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Blatter backs off foreign quota plan

FIFA President Sepp Blatter held back from forcing through his plan to limit teams to five foreign players asking for a further year to investigate the legality of the proposal.

Blatter said he still hoped his "six plus five" plan would come to fruition, possibly as early as in 12 months, but that depends on legal and political developments in the European Union.

European soccer's governing body UEFA has been concerned that the plan would break the continent's labor law but Blatter said that might not be the case.

"They (EU experts) are no longer saying it would be illegal, they are saying we can ask ourselves the question whether it would be legal or illegal - that's a huge step forward," Blatter told FIFA's congress in the Bahamas.

The FIFA chief also said that the Treaty of Lisbon, if ratified, would give sport a special status that could allow players to be exempt from labor laws.

"If we get that by end of year - then next year we will be able to announce that we were on the right path and can begin implementing it," he said, adding that in any case laws could be challenged.

"If there is the political will a law can be amended, a law can be interpreted, all laws can be changed or amended," he said.

The "six plus five" plan was backed as an objective by FIFA's congress last year.

A limit on foreign players would have a dramatic impact on some of the major leagues in Europe - particularly England's Premier League and Germany's Bundesliga which feature large numbers of imported talent.

Blatter said clubs needed to keep their identities and that he had heard from former World Cup winning captain Franz Beckenbauer that Bundesliga teams had formed language-based cliques in the dressing room.

"The coach needs an interpreter to communicate with his players. Do you think this is football? I don't," he said.

Blatter said some countries were already reducing the number of foreign players in teams even without a change in rules and he singled out Spain for praise.

"Something is happening. If you look at Spain they have the Champions League winners and are reigning European champions. "Six plus five doesn't exist as a problem in Spain - that shows you can play with home-grown players and some foreigners."


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