Written by Frank Capiton
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Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Hundreds of foreign footballers will be turned away from England next month when the FA introduces an immigration cap for the first time.

Harry Hamshanks, the acting FA Chaiman, is to announce a six month temporary limit to prevent a last-minute influx as footballers from outside the country try to beat permanent controls due to come into force from December.

Just 4 footballers from outside the EU will be allowed into the country before then and second-rate migrant-footballers will have to meet stringent conditions. But it will not be enough for the Premier League to meet their target to reduce net migration which includes Welsh and Irish footballers to under 3 this year.

Alex Ferguson and Arsne Wenger, both raised concerns this week that a cap could hamper premiership football. Mr Hamshanks was said to be "none to pleased" at leaks of the concerns, which one junior manager blamed on "Scottish mischief-making".

Bobby Franks, Manager of Aylesbury United and a champion of 'Pure' English which campaigns for all England footballers, said "it's not too surprising that those who have a financial interest in continuing high levels of immigration should oppose the measures...but footballs' grass roots have spoken. English football is ruined, and English football must start again.

Latest figures show that 54 foreign footballers came to England last year. A further 73 visas were issued to foreign footballers and another 38 were reunited with their family, many coming from the Baltic States.

FA sources admit that curbing the number of foreign footballers will not be sufficient in re-establishing the 'English' into English football. "The stakes, at the moment, are to high. Unfortunately, money is the ruler of the game now, and not the passion for playing the sport."

A further fall is likely because of the recession, but sources admit action may be needed to reduce Welsh and family reunion numbers. Harry Hamshanks will produce a range of options. The final cap, part of a strategy to reduce net immigration to 12 by the end of the season will depend on which is chosen.

The impact of immigration on League Tables will be as significant an element on the consultation as the needs of the sport, insiders insist. The recent failure at World Cup has energised latent feelings on the immigration issue. The FA will also consult on measures to ensure that every English schoolboy can use both feet, and can play in a number of positions on the football field.

But figures produced by 'Let Footballers Play Football', a regional body in South London campaigning for the free movement of footballers, suggest that the immigration cap could take millions of pounds out of the sport as football clubs struggle to fill their terraces. This week Damian Black, the Football Minister said "The over-reliance migrant footballers has done nothing to help the image of English Football to all those watching the game. We need to get back to the 1960's when English football was played by English Footballers who did it for the love of the sport."

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