Restoring football's competitive balance is one of the reasons why UEFA is proposing new rules on locally trained players - first in its own club competitions, the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup, and then possibly in domestic competitions if UEFA's 52 national associations accept the proposals this spring.
On Thursday, the European body revealed concrete proposals whereby from 2006/07, clubs playing in the UEFA club competitions would first have to include, in squads limited to 25 players, two players trained by the club's own academy and two players trained by other clubs from the same association.
Eight out of 25
Over the following two seasons, one additional place for a club-trained and one additional place for an association-trained player would be reserved on the 'A' list that clubs submit to UEFA for European club competitions, so that by the 2008/09 season, each club would have in its 25-man squad four club-trained and four association-trained players.
A club-trained player is defined as a player who has been registered for a minimum of three seasons with the club between the age of 15 and 21, whereas an association-trained player is one who has been registered for at least three seasons by the club or by other clubs affiliated to the same association between the age of 15 and 21. The proposals do not involve players' nationalities.
Studies commissioned by UEFA show that for some ten years or so, both the UEFA club competitions and European domestic top flights have become less competitive, with the same clubs constantly competing for the honours in many countries. "There have been fewer teams winning the competitions, whether it is European competitions or national competitions, over this period," UEFA Chief Excutive Lars-Christer Olsson told uefa.com.
"This is why the proposal also limits the size of the squad [to 25], because we have found out in our studies that some clubs are 'hoarding' players to have bigger squads, or, in some cases, to prevent other clubs having the players - and many players who were national-team players when recruited by clubs have not been playing, or not even sitting on the bench in some cases. Perhaps reducing squads will also have a positive effect on some clubs' finances.
"The trends are clear. We have done studies showing that compared to around 1995/96, when the Bosman ruling was introduced, the number of players trained in an association and playing in [that association's] top league has gone down by 30 per cent."
Mr Olsson admitted that there had been negative responses to the proposals from some major leagues and their larger clubs, but added that the majority of stakeholders consulted had been in favour. "We don't think there should be any legal problems - of course [the system] could be challenged - but we have talked to [political authorities] in Brussels about this matter, and there is a group in the European parliament called 'Friends of Football' who are very supportive of this initiative - they have even said that more should be done.
"We have been talking to people within the European Commission, and they have told us that as long as UEFA does nothing illegal, it is fine with them. There are a lot of positive political noises around."
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