Equality and the 6+5 Rule
by Brian Phillips · March 3, 2009
Richard Williams makes the case for the 6+5 rule in the Guardian today. There’s nothing really new here: the emphasis is on the greed of the Premier League and the dangers of inequality, though Williams does make an eccentric attempt to connect inequitable football markets with the social problems that arise through individual income disparity. (Is he saying that the Premier League is responsible for teen pregnancy?) Still, an articulate defense of Sepp Blatter in English is a rare enough beast that it’s always worth noting when it appears.
What Williams’s argument doesn’t address, and what arguments like this never address, is the more basic inequality that arises from their obsession with equality at the league level. It might be good for “the game” (whatever that means) in smaller football nations to give fewer non-European players the opportunity to play in Europe. But how is it fair for the players? How is it fair for a talented African or Asian player to lose the chance to play at the highest level while a less talented European gains access to more money, fame, and glory—because the European leagues will stay at the top of the world’s prestige pile even under the new system, at least for the foreseeable future—simply by an accident of birth? Unless someone can show me that that won’t be the effect of the 6+5 rule, or explain to me why I shouldn’t care, arguments like Williams’s are never going to persuade me that equality is really the interest they have at heart.
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