Soccer chief hails call for local quota

European champions Greece have praised UEFA’s proposals for a rule requiring a minimum number of homegrown players in clubs competing in its competitions as a way to protect domestic talent. «This decision was a long time coming. We view this very positively as a way to improve the Greekness of the championship,» Greek Football Association chief Vassilis Gagatsis told Reuters in an interview. «This must be expanded to all local championships and all divisions.» UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, announced in February that clubs taking part in its competitions would have to include four homegrown players in their squads from the start of the 2006-07 season. The quota will increase to eight by 2008-09. Homegrown players are defined as those who, aged between 15 and 21, were developed at the club, by other clubs from the same national association or by an academy in that association for at least three years. The nationality of a homegrown player will be irrelevant in a bid to circumvent any opposition by the European Union on the grounds of freedom of trade. «We have already enforced a rule in our fourth division where at least four players under 20 must be in the starting 11. We want to expand that to other divisions as well,» Gagatsis said. While some of Europe’s top clubs have objected to the rule which will force them to reduce their large international rosters, Gagatsis said it would improve Greek football at grassroots level. Following their surprise 2004 European Championship win, Greece have lost top players to bigger European clubs, leaving local teams with the option of buying from abroad. «We see Manchester United or Real Madrid buying players, but every year they bring in one or two homegrown players,» he said. «This has not happened in Greece and at some point it must happen if we are to improve the game.» The proposals will be discussed at UEFA’S annual congress in Tallinn later this month, when it will likely be adopted by most of the European body’s 52 national associations.

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