ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The Turkish Football Federation has removed limits on the number of foreign players allowed in its teams in an apparent effort to rein in soaring prices for home-grown players and raise the competitiveness of the game.
The move, announced late on Monday, allows clubs to have 14 domestic and 14 foreign players in their 28-man squads, paving the way for them to field 11 foreign players in matches. Previously a maximum of six were allowed to play at any one time.
Loosening restrictions appears to be a bid to dampen inflated prices for Turkish players, and to raise the competitiveness of soccer in the country.
Home-grown talents have been trading for millions of dollars on the domestic market, but many question whether they represent value for money.
“I support having no limit on the number of foreign players. We had to spend too much undeserved money on Turkish players because of the limit,” top-tier club Karabukspor’s manager Tolunay Kafkas, told AlJazeera Turk.
Turkey’s bigger teams, regulars in Europe’s top club competitions, have been agitating for the rules to be relaxed. Galatasaray coach Hamza Hamzaoglu said the move would make teams fairer and more competitive, and could even benefit Turkey’s beleaguered national side.
The move is meeting opposition from others, however, who fear the influx of foreign players makes it harder for Turkish nationals to flourish. Prominent commentator and former referee Ahmet Cakar described the move as “wrong and partial.”
“(This) will mean an end to our hopes of national team success,” he said.
Turkey are languishing fourth in their qualifying group for the next European Championship, and have reached only one World Cup in the last 60 years, finishing a surprise third in 2002.
The country is not alone in struggling to find the right balance between domestic and foreign footballers.
In England, the Football Association is looking at ways to limit the number of non-EU players coming to play, amid suggestions that the sharp rise in the number of foreigners plying their trade in English leagues is linked to the national team’s lacklustre recent performances.
Official figures for the 2012-13 season showed that fewer than a third of all players starting Premier League matches are English, down from 69 percent 20 years earlier. Around half of all players in the Turkish league this season were Turks.
Additional reporting by Jonny Hogg in Ankara, editing by Jonny Hogg/Nick Tattersall and Ed Osmond