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Blatter backs off on quotas

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Mihir Bose | 09:30 UK time, Thursday, 22 May 2008

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has confirmed to me that at the forthcoming Fifa Congress he will not ask the organisation to force clubs to field only five foreign players in their teams.

For months Blatter has been saying that the Congress, which will take place at the end of month in Sydney, would make it obligatory for club teams to field at least six home-grown players.

But following a meeting with the Uefa executive in Moscow on Wednesday morning, he told me that his plans had now changed.

Uefa President Michel Platini speaks at a press conference in Moscow on 20 May

Talking to me after the meeting in the Uefa hotel in Moscow, Blatter said: "We had a very good meeting with Uefa. I shall ask Congress to say that six plus five is a desirable objective and that Congress asks President Blatter to work with Uefa president Michel Platini and the European federation to realise this objective while working within the laws."

Blatter also said that Fifa would work with other team sports to realise this objective.

This would make it an initiative that would cover sports like handball, volleyball, basketball, ice hockey and many other team sports.

Blatter's comment to the BBC marks a major shift in policy on the part of the Fifa President.

Until recently, it seemed Blatter was intent on making six plus five Fifa policy and was willing, if necessary, to take on the European Union which had made it clear this was against its laws on the free movement of workers.

However, the stand taken by Platini and Uefa has forced Blatter to think again.

Platini, a friend and ally of Blatter, made it clear that while he thought the idea was good, it was illegal and should not be used by world football to set it on a collision course with the EU. Platini reiterated that stance on Tuesday.

It was Platini who also decided that since Blatter was coming to the Champions League final in Moscow, the visit should be used for him to meet with the Uefa executive so he could see how they felt on this issue.

The result of this is that while Blatter and even Platini will argue that six plus five is a good objective, it will not become the policy of world football unless EU laws change. It is difficult to see how it can ever become a football requirement.

Uefa feels there are other initiatives it has taken and is planning to ensure that clubs field more home grown players, but it is keen to do so in such a way that it does not run foul of European laws.

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