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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Shows Its Hand as '6+5' Faces Showdown

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission will take legal action against any country that introduces controversial FIFA plans to limit the number of foreigners at football clubs, it said Wednesday.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter told Reuters he would push ahead with his plans despite the EU executive's strongest warning yet over the implementation of the so-called "6+5" rule" -- limiting the number of foreign players starting any club match to five.

"The Commission is giving a red card to the 6+5 rule," said EU Employment Commissioner Vladimir Spidla.

Blatter said he still intended to put his plan before FIFA's congress in Sydney on Friday, despite Brussels' assertion that it contravenes EU laws on the free movement of workers and could end up before the European Court of Justice.

Earlier, the EU executive offered FIFA an olive branch by formally backing the "home-grown player rule" of European governing body UEFA, in a bid to avert Friday's vote.

"We think the UEFA rule is the best rule, but I can now offer even more intense and open dialogue with Sepp Blatter," said EU Sports Commissioner Jan Figel.

UEFA's home-grown player rule sets a quota of locally trained players at clubs but without any discrimination on nationality. But FIFA opposed the rule, arguing that it encourages recruitment at a young age.

"The rules adopted by UEFA are necessary and proportionate. We cannot see any need for additional rules such imposing further restrictions on the transfer of young players," Figel said.

UEFA, which had warned Blatter his plans were "unworkable" in the EU, had hoped the move would have persuaded the FIFA chief not to put the issue to a vote, thus avoiding a showdown with Brussels and placing it in a difficult position.

Whatever the outcome in Sydney, UEFA, which only enforces its home-grown player rule in its own club competitions, such as the Champions League, said it would not be asking its associations to automatically impose its rule domestically.

"But we would encourage the associations to at least look at implementing such a rule, which would allow them to develop, shape and grow their young players," said UEFA adviser William Gaillard.

n Iraq made last-ditch diplomatic attempts Wednesday to persuade FIFA to lift its international ban and allow Sunday's World Cup qualifier against Australia to go ahead.

FIFA confirmed it had received official notice from Baghdad, just over 24 hours before the deadline to lift the suspension was due to expire.

"At the moment we are analyzing the correspondence. It is too early to speculate on what will happen," a FIFA spokesman said

Iraqi lawmaker Fawzi Akram said the letter sought to clarify that the national football federation had not been disbanded.