EU warns Blatter to think again on player quota deals
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission has warned FIFA not to seek "gentleman's agreements" to limit foreign players at soccer clubs, which risk costly court cases like the Bosman ruling.
"EU laws are superior to any such gentleman's agreements," an official at the EU executive familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.
"I would advise FIFA to think carefully and maybe to think twice about such a move."
The official was responding to reports last week in which FIFA officials said president Sepp Blatter will try to bypass EU labour laws by reaching a deal with national associations at FIFA's annual congress next month to limit teams to five foreign nationals on the pitch.
"If say Chelsea were to be blocked from buying Ronaldinho because of such a deal between FIFA and the English FA, the player or Chelsea would, be well within their rights to challenge such an agreement under EU law," another official said.
"Footballers are treated as workers and will always be treated as such, therefore must be allowed access to work in all member states by national authorities."
Soccer's European governing body UEFA has also warned Blatter over his proposals, which conflict with EU laws on the free movement of workers, pointing out that any move to outflank Brussels could potentially lead to widespread legal actions.
UEFA wants a deal with Brussels on its home-grown player rule which sets a quota of locally trained players at clubs but without any discrimination on nationality and avoid a repeat of a 1995 ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) -- Europe's top court -- which proved damning for the sport.
Better known as the "Bosman ruling", named after Belgian player Jean-Marc Bosman, the ECJ gave all sports professionals within the 27-member bloc the freedom to change clubs, much to the anger of soccer's authorities.
"We have to see how it plays out, but yes, this could be challenged in the national courts and if necessary end up at the ECJ which, like Bosman, could prove very costly," the second Commission official said.
To change FIFA's rules, Blatter needs 75 percent support at the congress in Sydney where each of FIFA's 208 member associations who are eligible to vote have one vote each and UEFA as an organisation has none.
(Editing by Miles Evans)
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