an interest in saving the English national team.
    What we really need is an attitude change from our youngsters. Harry Redknapp has gone on record, as has Sir Bobby Robson, recognising that the English teenager seems to think he has “made it” by the time they have reached their first professional contract.
    Sir Bobby described his differences with Kieron Dyer when he said the fact that these youngsters are given a fortune for their first contract instead of working through the game and getting your rewards at the end. I mean its like giving the kids a testimonial before the’ve played a game! The perfect example Jermaine Pennant.
    I know this may seem like a sweeping generalisation but I really believe that “Johnny Foreigner” is more prone to dedicating himself to the betterment of his career. The abstinance from drink, the extra training and the avoidence of the WAG culture. A change in attitude of our up and coming stars is more vital than any draconian Blatter plans.

  10. Forever Dormo… spoken like a True Warrenby’ite.
    Same line of thought as myself…no wonder those ‘Friendly’ games played on The Green at Dormo or the football field at Warrenby were so competetive.
    I first posted about the futility of last ‘ten or fifteen’ minutes game time back in the days of Marinelli in fact I’m sure that was the thing that shattered his confidence In the end he just was’nt the player he was when he first came to us

  11. dick le flem wrote…
    I think at the heart of Blatters obvious disdain for the Prem is the other leagues are giving him earache because of the popularity of our leagues. The Fox Soccer Channel (USA) is now feeding us more and more of that corrupt, obnoxious Italian Seria A rubbish. I’d rather watch teams from the Conference.
    Hmmm? And English leagues are immune to corruption are they???
    So, “allegedly / hypothitically” speaking so that AV and the Gazette can be sure that their OK with regards the law…”
    …UK clubs don’t pay agents “fees” which are in fact players wages/bonuses which are then paid to players so as to hide/disguise where these payments come from?
    …in countries where backhanders/brown envelopes are the norm and the usual way of conducting business deals, no UK clubs have ever paid this in order to get their man?
    …there have never been/are no “bungs” in any UK transactions for players?
    …so no UK clubs have ever paid their players cash in hand so as to avoid the tax man?
    …so no UK clubs have ever paid cash directly into numbered Swiss accounts via agents so as to avoid players UK tax?
    …so no UK player has ever bet on the outcome of a match that he played in or has ever thrown a match in return for a large sum of cash?
    Is that really what you are telling me?
    Corruption is everywhere. There may well be more of it in Italy, but to suggest that Italy’s league is corrupt whilst those of the UK are not is simply childish in the extreme.
    P.s. Enjoy Euro 2008. My money is on Italy.
    Get a life.

  12. Interesting that Stewie got a good rating from the viewers on BBC’s ‘rate the players’ section. Even Skysports called his pass to Bridge for the first goal sublime and the second to Defoe Defence splitting, couldnt quite put him in their vote for man of match but he had a good game.
    I am not surprised Capello didnt give Wheats a run. My guess is he was going to keep one of Rio and Woodie on, once he had replaced Ferdinand with Jagielka that put paid to Wheats. As a Boro fan I would have put Wheats on but the manager gets paid to make decisions and that was his.

  13. The main reason for Blatters ranting us that the PL has become to strong a league.
    3 out of the 4 CL semi finalists and an all PL final is enough to drive Blatter over the edge.
    I agree with JP, why roll Alves out to spout on about being a top six side. Prove it by buying quality players.
    Luke Young proved to be an excellent signing, how about Wayne Bridge for the LB slot?
    Proven PL player who would improve the team.
    C’Mon Boro!

  14. John
    It has to be remembered that the correct translation of Capello into English is Capell nil. Like most managers, especially Italian, he loves clean sheets and wouldnt want to pair two new caps together at the centre of the defence even against the meekest of sides.
    The choice of Jagielka in front of Wheats was puzzling. I may have a biased view but i look at Wheats as a top prospect and Jagielka as a worthy pro.
    As you rightly say…. But hey so on to incoming.
    The current speculation over our targets is rather underwhelmimg. I cant see anyone coming in until the window is having its hinges oiled prior to closing.
    The European championships are calming everything down for clubs like ourselves. It will need movement among the big boys before we see the cascade effect at our level. It may be that the ‘Prince of Darkness’ already has a deal or two done though I think it unlikely.

  15. “It may be that the ‘Prince of Darkness’ already has a deal or two done though I think it unlikely.”
    What has Ozzy Osbourne got to do with owt?

  16. So GS reckons both Taylor and Shawky both will have big parts to play next season. Lets hope he is right, however is this just a smokescreen for not signing anyone to replace Boteng if he leaves.
    Taylor is a very promising player, but where will captain Pogi play? If Wheater is a certain starter, Pogi, Huth and Riggott will be fighting over the other CB position.
    GS promised Riggott a fair chance and Pogi is not a natural LB.
    Shawky looked good in his few appearances last season but is not a proven PL player.
    Nothing that I have read that has been released by the club will entice those that pay full price for season tickets to renew or purchase a new ST card.
    Very few PL teams have bought new players yet, however many are being linked with international stars, where as Boro seem only to be linked with Championship players.
    Most of this maybe ‘paper talk’ and perhaps Steve Gibson has learned from his comments from last pre-season’.
    But if Boro are to sell full price ST cards that at least match last season I think they need to sign a player that will get the town buzzing ASAP.
    C’Mon Boro!

  17. This new FIFA directive does NOT breach EU rules on employment. Clubs are still allowed to employ as many foreigners as they like, with the only restriction being they cannot play more than five on the pitch at the same time.
    **AV writes: Yes, that is correct.

  18. Never Happy – Dont get too worked up about transfer activity or the lack of it.As far as I can think there has not been a major move yet in the league.
    I would also take this “linked with” business with a pinch of salt. Lets just hope that behind the scenes something positive is going on.

  19. Never happy- the worst thing Wheato could hear right now is people speculating that he’s “a certain starter.”
    Furthermore, he now only has two years left on his contract he just signed. Sounds fishy to me.

  20. Mobility of factors, one of which is labour is one of the cornerstones of Europe, laid down in the Treaty of Rome
    Asking for this to be removed stands as much chance as a snowflake in hell / Boro winning the CL next season
    But, interesting perspective AV

  21. Malc,
    That’s exactly the site where I got my figure from and why I specifically said “for the season coming up” – the “2009” (2008/09) figures. Fully agree with you with 31st for the season past, but it’s definitely 27th for the season ahead.
    Yours stochastically, but decreasingly interestingly,

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