So the EU PARLIAMENT HAS GONE ON RECORD opposing Sepp Blatter's proposed "6+5 Rule", saying - as expected - that any such rule would amount to "discrimination based on nationality" and as such runs counter to EU "freedom of movement" laws regarding workers.
This of course is no surprise; various EU apparatchiks have been saying the same thing for months now, and nobody expected them to rule any differently.
So why is it then that Rafa Benitez at Liverpool IS PUTTING HIS PLAYER SIGNINGS ON HOLD until he sees how the FIFA Congress rules on the proposal later this month in Australia. The matter has been settled as far as the EU is concerned, and that's the end of it, right?
Well, this is Sepp Blatter we're talking about here, and he doesn't give up all that easily. And while we can all perhaps agree that he's a bit of a loose cannon, he's definitely not crazy and he doesn't waste time fighting battles he doesn't think he can win.
Of course the point here is mostly to "level the playing field" in the UEFA Champions League because the merely rich clubs can't afford to compete with the obscenely rich ones. In theory.
Of course this is mostly aimed at the Big Four in England, who are indeed dominant at the moment, although most observers doubt that it's a permanent situation.
Be that as it may, all four of those teams WOULD STILL BE ABLE TO FIELD PRETTY POTENT LINEUPS:
How 6+5 adds up to the big four
Six home-grown: Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Owen Hargreaves, Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney.
Five Foreigners: Edwin Van Der Sar, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Cristiano Ronaldo,Carlos Tevez.
Six home-grown: John Terry, Ashley Cole, Wayne Bridge, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole.
Five foreigners: Petr Cech, Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Essien, Michael Ballack, Didier Drogba.
Six home-grown: Justin Hoyte, Theo Walcott, Mark Randall, Kieran Gibbs, Gavin Hoyte, Henri Lansbury.
Five foreigners: Manuel Almunia, William Gallas, Cesc Fabregas, Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin Van Persie.
Six home-grown: Scott Carson, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Jermaine Pennant, Peter Crouch, Jack Hobbs.
Five foreigners: Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Javier Mascherano, Ryan Babel, Fernando Torres.
UEFA and the EU are pushing a somewhat more modest proposal centered on requiring clubs to field more players that have been through a club's academy system. Blatter and FIFA are opposed.
Blatter's rationale is twofold, and very simple:
1) By the same principle through which it bans countries whose governments try to interfere with FIFA processes, Blatters contention - so far unchallenged - is that FIFA is a supranational organization, a sort of NGO, which falls outside of the purview of any single government, including the European Parliament.
He doesn't recognize that Spain or Thailand or the US or anyone else can pass judgments on FIFA policies, and the EU, while representing more than one government, is essentially no different.
2) Blatter says that the "6+5" rule will not prevent any club from signing anyone they want; thus, it would not in any way restrict the "movement of workers" across national lines. ManU, Chelsea and anyone else can sign a hundred foreign players to contracts any time they want, and no one will stop each and every one of them from making a handsome living.
All the "6+5" rule would do is say that you can't put them out on the field at the same time, but the fact that they're not playing is, for contract purposes, irrelevant. Everyone will still get their paychecks.
The first argument is pretty much dependent on your theory of governance. If you accept that no law on Earth can overrule a FIFA edict, then you're in Sepp's corner. If you feel that FIFA is not the last word in all things soccer, then you'll have to move on to #2.
#2 is far more persuasive on face, but you have to accept that starting possibilities have no bearing on signings or salary levels. A difficult sale at best.
The more immediate effect would be to increase the value of middle level domestic players, including, presumably, in MLS, as teams are forced to fight over a limited pool of quality players instead of saying "I can do just as well as you overseas, and for less money".
However all that may be, Blatter has to get 75% of the votes in Sydney and that's not a foregone conclusion (although certainly Jack Warner's 35 are in the bag). It's helpful of course that UEFA doesn't have a vote, so Platini will have to deped on being able to keep the smaller countries in line.
At the end of the day though, one suspects that Sepp will find a way to push this through, at which point everyone is going to have some tough decisions to make.