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Does Football really need the 6 plus 5 rule?


This week, the 58th FIFA Congress is taking place in Sydney, presided over by Mr. FIFA President Sepp Blatter. As part of the agenda, the delegates have approved the 6+5 rule, which would allow any team to field only five foreign players on the pitch at one time. This rule is to be implemented by 2012 all around the world.

However, the European Union has declared such a rule illegal. Also, despite the best efforts of the FIFA delegation to show that the 6+5 rule is necessary, my research has yielded only inconclusive proof for the need of such a rule, based on comparisons of several European leagues and cup competitions.

European Cup finals

european-cup.jpgHere are the lineups Manchester United and Chelsea fielded in Moscow (foreigners noted with an asterisk):

Manchester United — Edwin van der Sar*, Patrice Evra*, Owen Hargreaves, Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Cristiano Ronaldo*, Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic*, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Carlos Tevez* (6+5).

Chelsea — Petr Cech*, Ashley Cole, Claude Makelele*, Michael Essien*, Ricardo Carvalho*, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Didier Drogba*, Michael Ballack*, Florent Malouda*, John Terry (4+7).

In the UEFA Cup Final, Zenit Saint Petersburg sent out a team made up of seven homegrown players and four foreigners. Rangers had exactly a six plus five lineup.

So, Zenit Saint Petersburg, Manchester United, and Rangers already followed the rule, without being required to do so, and without any influence from outsiders. In both Cups, the team with more homegrown players went on to win. This seems to point to the idea that the 6+5 rule is not necessary. But read on…


Looking outside the Premiership (seems nobody ever does this anymore), there are plenty of other European leagues that can be influenced by this ruling. Namely the Scottish Premier League, where Old Firm rivals Celtic and the aforementioned Rangers have had a stranglehold on the league for a very long time.

old-firm-derby.jpgIn the last Old Firm derby of the season, Celtic broke the rule by two players (7+4), while Rangers followed it exactly (6+5). In this match, Daniel Cousins of Rangers was the only foreigner to score, and the influential red card was shown to a Scotsman, Rangers’ Steven Whittaker.

Keep in mind that, while Celtic won the league, Rangers had what most people will call a more successful season, finishing as runners-up (which qualifies them for the Champions League), as well as winning the Scottish Cup and reaching the UEFA Cup Final.


juventus.jpgThe top four teams in the Serie A this season were Inter Milan, Roma, Juventus, and Fiorentina, in that order. The Italian title resembled the Premiership crown race, with the top two pulling away, the next two places relatively secured, leaving the rest to chase.

Looking at lineups from several matches, as well as complete squad lists, Inter Milan benefits the most from foreign influx, while Roma, Juventus, and Fiorentina rely heavily on homegrown producers. Specifically, in the last Roma v Juventus match of the season on the 23rd of April, which ended in a 2-2 draw, Roma put out a team in 6+5, while Juventus fielded a team of even more Italians, in a 7+4.

The league table, just like the one in England, supports the argument in favor of the new rule, but the fact that three of the top four clubs (although not the champions) normally play with more Italians than foreigners cannot be ignored. Also, in the Coppa Italia final (Italy’s FA Cup), Roma defeated a foreigner-laden Inter Milan squad.


It is natural that the best players will gravitate towards the same club, due to monetary influence and the desire to put oneself in the best possible situation for success. Therefore, the best homegrown stars will bond with the best foreign players to achieve their common goal of success, at any club that can afford them. Juventus and Manchester United are perfect examples of this. Both are clubs with great histories and great legacies within their own country, and thus an ability to attract local talent, and internationally, bringing an ability to attract foreign talent, not to mention a well-funded transfer kitty.

money.jpgIn football competition, results and statistics do not lie when looked at objectively. In the research I have presented here, teams with more foreign starters have excelled in domestic leagues (Celtic and Inter Milan), but not necessarily in others (Man United and Chelsea). In European Cups, it appears that, this season, the competitions have proven a 6+5 rule to be unnecessary, with the two winning teams in UEFA’s premier cups fielding more homegrown stars than foreigners. The domestic cup winners I mentioned (Rangers and Roma) upheld the trend.

However, Inter Milan’s record, as well as those of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain cannot be ignored. Their use of foreigners is not a secret or a surprise. Therefore, it cannot be stated that the rule is definitely useless.

The general trend is that the clubs with the most money can attract the best players, foreign or otherwise. Therefore, perhaps a better solution would be to instill a kind of salary cap, with only a given amount of players on the same team being allowed to make a certain amount of money in wages.

However, this is really a matter of opinion. Everybody’s opinion is valid in this argument, and I believe there is no right or wrong answer, at least based on statistics and general trends across European football, where there is the most controversy over the 6+5 idea.

Please leave a comment and let Soccerlens readers know your opinion on the matter. I’ll start: I am against the 6+5 rule because it adds too much regulation and complication to the game. In my opinion, a salary cap like the one I mentioned would be a better solution to evening out domestic league tables.

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Comments (23)

  1. Instead of a 6 + 5 rule, why not a salary cap? it’s more flexible but still limits the amount of money that a team can throw around.

  2. This rule will skyrocket transfer fees even more…

  3. it is simply the prudent and smart thing to bring as many natives into a Club first team. whilst the highest standards of physical talent, skill & strength are required (hardware) the real difference to any TEAM is the mental & emotional aspect (software). having more natives in the team adds to the spirit of a team.

    fergie has always believed and stated that homegrown talent (both English and British) has been the bedrock of his successful teams. signing foreign players has always been to add dimensions of play & style to his game plans.

    “He had a vision of young players, who grew up with the club, who loved the club and who had the spirit to take the club to a different level,” says Neville. “In his early years at the club, Sir Matt Busby was still alive, he had an office here and the manager would talk to him. I am sure that played a part too.” (from:

  4. i forgot to add… making it a rule though is stupid. with injuries and suspensions, it could really damage the integrity of a seasons final standings.

  5. The stats you’ve used could easily be interpreted to show that the rule will make teams more successful.

    IMO more research is required – with a broader sample taken across a longer time period than just one season.

  6. Only a limited amount of primitive minds could conclude that rangers had a more succesful season than Celtic, Who are now The Champions for a record breaking 3rd time in a row, having entered the knockout phase of the last 16 of the Superior Champions League, 2 seasons running & DIRECTLY Qualify for it again, without having to play 4 matches which rangers WILL be playing to get as far …. I smell a perverely stupid pseudo journalist who’s a SORE “LOSER” …. SUFFER !!!!

    HAIL !!!! HAIL !!!!

  7. Liviu:

    This was a very good analysis.

    One point that may have alluded FIFA during their research is that “foreign” can be a relative term. Or perhaps for President Blatter, it means anyone outside of Switzerland or playing above 2500 meters. :-) Mandates such as this one would have created more harm than good, imho.

    Let’s look at Internazionale. As you noted, they field virtually a foreign side; however, several players hold dual citizenship and are “Italian.” Namely, Hernan Crespo, Walter Samuel, David Suazo, and Javier Zanetti. Ivan Cordoba and Julio Cruz might be as well, along with others. These are all due to either Italian ancestry, Italian wives, and/or time lived in Italy which qualified them for an EU passport and Italian citizenship.

    For example, Kaka’ of AC Milan became an Italian citizen last year. So that liberated another non-EU slot on their roster, which paved the way for the big-money transfer of the young Brasilian, Pato. Ronaldo, before his injury, also held Spanish citizenship and was deemed an EU player. Obviously, this happens in other leagues. Ronaldinho has Spanish citizenship. I am certain there are many other examples, but it seems to happen more frequently in Italy.

    Even if this rule were implemented, a lot of teams would have found ways around it. I believe, as has been noted here, that a combination of home grown and foreign talent is the proper course for long-term success. I’m not certain that salary caps would be the answer. In order to understand the one for MLS, you would need to take several economics classes by Professor Gulati. :-)

  8. Right on Jim… if ever the theory of HEGEMONY ie : say something often enough and everyone will believe it – was given credence – it is with this crazy notion that Rangers had a successful season – face it!!! you lost the league on the last day of the season… the only meaningful competition in Scotland…. it sucks… you were devastated….your faces told the whole story… get over it… move on… accept it… your brand of negative-football was found out in the end….try harder to play football next time.

  9. Go and pick up your giros and leave these hard working journalists alone.

  10. I agree with the first comment about a transfer cap. I know Liverpool keep below 40million anyway but this would reduce the price of players and money wouldn’t be such a mad part of football anymore.
    I think its an alright Idea, Mainly because Scousers are natural good athletes and we are bound to find more Owen, Gerrard, Carraghers, Redknapps or Fowlers.

  11. First of all- this qualifies as official racism. It is retarded and narrow minded and does not come anywhere NEAR the real problem, as Mr. Bilal put it once, which is the MISuse of money in football. Darren Bent is expensive enough as is, making this a rule will only make his value sky rocket.
    Sepp Blatter is a useless twat, brought in as Horst Dassler’s crony who has fixed too many ballots to stay in power too damn long.
    Second of all- What people don’t quite see is that Roman Abrahamovich for instance, is a business man. He does not WANT to spend that much. He is not an idiot and this is NOT Brewster’s millions(It’s a film…)!
    If we could all just wake up and see that if we used a salary cap, or even just upped taxation on higher salaries/transfer fees, it would be something even the likes of him would embrace. Personally, i see football as it is, as being perfect. Bumpy but perfect. And say what you like, we’ve seen one hell of a year and we’ve all had an awesome time with the way things turned out. It is like any other market. It will eventually crash. And when it does, we’ll play again, and watch again and do everything again until it’s all like this again.
    LET THE SPORT BE! Do a salary cap if you must Mr blatter, but for the love of god, all this stupid rule will yeild is more money being spent on LESS valuable players, if not for desperate necessity, then only to convince them to change their nationality.

  12. I’m in favour of the 6+5 ruling. Admittedly I haven’t looked into as much as you guys have but there is clearly a serious problem with the lack of home grown players and this is evident in England. You look at the Top Fours’ most consistent starting Line Ups and there are so little English players. Man Utd lead the way with around 6 (Brown, Ferdinand, Carrick, Scholes, Hargreaves and Rooney), Chelsea have 4 on a good day (Terry, Lampard, Ashley and Joe Cole) and then Liverpool which usually only field 2 (Gerrard and Carrick) and Arsenal with none (only Walcott and Hoyte are in the first team squad). So of a potential 44 players, only 12 are English so 27% I believe. Recent reports show the number of Home Grown players in the Premier League at an all time low at 34%. At the same time the national team (atleast under McLaren) was very poor. When you have coaches like Wenger who would much rather prefer to buy foreign youngsters to put bring through (Fabregas, v. Persie etc) than push for their own Home Grown youngsters it is clear what is going to happen. This also leads to the ‘Mercenary’ behaviour that is ripe at Arsenal, for example Flamini, who will leave in search of a better deal. As I said before, I believe the 6+5 rule is the only way to stop this from happening.

  13. Teams like Arse-anal and Inter are the problem. Pretty much every club has at least 2-3 domestic starters in its squad, but as I said, clubs that insist in signing only foreigners make rules such as 6+5 needed. Players really should be looked upon according to their quality, but what are you going to do with people like Arse-ne Wenger, who would rather field his first-grade teacher than an English player? This rule is basically unfair and against EU laws, but hell… Anything is better than what Arsene is doing. Something really needs to be done, and done soon. What I really don’t understand is why are people doing it. Well, you could argue that English players are overvalued and relatively few, but what about Inter, who are loaded with money, and whose native country is the world champion(!), but still it appears that they wouldn’t touch an Italian with a 50-metre stick. They could have a healthy domestic core of players, but they simply don’t want to. Now, what to do but to force them?

  14. There were some very good points raised in the 6+5 blog started by frankie.I suggest all of you post your answers there

  15. a salary cap would work better. Like lets say you have a salary cap of 3 million a week(a high number but just go with me)
    Foreigners to the club are in effect worth 100% of the salary cap. if they earn 100,000 a week they put that much towards the salary cap.
    If you are from the same place the league you play in is(ie national player) you are worth 75% of the cap. if you get 100,000 a week its same as an international who gets 75,000.
    If you are homegrown(train at the club while you were young for 3 years or more) you are also worth 75%.
    For a player who is trained at the club and is from the same country they are worth a measly 50% of their value to the cap.
    Of course you need quite a bit of tweaking with ages, actual percentages and max salary per player. Also a cap of something like 1.5 – 2 million euros would make many clubs think seriously about homegrown talent. Maybe make european level contenders use the 6+5 in UEFA and CL so little clubs arent hurt as much.

  16. 6+5=0 !!

    This is disgusting, discriminatory and an affront to capitalism, free trade and economics in general.

  17. In this years Champions League 4 of the final 8 (Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal) were English teams, yet the national side failed to qualify for the European Championships. There has been so much talk about the lack of players available to England managers that something has to be done.

    Part of the problem is that an English player from the Championship or League One will cost you a couple of million, whilst a player of similar quality from abroad will cost a few hundred thousand – we seem to be pricing ourselves out of the chance to buy English players.

  18. there isnt no fucking lack of english talent ur telling me that england doesnt have enough superstars to win the world cup ur fucking crazy i swear blatter is a bastard him and platini need to fucking leave the game is i swear i watched the english league even tho im spanish american ur telling me cesc has to leave back to barca because of a fucking thats racist what i learned about europe is that no matter where the fuck ur from u can come and prosper and there would be even bigger bidding wars can u imagine barca and real madrid in the spanish league how fucking one sided would that be i swear thanks e.u. i knew we could depend on u to slam the door on such a rediculous proposal

  19. I support the 6+5 rule and i also agree with the salary capping and transfer tags like £50million!

    Its not for the sake of international football i feel we should have the 6+5 but for the country. how can a team like arsenal be taken seriously, theo walcott and… the reserves reserves!

    I realise this country is a settlers rock and always has been. but look at it this way, italy has around 70% of the itailan league are italians, france is around 65%, german 75% spain is about 60%… while england is around 32% british, thats scotland, northern ireland and wales included!

    i don’t except the rule to make england win the world cup next time round, but it will give a lot more english lads a chance to play in the top flight and live the dream. insted of being shoved into the reserves til there 29 and give up and join a league 2 side.

  20. I do not see the need for the 6+5 rules, who is Sepp Blatter/UEFA to tell club managers how to run their own clubs, if they feel that more homegrown talent would help their team, they can decide that for themselves, i’m sure they know enough about the game (most of them anyways). As regards to all the talk about restricting british talent coming through (not here, but elsewhere) it’s ridiculous, if your good enough, you’ll make it anyways

  21. There’s no need for the 6+5 rule. If the English FA agree to let foreigners play in England, and stifle the budding English talents’ potential, then so be it. Too bad for them.

    Now, 6+5. Next time, what? 9+2? Imagine Manchester United without Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Nemanja Vidic, Edwin van der Sar, Patrice Evra… … They would suck, obviously.

    So, dear Sepp Blatter, stop talking about the 6+5 rule, and go expand that impossibly big paunch of yours.

    Thank you.

    (p.s. Manchester United rocks.)

  22. Brillant idea, yes yes yes, just think last time england won the world cup, the english league was all english, having more english player will vastly improve english footy

  23. Can’t think how this 6+5 rule is actually legal under EU law, nevertheless I can see the point of some sort of restriction. OK, English clubs are doing pretty well in European competitions, but the national squad does seem to be drawn from rather a small pool of available Englishmen (of whom of course you ideally want to have a couple of dozen available that are of international standard).
    I would argue though that at the very least there should be concessions for players who have been playing in England for donkeys’ years.
    eg Edwin van der Saar has been here since 2001, Cristiano Ronaldo since 2003, Brad Friedel since 1997.
    At the end of the day, this is about law-abiding people who have come to this country to make an honest living, who have legally-binding contracts with the clubs that employ them, who are skilled and talented footballers and who are local heroes, often in more than one English town and sometimes throughout the nation. (A) Neither the Premier League nor FIFA has the right to act as immigration control. (B) Managers of English clubs are supposed to be picking the players best capable of winning a game of football, not the ones needed to satisfy an artificial quota.
    By all means have limits on clubs’ ability to parachute in eleven new first team players at the beginning of a season from whichever foreign country has just won the World Cup. But respect the right of a foreign player to seek his fortune and glory, and the right of a managers to pick his next team without being hamstrung by arbitrary limits on the non-English head-count.